By Katrina Siefferd
Psychiatric Ethics Blog - Kerry Gutridge
Originally posted August 28, 2013
Here is an excerpt:
Recently I’ve been thinking about the importance of rehabilitative programs and alternative sentencing from the perspective of Aristotelian virtue theory. Virtue theory supports such programs as an important way to recognize offenders’ moral agency. Moral agency involves the ability of a person to act such that their actions deserve praise or blame. Virtue theory sees choice-making as the primary means for a moral agent to develop and exercise character traits: by choosing generous actions one becomes more generous, and in turn, being generous allows one to choose generous actions more easily. The theory provides a means for critiquing punishments that unfairly impose upon this process of moral development.
The Aristotelian label for this process – where character traits like honesty, kindness and courage become stable – is “habituation.” Habituation involves practicing the trait via the use of practical reason, which allows a person to determine which actions are appropriate in any given situation. A stable disposition to act in accordance with a trait, such as honesty, is established as a result of making appropriately honest choices over time and in a variety of circumstances. However, even stable traits do not dictate automatic behavioral responses: if they were, changes in character would be impossible. Instead, traits should be seen as flexible reasons-responsive dispositions to behave that are in constant development or decline, depending on the choices that one makes (see Annas 2011; Webber 2006).
The entire blog post is here.