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Wealth, Virtue, and Moral Luck

Christian Ethics in an Age of Inequality

In a deeply unequal world, our economic status shapes our pursuit of virtue whether we have enough resources to live comfortably or struggle to survive

Our understanding of inequality as a moral problem is incomplete. It is not enough to say that inequality is caused by moral failing. We must also see that influence runs in both directions. Inequality harms people's moral development.

In Wealth, Virtue, and Moral Luck, Kate Ward addresses the issue of inequality from the perspective of Christian virtue ethics, arguing that moral luck — our individual life circumstances — affects our ability to pursue virtue. Economic status functions as moral luck and impedes the ability of both the wealthy and the poor to pursue virtues such as prudence, justice, and temperance, and extreme inequality exacerbates the impact of wealth and poverty on virtue.

With these realities in mind, Ward shows how Christians and Christian communities should respond to the challenges inequality poses to virtue. Through working to change the structures that perpetuate extreme inequality — and through spiritual practices, including contentment, conversion, encountering others, and reminding ourselves of our ultimate dependence on God — Ward believes that we can create a world where all people can pursue and achieve virtue.

About the Author

Kate Ward, who received her PhD from Boston College in 2016, is an assistant professor of theology at Marquette University. She has published articles on wealth, virtue, and economic inequality in journals including Theological Studies, the Journal of Religious Ethics, Heythrop Journal, and the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics.
Georgetown University Press
Moral Traditions

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