Virtue and Necessity

Is it possible to make a virtue of necessity? The philosophical tradition of virtue ethics, from Aristotle forward, has tended to frame virtue in terms of choice. But what about situations in which choice is heavily conditioned, constrained, or socially constructed, especially by gender. In this research I am working toward a feminist critique of certain prevailing theories of virtue ethics from with the Christian theological ethical tradition. Specific contexts for this inquiry include care and altruism within the family, intergenerational justice, and the virtues of victims of disaster, injustice, and other situations of vulnerability. This research will eventually expand beyond the Christian tradition in a cross-cultural and comparative direction. Preliminary research presented at the Society of Christian Ethics.

“Between Joy and Lamentation: Theological and Ethical Dimensions of Hurricane Katrina,”Lecture at the Louisiana State Museum, New Orleans, part of the Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond series, March 17, 2011.

“ ‘Victims,’ Humanitarians, and Bystanders: Vulnerability, Virtue, and Vantage Point in Hurricane Katrina,” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Christian Ethics, January 7, 2011.

“From Saint Martha to Hurricane Katrina: A Feminist Theopolitical Ethic of Hospitality,” in Feminism and Hospitality, Maurice Hamington, ed. (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield, 2010), 91-106.

“The Gender of Altruism: Between Necessity and Virtue,” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Christian Ethics, January 7, 2007.

Gender, Altruism, and the Family

Religion, Liberalism, and Virtue


Todd May, “The Meaningfulness of Lives,” The New York Times, September 12, 2011

Eric Felten, Loyalty: The Vexing Virtue(Simon & Shuster, April 2011)

Lisa Tessman, Burdened Virtues: Virtue Ethics for Liberatory Struggles (Oxford University Press, 2005)