His view is that playing it safe and sticking to traditions and conventions is hopeless. The contemporary world is no longer a world that makes such an approach reasonable. There is too much happening, too many different kinds of people, purposes, aims, too much difference, to suppose that we can in our day to day ethical decision-making have universal knowledge of what we should do. Sticking blindly to a general principle like ‘killing is wrong’ seems to give us stability but even seemingly rock solid maxims have exceptions. Westacott is arguing for a subtle and nuanced approach to moral matters, an approach that understands fully how conflicted and confused many people feel most of the time about ethical decisions.
Richard Marshall reviews Emrys Westacott‘s Virtue of Vices.