Are Some Virtues Bad for Society?
That seems to be the implication of Tom Hoffman’s theory of virtue. Hoffman laments what he calls the feminization of men: too many men today, he says, no longer celebrate the values of “rugged individualism, risk-taking, courage, bravery, loyalty, and reverence for tradition” and are no longer committed to fighting “the bad guy.” Instead, “warfare is demonized as violence and negotiation is raised to an art.”
Hoffman isn’t content to defend the “manly” virtues; he demeans what he calls the “womanly” virtues: “Caring, compassion, sensitivity, and understanding are virtues meant to blur the distinction between good and evil and drown out the call of manly conscience to ‘do the right thing,’” he writes. He continues: “All reference to the service of a higher calling — to God and country — has been replaced by the call to community service with the emphasis on care and compassion for the downtrodden.”
In Hoffman’s strange virtue ethics, men should extol one set of virtues that he associates with manliness, while avoiding another set that he associates with womanliness. Hoffman’s ideal man of virtue would be a psychopath. Why? Because his concept of virtue is grossly disordered. He also mistakes virtues and vices. Virtues are habitual dispositions to do the good. Having one doesn’t prohibit having another. One can be and should be both magnanimous and humble, courageous and prudent, loyal and wise. One should seek them all. Seeking only some and running away from others, Hoffman’s manly man is less than what a human being ought to be. He’s a rugged warrior without care, compassion, sensitivity, or understanding.