“Radical Virtue for Climate Action” by Benjamin Hole (Pacific University)

Since dominant ethical systems fail to motivate climate action, some climate ethicists call for radical revision and extension of old virtues. “Radical virtue” serves two aims: consolation in unfavorable circumstances, and prescription to achieve better ones. This paper maps out the theoretical nuances that are important for the practical guidance of climate action. For a Stoic, radical virtue is a way to live well through environmental tragedy. For a consequentialist, it is an instrument to motivate us to combat global warming. For an Aristotelian, it is both. I argue that an Aristotelian approach fares the best, balancing the aim of external success with the aim of living well through practical wisdom. This involves criticizing assumptions about living well that underlie behaviors that contribute to global warming. Some might object that virtue theory suffers from application problems, and that an Aristotelian approach suffers even more because it does not tell the virtuous person how to negotiate her aims. In response, Aristotelian revision starts with moral perception that adds valuable content by navigating through the messiness.