Humans, environment and economies: From vicious relationships to virtuous responsibility
The debates questioning the meaning of growth point to a need for a more holistic understanding of human beings and of the economic actor, fundamental to economic theory and practice. This contribution turns to virtue ethics in order to reframe the self in more reflexive, relational and environmental terms. We explore the significance of understanding humans' sense of responsibility that is quintessentially relational, and of their capacity and need to relate to nature as well as community and society. We begin by reviewing the main arguments in the thriving debate in ecological economics, around what the characteristics of the human being can contribute to implement an ecologically sustainable development. Our aim is then to draw a link between this debate and that of virtue ethics, that leads to a different understanding of the human being, of what can contribute to individual wellbeing (and a good life): responsibility, we argue, is not only a value but a virtue, that enables individuals to find meaning in acting responsibly towards the environment, emphasising the multiple benefits that arise from framing good lives in active terms. We conclude reflecting on the challenges to, and implications of our proposition for government institutions, particularly education.
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