Philosophy Seminar Series: Kathryn MacKay (USYD)
Philosophy Seminar Series
Kathryn MacKay, University of Sydney | 3:30pm, 15 March, 2023
This paper proposes a theory of virtue for socio-political institutions. Utilizing Oliver Williamson’s (2000) taxonomy of institutions and their structures, I will argue that socio-political institutions have an under-appreciated and under-theorised role in creating and maintaining the conditions for virtue at the community level. Social institutions have a widely-recognized role in creating, enforcing, or maintaining the laws, policies, regulations, expectations, customs, and contracts that govern behaviour and shape the pathways people can take through life. This role means that they ought to ensure that these structures tend toward political virtue, and away from political vice. So, a theory of political virtue (that is, virtues of the polis, not of politicians) should be incorporated into how we think about the ethics of institutions. Adapting Philippa Foot and adding a dash of Julia Annas, I propose that political virtues are detectable characteristics of institutions, which are beneficial to the whole of society, corrective to vicious states of affairs, and excellences of collective agency, where excellence is understood as expressive of a collective commitment to goodness.
Philosophy Seminar Room (N494), the Quadrangle
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Image: Photo by Micha Frank