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What the Care Bears Can Teach about Virtue Ethics

Virtue ethics is an approach to moral formulation that derives moral decisions from laudable character traits. When Brandon Watson, a professor of philosophy, teaches his students about virtue ethics, he uses the Care Bears as an analogy. Because each Care Bear reflects a character trait, the Bears tend to make moral decisions based on those traits:

Whenever I teach virtue ethics, I tell my students that one can see the strengths of virtue ethics in the Care Bears -- as well as the things usually criticized. For the Care Bears are virtue ethicists. Each Care Bear, and later each Care Bear cousin, reflects an aspect of the virtuous life, or of institutions or practices that contribute to, or have to be negotiated in, virtuous life. Tenderheart Bear represents sympathy, Friend Bear friendship, Cheer Bear good cheer, Grumpy Bear commiseration, Funshine Bear goodnatured play, Love-A-Lot Bear love, Champ Bear sportsmanship; we get things more indirectly with Bedtime Bear, as Care-A-Lot's night watchbear, makes sure people get a good night's sleep so that they can do good things during the day, Wish Bear helps people work towards making wishes come true, Good Luck Bear helps people take advantage of opportunities, Secret Bear looks after secrets among friends (hence the close link to Friend Bear), etc.


There are, however, limits to the analogy:

I always go on to say in class that the Care Bears, like all good virtue ethicists, are cute, cuddly, and preachy; unlike most virtue ethicists, however, they drive cloud cars and shoot rainbows out of symbols on their tummy. That's a highly classified level of virtue technology even Aristotle never managed to discover.


Deontologists can shoot rainbows out of their tummies, but only in straight lines.

Link -via @JoeCarter | Photo: Flickr user sunnraezplace

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