Brandon at Siris says “Whenever I teach virtue ethics, I tell my students that one can see the strengths of virtue ethics in the Care Bears — as well as the things usually criticized.”


The Care Bears are an extremely simplified picture of virtue ethics, the sort that can be fit into a greeting card. But while American Greetings may have merely designed the Care Bears to sell greeting cards, people don’t buy greeting cards to make American Greetings money; they buy greeting cards because they facilitate good communication, good wishes, and sociable interaction, and because the Care Bears are tailored to appeal to people looking for something that answers to these qualities, the highly simplified virtue ethics of the Care Bears is a genuine virtue ethics.


"Care Bears, like all good virtue ethicists, are cute, cuddly, and preachy"

The Care Bears, because they are so feeling-oriented, are more Humean than Aristotelian; as in Hume, everything is about socially appropriate cultivation of sentiments, and, as in Hume, it’s a picture of the moral life in which nice manners is a big part of morality. Not at all the most important part (for either Hume or the Care Bears), but it is arguably the part of morality we all have to deal with most often. Most of moral life, thankfully, does not consist of trolley problems or making decisions about world hunger; most of our time in the moral life is concerned with things like being gentle, cheering people up, working to get things done that have to be done, being fair about this or that, respecting other people’s property, helping others out, and so on. An Aristotelian virtue ethics would have a place for these, but an Aristotelian approach would subordinate sentiment to reason and while there is no question that manners are actually quite important for Aristotle, this priority of reason tends to lead Aristotelians after him to treat manners as a secondary matter — important in its own way, but almost a side issue in the context of the whole of moral life, a decoration or flourish. The Care Bears are very definitely in the Humean line of virtue ethics.