Virtue’s Values: Ethical Evaluation in Everyday Life

Session Abstract/CFP:

The anthropological interest in virtue ethics is a kind of protest against critical theory’s
crude reduction of virtue to meta-critical concepts like “symbolic capital.” [1] Virtue
ethics provides a way to examine the evaluative practices of social actors without
treating them merely as more-or-less informed versions of the theorist’s existing
convictions (Laidlaw 2012; Mattingly 2012; Lambek 2013; Keane 2016). It is perhaps
ironic then that attempts to treat ethics and virtues on their own terms have largely
overlooked one of the defining properties of virtue ethics itself—that virtue is by nature
inegalitarian. “Living well” entails “living better” than others in a substantive way.

This panel seeks to rejoin what was impulsively torn asunder by resituating ethics in
questions of value—not with a return to “conspiracy theorizing” (see Latour 2004)—but
by exploring the shifts between registers of ethical, aesthetic, and material value and
the semiotic practices through which actions, persons, and objects are judged to be of
different worth, etc. With this in mind, our panel attends to the following questions:
Through what registers are value, virtue, and ethics conceptualized, and what are its
consequences? How might first-person humanist approaches to virtue ethics shed light
on individual and collective moral agency and experience? How do individuals negotiate
the challenges in the “doing of everyday life” (Mattingly 2014)? And what resources do
individuals draw from to “make the most” of what life presents them with?

We seek 3-4 additional papers that respond to such questions, and more, through
ethnographic work centering on:
– Value, materiality, and exchange practices
– Moral judgment and action in everyday life
– Embodiment, senses, aesthetics, and being
– Moral pedagogy and knowledge practices
– Relationality

Kindly indicate interest or send abstracts (250 words plus title) to Prash Naidu
( and Warren Thompson ( by April 14.
We look forward to your participation!
~ Prash and Warren

[1] For Bourdieu, virtue ethics “is the self-interested ethic of social formations, groups, or social classes in whose patrimony symbolic capital features most prominently” (1977: 48).