Postgraduates work in progress

Speaker: Claire Hamlett (University of Edinburgh)

Title: A framework for ethical deliberation on environmental practices: a refurbishment of Vogel and MacIntyre

Abstract: Steven Vogel argues that environmental problems are caused by human social practices, and to solve them individuals must come together in democratic discourse to decide which practices to abandon or to continue in order to build better environments. His conception of practices characterises them as discrete activities which bear no relation to each other. However, some practices should be understood as constituent activities of more complex practices of the sort described by Alasdair MacIntyre, i.e. made up of standards of excellence, relationships between practitioners, and internal goods which make practitioners’ lives rewarding. For ethical deliberation about practices to be effective, it needs to be clear if – and if so, how - the practices in question are connected to each other, and thus what their place is in the broader contexts of the practices that contribute to the good of people’s lives. In light of this, choices made by those engaged in democratic discourse appear more complicated than Vogel’s account suggests, requiring what Catherine Phillips calls ‘strategic intervention’ in practices so that ‘in addition to provoking change’, ‘the value and work of maintaining specific elements and/or relations’ is examined (Phillips, 2014: 151). I show that MacIntyre’s concept of practices can provide a framework for strategic intervention for the discursive community by revealing how the constituent elements of a practice relate to each other (e.g. are they ‘internal’ or ‘external’ goods?). However, there are two ways in which MacIntyre’s account needs to be developed in order for it to provide such a framework. Firstly, I posit that one of the goods internal to practices is the way practices imbue places with meaning and facilitate meaningful experiences with nonhuman beings for practitioners - a type of good that MacIntyre overlooks. Secondly, he identifies generic like farming and fishing as practices, ignoring the diversity of the form such practices can take (Hager, 2011: 550-1). This broadness obscures important differences in the ways, e.g., different kinds of farming transform environments, as well as how their constituent activities relate to each other. Drawing on Hager, I address this scope problem to make MacIntyre’s account a more useful framework for strategic intervention in practices.


Ni Yu

Feb 20 2017 -

Postgraduates work in progress

20 Feb 2017: A framework for ethical deliberation on environmental practices: a refurbishment of Vogel and MacIntyre

Room 1.203, 7 Bristo Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9AL