Howard Gardner has it that traditional morality, which he defines as the “goods” and “bads” outlined in the Ten Commandments or the Golden Rule, provide little if any guidance in contemporary situations. We all deal every day with “issues that cannot possibly be decided simply by consulting the Bible or some other traditional moral code.” According to Gardner, it would be absurd to believe that texts from the past magically contain the solutions to complex modern ethical problems.
Granting that there are those who will cite the bible or whatever as a way to end the ethical discussion, this approach really isn’t the tradition. “Traditional morality” is a history of applying old principles to new problems, rethinking old principles in light of new situations, and developing new ethical languages in response to these changes. Throughout the ages, Christian moral thinkers, for example, haven’t contented themselves simply to repeat the Ten Commandments or the Beatitudes; they’ve time and again developed the ideas of these texts in response to changing circumstances and to the ethical thought of others.
Aristotle is arguably the most important moral philosopher in the history of Christian moral thought, and he pretty much gave us the virtue of phronesis, that virtue by which one deliberates about what is good and advantageous when facing just the sort of complex situations Gardner seems to have in mind.