Thursday, January 12, 2012

Human Virtues

How can we fully express our human virtue in the decisions we make?

Ask not, What shall I do? Ask, What kind of person do I want to be? Then act as that person would act. You are what you do. To be the sort of person who helps move the world toward shared, sustainable flourishing will require a strong set of virtues:

A sense of wonder, to perceive and value the extraordinary beauty and mystery of the thriving world.

Compassion, to feel the suffering of both human and nonhuman animals caused by climate change and ecological collapse.

Imagination, to envision new and sustainable ways to provide for human needs without plundering the planet.

Independence of mind, to distinguish true from false, to distinguish real needs from created markets, to understand how to make good moral decision under conditions of uncertainty.

Integrity, to do what one thinks is right, even if it means making decisions that are radically different from the decisions one’s friends and neighbors make, decisions contrary to what is well advertised or easy.

Justice, to honor the needs of other people and other species as highly as one’s own, and to respect in others the rights one claims for oneself.

Courage, to do what needs to be done even if the lonely odds are against you.

So now. Choose one virtue. Make a decision (what to purchase, how to travel, where to donate time) that embodies that virtue. Now choose another virtue. Make a decision that embodies both of them. Continue. Virtues are habits of the mind and heart. Habits are developed by practice, over time.

- Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril. Edited by Moore & Nelson. Trinity University Press. 2010.

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