Virtue, practical wisdom and the economic crisis

Virtue ethics junkies may enjoy:

From The Situationist:

Last month, Professor Schwartz gave a TEDtalk, titled ‘The real crisis? We stopped being wise.’ In it, he ‘makes a passionate call for practical wisdom as an antidote to a society gone mad with bureaucracy. He argues powerfully that rules often fail us, incentives often backfire, and practical, everyday wisdom will help rebuild our world.’

Some sketchy thoughts:

  • Why is practical wisdom “knowing the exception to every rule”, rather than knowing how to juggle and prioritize rules?
  • I like the idea of teaching the Good with exemplars rather than explicit instruction. Now, to my knowledge, some virtue ethicists pick up on this interesting pedagogical claim and infer a metaphysical claim– that the nature of Good consists in exemplars (“be like the honest person”) and does not consist in explicit instructions (“don’t lie”). Do I have this correct?
  • Is virtue really is its own reward? It seems to me that the main reason why most people choose to be virtuous is because they like the social cachet that comes with being perceived as virtuous. Prof. Schwartz might be giving away the game when he gets excited about the increased efficiency of companies, like Malden Mills, whose executives have put people before profit. Now, I’m normally of the view that any incentive to do the right thing is itself good– even economic incentives. But Schwartz makes an interesting empirical point about how our economic incentives to do X distract us from the potentially stronger moral incentives to do X.

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