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Guest Thinkers

Getting Past Enlightenment Values

The Enlightenment left us with few resources for thinking about what the good life really is, and how we should live it, because the focus was on winning individuals their freedom.

Our talk of having “moral duties,” or our description of actions as “morally right,” has become vacuous because we are now free of the law-giving God who fixes those duties and obligations. And Anscombe, as a Catholic, was a firm believer in God—only not a law-giving God but a loving one. In any case, now that we are relatively free, we need to ask again what life is for. There is another ethical tradition that can help. It’s known as virtue ethics. Virtue ethics begins by asking what it is to be human, and proceeds by asking what virtues—or characteristics, habits and skills—we need in order to become all that we might be as humans.


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