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world has Galadriel's powers of foresight, this cannot be a useful morality. Aristotle's virtue ethics, on the other hand, can operate in the presence of incomplete knowledge, partly because it focuses moral evaluation on actors, not acts. A person is, or becomes, virtuous despite having an incomplete understanding of the future, as a result of moral self-training. Living a life, then, in which one is actively seeking justice and self-improvement, seems to be a necessary pan of the way practical reason is supposed to work, as opposed to living a life devoted to power and domination. On this view, no list of rules will be sufficient. Recognizing that ethics is too complicated to be reduced to any short list of moral rules, virtue ethics offers no simple procedure for making moral choices. Instead, it offers a broad framework for thinking about ethical issues and responsibilities. It urges us to focus, first, on the ultimate goal of human striving: to flourish as happy, fulfilled human beings. It then asks what virtues or admirable traits of character we need to achieve that flourishing or fulfillment. The endeavor to form good character through practical reason is not a certain path to the well- lived life, but it seems to be the most likely strategy. lf one can orient oneself cowards these vi1tues, one can seek to act in ways that promote them. As Tolkien reminds us, this is the best insurance against corruption and destruction.8Notes: 1.Chiefly in Nicomachean Ethics, translated by Terence Irwin (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1985).
2.Complicating matters is the fact that Saruman is not a human but a wizard. The conditions for living a good life may be different for humans and other species. But on the other hand, even other wizards seem to think that Saruman has misjudged the nature of his own good. 3.While hobbits are not humans, they are sufficiently like humans that a lot of the same theories of the good life would apply. Elves, by contrast, are strikingly dissimilar to both humans and hobbits. But Aristotle's ethics, like almost everything else in philosophy, is meant for humans, so I will not speculate on what Aristotle might say is the good life for an elf. 4.It doesn’t help to note that Boromir is less wise than Gandalf or Galadriel, whose refusals to accept the Ring are informed by magical foresight. Aragorn is capable of discerning this with lesser powers, and is thus a more relevant comparison. 5.Hesiod, Works and Days, 336-340, quoted in Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, pp. 6-7, 1095h10. 6.Immanuel Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, third ed., translated by James W. Ellington (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1993), pp. 7-8. 7.See, for example, Jeremy Bentham. An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation(New York: Hafner, 1948), pp. 1-4; and John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism(Indianapolis: Hackett, 19 79), pp. 6--26. 8.I am grateful to Eric Bronson and Gregory Bassham for suggesting several useful clarifications and emendations to this essay.