All of these elements are important – beginning with moral wisdom or discernment, i.e., phronēsis. As well, as with feminist ethic, virtue ethics restores our ethical attention to the importance of emotions. As we saw in Confucian thought, in contrast with the Cartesian mind–body split, Ames and Rosemont translate xin as “heart-and-mind,” in order to emphasize that thought and feeling always accompany each other. As in the case of feminist ethics, when virtue ethics brings to the foreground the importance of emotions in our ethical lives, it thereby points to a post-Cartesian view – one that brings Western ethics closer to at least some of its non- Western counterparts. Doing so may be an essential step in the development of a more global digital media ethics – that is, one that “works” in both Western and non-Western cultures and traditions.
Moreover, virtue ethics, as including a focus on the development of moral judgment (phronēsis), thereby highlights a critical element of learning how to be human – both alone and with others: most importantly, as it is only through developing and exercising such judgment that we can claim to be (relationally) autonomous and (self- )responsible human beings. Without such judgment, simply, we are likely only to follow the dictates of others. In these directions, virtue ethics is deeply interwoven with especially Western traditions of conscientious objection. The figure of Antigone, in Sophocles’ play of the same name, is foundational here. Her brother Polyneices fought on the losing side of the Theban civil war: the victorious King Creon declares that his body (along with those of all others who fought against the king’s forces) must remain unburied – a profound dishonor as well as a stark violation of religious dictates and customs. Antigone is caught squarely between a superior order (as later theory would put it) and what her senses of religious propriety and familial obligation to her brother require. As Socrates – and many others – would subsequently, Antigone ultimately chooses to disobey Creon’s order, even though it means her own death. Much of the language in the play circles around phronēsis and the quest for what moral wisdom would discern in the face of such a dilemma. As Martha Nussbaum has pointed out, Antigone thus roots a central feature of phronēsis as “the idea that the value of certain constituents of the good human life is inseparable from the risk of opposition, therefore of conflict”. More broadly, this capacity of phronetic judgment is central to modern understandings of law in constitutional democracies – namely, their hallmarks of “Self-rule, disobedience and contestability”