This paper urges contemporary Business Ethicists to reconsider the relationship between habit and virtue in the light of recent debates between contemporary philosophers and scientists. Synthesizing insights from current Neuroscience, from twentieth century American Pragmatism and from nineteenth century French Aristotelianism, this emergent intellectual tradition proposes a dynamic account of habit’s embodiment which we will first describe and then advocate. Two recurring suggestions within this habit renaissance are of particular relevance to Business Ethicists: firstly, that there is a ‘plastic’ structure pertaining to habit and, secondly, that there is a processual ‘double-law of habituation’. Taken together, these accounts of habit and habituation provide virtue ethicists with a basis for claiming analytic and pragmatic authority within applied ethics debates in general and within Business Ethics debates in particular. We develop this argument in three steps. Firstly, we elaborate upon why habits are said to be plastic and why the process of habituation is said to be characterised by a double-law. Secondly, we distinguish this account of habit’s relationship to virtue from, and where necessary defend it against, the influential articulations of the habit: virtue relationship provided by situationism, by deontology and by communitarianism, respectively. Finally, we draw practical lessons from the initial elaborations made in the argument’s first step, and the subsequent clarifications provided in its second step, by announcing seven characteristics of highly effective virtue habituation projects.
Bibliographical notePublished online: 3 March 2020
- Virtue Ethics