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Bina, O., Vaz, S., 2011. Who are we? environmental virtue ethics contributing to frame the self beyond the Homo economicus, 9th International Conference of the European Society for Ecological Economics. ESEE, Istanbul, Turkey, 14-17 June 2011.

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Bina, O., Vaz, S., 2011. Who are we? environmental virtue ethics contributing to frame the self beyond the Homo economicus, 9th International Conference of the European Society for Ecological Economics. ESEE, Istanbul, Turkey, 14-17 June 2011.
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  1 Whoarewe?environmentalvirtueethicscontributingtoframethe self beyondthe Homoeconomicus OliviaBina 1 SofiaVaz 2 Conferencepaperpreparedforthe 9 th InternationalConferenceoftheEuropeanSocietyforEcologicalEconomics 14-17June2011 Abstract Thefar-reachingdebatesquestioningthemeaningofgrowthpointtoaneedforamoreholisticunderstandingofwhatitmeanstobehuman.Inparticular,thereisanurgencytorevisitthenotionofeconomicactorandtheconceptionofhumanbeingtherein,whichisfundamentaltoeconomictheoryandpractice.Thispapercontributestothisdiscussionbylookingatvirtueethicsinordertoreframetheselfinmorereflexive,relationalandenvironmentalterms.Theconceptofhumanbeingisdiscussedintermsofrelationshipswiththeself,theotherandtheenvironment.Thesignificanceofunderstandinghumansassocialandmoralbeings,withasenseofresponsibilitythatisquintessentiallyrelational,andacapacityandneedtorelatetonatureaswellascommunityandsocietyisexplored.Responsibilitynotasavalue,butasavirtuethatenablesindividualstofindmeaninginactingresponsiblytowardstheenvironmentisproposed.Themultiplebenefitsthatarisefromframinggoodlivesinactiveterms,drawingonthenotionofvirtueiscentraltoourproposition. Keywords :Environmentalvirtueethics, Homoeconomicus ,narrowself,responsibility, eudaimonia  1 Research Fellow, Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon, Adjunct AssociateProfessor, Chinese University of Hong Kong. 2 CENSE, Center for Environmental and Sustainability Research, Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia,Universidade Nova de Lisboa  2 1.Introduction Thecurrentmarket-drivenandglobalisedsocio-economicsystem,prevailinginrichnationsandinmostrisingeconomiesisunderscrutiny.Drivenbythepursuitofunconstrainedgrowth,anddependenton‘debt-fuelled,fossil-fuelled,consumption-basedgrowthwithinsecurejobs’(GEC,2010)thealmostunanimousreactiontothefinancialcrisisof2007hasbeentoseekpoliciesthatcouldrestartthegrowthmachineandsearchingwaysforrisingconsumption(forexample:EC,2010;ECLAC,2010;UNESCAP,2008).Growth,albeitingreenershadestotheextentpossible,remainstheopportunitytobepursued.However,atthesametime,growthisalsobeingquestionedintermsofitscapacitytocontributetooverallwellbeingaswitnessedbytherisinginterestintheeconomicsofhappiness(FreyandStutzer,2005;Jackson,2009;Layard,2005),bythepolicydebateonmovingbeyondGDP,often(mis)treatedasanindicatorofwellbeing(EC,2009;Sprattetal.,2009;Stiglitzetal.,2009),andbythequestioningoftheimpactofconsumptionsocietiesonindividuals’happinessandwellbeing(Bauman,2007;BeckandBeck-Gernsheim,2002;Giddens,1991;Hamilton,2010;Hurth,2010;StrannegårdandDobers,2010).Thiswaveofreflectionistobewelcomed,especiallyifitcontributestoquestionthefocusonrestartingthegrowthmachineafterthelatestcrisis.However,wewouldarguethatitistheunderlyingbeliefsystem,ideologyandkeyconceptsthatdrivegrowthbeyondthebiosphere’scapacity(Arrowetal.,1995;Rockströmetal.,2009;Schellnhuberetal.,2005),whichoughttobe asmuchatarget ofinquiryanddebateacrossacademicandpolicyarenasalike.Thefar-reachingdebatesarequestioningthemeaningofgrowth,prosperityandprogress,inthelightoftheon-goingeconomicandenvironmentalcrises,andindoingsopointtoaneedforamoreholisticunderstandingofwhatitmeanstobehuman.Theobjectiveofthispaperistocontributetothisdiscussionbylookingatvirtueethicsinordertoreframetheselfinmorereflexive,relationalandenvironmentalterms.Inparticular,thereisanurgencytorevisitthenotionofeconomicactorandtheconceptionofhumanbeingtherein,whichisfundamentaltoeconomictheory,andpractice.Theneedtoengagewithalternativeconceptionsofhumanbeingderivesalsofromtheneedforindividualstobelongtoainterrelatedandinterdependenthumanity;therisingawarenessthathumanbeingssharetheplanetamongthemselvesandotherspecies(NellemannandCorcoran,2010);asenseofinterdependenceamongallpeople(WBCSD,2010);andofdependenceontheplanet(MEA,2005).Anewsenseofresponsibilityforthechoicesandlifestyleofallpeopleacrosstheglobeiscrucialifweaimforanecologicallysustainablefuture.Thereare  3manyimportantdevelopmentsthatcanassistthischange.Scholarsdrawingonmultipledisciplinaryinsights,notethathappinessandwelfareofhumanbeingsareonlypartlytheresultofmaterialpursuits(Frey,2008;Layard,2005),andarenotindependentoftheecologicalworldtheyinhabit(Becker,2006;MEA,2005;NellemannandCorcoran,2010).Thus,understandingthelinksthatbindthemtogetherisanimportantsteptowardschallengingtheimperativeofgrowth.Whiletheinitialcontributionofecologicaleconomicshasbeentore-conceptualisethisrelationshipatthesystemlevel,betweentheeconomyandthebiosphere(Daly,1980),morerecenteffortshavecombinedthemacrowiththemicrolevel,lookingintothehumanbeing’scapacitytorelatetoothersand–thoughtoalesserextent–tonature.In2000,MarcoJannsenandWanderJager(2000)editeda‘ SpecialIssueonTheHumanActorinEcological-EconomicModels ’thathelpedreinvigoratethedebatearoundthelimits,misconceptionsandimplicationsof HomoEconomicus ,introducinginsightsfromneuroscience,biology,psychology,philosophyandanthropology.Thetopiccontinuestogeneratediscussionandinterest(Murtaza,2011;Pelletier,2010;Waring,2010).Ourpapercontributestoadvancethisinquiryintothehumanbeing’scapacitytoreflectandtorelate,bringingtobeartheperspectiveofvirtueethics.Webeginbyreviewingthethrivingdebateinecologicaleconomics,aroundwhatthecharacteristicsofthehumanbeingcancontributetoimplementanecologicallysustainabledevelopment,inordertoidentifythemainarguments(section2).Ouraimisthentodrawalinkbetweenthisdebateandthatofvirtueethics,thatleadstoadifferentunderstandingofthehumanbeing,ofwhatcancontributetoindividualwellbeing(andagoodlife),andofhowwecouldconceptualiseourrelationshipwith-andactinrelationto,nature(section3).Weconcludereflectingonpersistentobstaclesandontherelationshipbetweenourpropositionandeducation(section4).Ouranalysisdrawsoninsightsfromthreedisciplinaryperspectives:ecologicaleconomicsandmoreorthodoxeconomicliterature,virtueethicsandphilosophy,andenvironmentalismandsustainabilityliterature.Althoughmanyofthereflectionsandinsightsdiscussedherewillhaveimplicationsforpoliciesinalleconomicsystems,wehaveconceivedandintendedouranalysisprimarilyinrelationtorichnationsorso-calledconsumptionsocieties,andthesystemstherein.  4 2.Changingperspectivesontheself 2.1Homoeconomicus:anarrowself Thenarrowdefinitionsoftheself(or‘whatitmeanstobehuman',inthewordsofJackson,2010)asaself-interested,utilitymaximiser,afterneoclassicaleconomictheoryofthe Homoeconomicus ,havebeenwidelycriticised(forarecentoverviewofthecritique:Pelletier,2010;foranearlycritique:Sen,1977;Simon,1976;Waring,2010).Ourinterestinthisdebateispremisedontheideathatthecurrentsinglefocusonpromotingmoreeconomicgrowth,eveninrichcountries(forexample:OECD,2009,2010b),isjustifiedimplicitlybytheacceptanceofthenotionof Homoeconomicus asthesoleconceptionofeconomicactor.Fromthisoversimplifiednotionderivestheunderstanding(andthebelief)thathumanwellbeingislinkedtoincreasinglevelsofmaterialconsumption.Theoversimplificationalsoleadstoanarrow(anddistorted)viewofthenaturalworldasamereinput,denyinghumanbeing’snon-instrumentalbondstonature,andthusallowingfortheplunderingofthebiosphereforthebenefitsofgrowth.Crucially,mainstreameconomictheorybuildsitsmodelsbasedonthisreductionistviewofhumanbeings,withfarreachingconsequences.Thus,notsurprising,ecologicaleconomists,togetherwithotherunorthodoxeconomists,areincreasinglyinterestedinare-definitionoftheeconomicactor,basedona moreholistic understandingofthehumanbeing,andhenceof‘thesenseof(human)life’(Siebenhüner,2000).Thequestionofhowhumansareunderstoodandmodelledcanbeseenaspartofthewiderdiscourseonsustainability,andcentraltothenormativepremiseofecologicaleconomics,seekingtoimplementan ecologicallysustainabledevelopment  (Söderbaum,1999).Humanityhasbecomeaforcecapableof‘transform[ing]…theearth’(Schellnhuberetal.,2005)initspursuitofprosperity.Therefore,thenatureoftherelationshipbetweenhumanbeingsandthethreedimensionsofsustainability(society,economyandenvironment)isadecisivefactorinapathtowardsanecologicallysustainabledevelopment.Thewayhumanbeingsareconceivedineconomicsbecomesamatterofthegreatestimportance,not‘just’foreconomictheory,modellingandpolicy-making,butalsofortheimplicationsthatthisconceptionhasforsocietyandtheenvironment,andforhowthethreedimensionsrelatetoeachother.Intermsofthenormativegoalofecologicallysustainabledevelopment,advocatedinecologicaleconomics,thenotionof Homoeconomicus hassignificantadverse  5implications.Thefocusonself-relationandegoisticalbehaviour(Siebenhüner,2000)isinconflictwiththeneedtopromotealtruismandresponsibilityforothersandforfuturegenerations,aswellasfortheenvironmentandtheglobalcommons,attheheartofsustainability(AnandandSen,2000).Theunderlyingtheoryofhumanbehaviouristhatofrationaleconomicutility,resultinginthepleasurethattheindividualcanobtainfromgoodsandservices.Thisconceptionhasfarreachingimplicationsasasimilarlynarrowselfdependsonasocio-economiccontextthatisprofitdriven,requiringapermanentrenewalofdemand,leadingtoanunsustainablesetoftrends:utilityisincreasedbytheincreaseofconsumption(assuminga‘linearpatterninwhichmoreisalwaysbetter’),whichinturnincreasesthepressureonresourcesandtheimpactontheenvironment(Jackson,2009).Siebenhüner(2000)identifiesthreeanalyticalweaknessinthenotionof homoeconomicus :itsfocusonself-relationleadingtomethodologicalindividualism,itsdenialoflinkstocommunityandethicaldimensionstherein,anditsminimisationoflinksbetweenmanandnature.The relationship betweentheselfas homoeconomicus andhisorhercontextisignoredorminimised,andwithit,thesenseof responsibility towardsothersornature–asresponsibilityisessentiallyrelational.Thus,notsurprisingly,itispreciselyintermsofrelationshipsthatthedifferentconceptionsofthehumanbeingarediscussedintheliterature. 2.2Relationshipwithothers Asignificantpartoftherecentliteratureonandaroundtheeconomicactor,hasfocusedontherelationshipbetweentheselfandthe‘other’,andhencethetension(orpresumedtension)betweenindividualismandthesocialbeing(Becker,2006;Söderbaum,1999).Scholarshavelookedatphilosophicaltraditionsaswellasmodernbiologyandpsychologytoreflectonthesocialbeing.Aristotle’sideaofhumanrealisationthroughactiveparticipationinthecommunityandpolis,Rousseau’sfocusonself-loveandsympathyasthecharacteristicsofthehumanbeing,Hume’sprincipleofbenevolence,andAdamSmith’srecognitionofsympathy,notonlyselfishness,ashumantraits–leadBecker(2006)toconcludethataccordingtothephilosophicaltradition‘humanbeingsarenotself-related,but…systematicallyrelatedtothecommunity’.Siebenhüner’s(2000)‘ homosustiens’  ischaracterisedbysociallearning,moralresponsibilityandarangeofsocialdimensionsofhumanexistence,includingaltruism,cooperationandcommunication.Gintis(2000)developsaconceptof‘beyond homo
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