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Sharing by default ? outline of an anthropology of virtue.

Widlok, T. (2004) 'Sharing by default ? outline of an anthropology of virtue.', Anthropological theory., 4 (1). pp. 53-70.


The establishment of moral relativism does not exhaust anthropological comparisons of how people strive for a good life. In this article I suggest that comparative research into ethical systems and moralities can be productively complemented by an anthropology of virtue. Experiences from post-Cold War settings and ethnographic examples from Australia and Namibia illustrate my attempt to outline such an anthropological theory of virtue based on recent anthropological work on art and on skill. The anthropological approach to virtue envisaged here is both nonconsequentialist and realist in orientation. It is non-consequentialist in that it accounts for the moral dimension of practices such as ‘sharing’ and ‘reciprocal exchange’ without relying on problematic presumptions about net results or ultimate consequences. It is realist in so far as it is based not on rationalist categories but on situated social practices, which entail reference to basic human goods such as sustenance and mutual engagement.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Access, Australia, Ethics, Morality, Namibia, Property, Virtue.
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Record Created:27 Jan 2009
Last Modified:29 Jan 2010 14:40

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