Agora Speaker Series 2023 - Dr Mandi Astola

Moral creativity

Abstract: Moral creativity is a type of creativity which concerns the domain of moral action. A morally creative person is able to imagine various courses of action in response to a moral problem or dilemma. Importantly, it also includes the invention of novel and non-habitual courses of action which fulfil moral obligations as much as possible to others, even when fulfilling all obligations seems impossible at first glance. I consider moral creativity to be a virtue and in this talk I sketch a way in which moral creativity could be integrated into Aristotelian virtue ethics. In Aristotelian virtue ethics, the good life is conceived as a life led by a person who possesses the virtues. The virtues are habitual good character traits like courage, magnanimity and generosity. All the virtues are controlled by a super-virtue (also sometimes called an executive virtue) called practical wisdom, or phronesis. Phronesis is conceptualized roughly the ability to know what types of actions are appropriate for particular circumstances. Practical wisdom has always been very difficult to conceptualize and descriptions of it in literature remain quite vague. I explore whether it is possible that practical wisdom is simply moral creativity. This would mean, perhaps controversially, that creativity is essential for being a good person.