Virtue and the Scientist: Using Virtue Ethics to Examine Science's Ethical and Moral Challenges

TitleVirtue and the Scientist: Using Virtue Ethics to Examine Science's Ethical and Moral Challenges
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsChen, J-Y
JournalScience & Engineering Ethics
Date Published2015
Publication Languageeng
ISBN Number13533452
KeywordsARISTOTLE , DECISION , Internal , MacIntyre , motivation , phronesis , Practical , research , Scientific , VIRTUE
AbstractAs science has grown in size and scope, it has also presented a number of ethical and moral challenges. Approaching these challenges from an ethical framework can provide guidance when engaging with them. In this article, I place science within a virtue ethics framework, as discussed by Aristotle. By framing science within virtue ethics, I discuss what virtue ethics entails for the practicing scientist. Virtue ethics holds that each person should work towards her conception of flourishing where the virtues enable her to realize that conception. The virtues must become part of the scientist's character, undergirding her intentions and motivations, as well as the resulting decisions and actions. The virtue of phronêsis, or practical wisdom, is critical for cultivating virtue, enabling the moral agent to discern the appropriate actions for a particular situation. In exercising phronêsis, the scientist considers the situation from multiple perspectives for an in-depth and nuanced understanding of the situation, discerns the relevant factors, and settles upon an appropriate decision. I examine goods internal to a practice, which are constitutive of science practiced well and discuss the role of phronêsis when grappling with science's ethical and moral features and how the scientist might exercise it. Although phronêsis is important for producing scientific knowledge, it is equally critical for working through the moral and ethical questions science poses. 
NotesChen, Jiin-Yu 1; Email Address:; Affiliation: 1: Berman Institute of Bioethics, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore USA; Source Info: Feb2015, Vol. 21 Issue 1, p75; Subject Term: VIRTUE; Subject Term: MOTIVATION (Psychology); Subject Term: SCIENTIFIC knowledge; Subject Term: PHRONESIS; Subject Term: DECISION making; Author-Supplied Keyword: Aristotle; Author-Supplied Keyword: Internal goods; Author-Supplied Keyword: MacIntyre; Author-Supplied Keyword: Practical wisdom; Author-Supplied Keyword: Research ethics; Author-Supplied Keyword: Virtue ethics; Number of Pages: 20p; Document Type: Article