‘Bah! Humbug!’ It's the most famous line in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, but is it the most important? Surely not, for this Christmas classic is not centrally about Christmas, but about a man, the holiday being the convenient setting for his transformation. What kind of transformation? Why a moral transformation of course, because the man, Ebenezer Scrooge, through multiple encounters with the spirit world, becomes a good man by the end of the story. But where does this story begin, what are we to think of Scrooge at the outset and how is his transformation accomplished? These are the questions I take up here, for while Scrooge is tightfisted, covetous and hard-hearted, he is still a man of principle. Judged by the standards of some views on ethics, Scrooge isn't actually all that bad. How can that be? Let's start with a quick overview of two centuries of ethical theory.
Scott Lowe is Professor of Philosophy at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania.