Virtue Ethics of War

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  • Virtue Ethics
      • Focuses on character and morality
      • Plato's 3 cardinal virtues : appetite, reason and spirit. Virtue is acquired once reason rules and appetite and spirit are compliant.
      • Anscombe says that other philosophical frameworks codify moral behaviour.
      • John McDowell "virtues is a disposition to behave rightly"
      • George W. Watson - 4 stage cognitive process of recognising, activating, motivating and courage
      • Unclear how  it can be one moral actor responsible for foreign policy - many social pressures and decisions made in groups
        • Steve Smith says individuals "interpret, decide, pronounce and implement" and "it is individual action, even if that action has structural or social drivers." Ole Waever adds to this by saying individual decisions have to be reconciled by own moral psychology.
        • MacIntyre - socialisation in practices. "Our own attitudes, choices, preferences and tastes to the standards which currently define the practice - that moral agent doesn't have autonomy, shaped by institutions.
      • Situational Factors - MILGRAM STUDY: it shows that people are obedient to an authoritative figure against their own moral sensibility. Individual virtues fragile, situation more of an influence than character on actions.
      • TONY BLAIR
        • Main virtue was will power. In 1999 Chicago speech "we cannot let the evil of ethnic cleansing stand." And in 2003 to HOC, "Tell our allies, at the very moment of action, at the very moment when they need our determination that Britain faltered? I will not be party to such a course."
      • McFall (1987) says military institutions don't believe in absolute form of integrity.  This is because of UK's flight lieutenant Kendall-Smith who refused to obey orders in a war he considered immoral.
        • Kendall-Smith was denounced by judge, "you have shown a degree of arrogance that is amazing" - shows that autonomous thinking surrounding morality + virtues not allowed unless gets conclusions that institutions desire.
        • Charles Taylor - "We define our identity always in dialogue with, the things our significant others want us to see in us" - political actors in their morality and virtues as how others/public wish not who they are.
      • There should not be any collective responsibility for moral actors in foreign policy making.
        • This is because many states are controlled by other institutions like blocs such as the EU and therefore are 'quasi states'.
          • Quentin Skinner on modern state "apparatus of power whose existence remains independent of those who many happen to have control of it at any given time.


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