- Slides: 36
ARISTOTLE & VIRTUE ETHICS: Character, Virtue, Courage & Friendship
Today’s Assignment: Aristotle : Character & Virtue Ethics Objectives from reading: • EMP (27 pages) – Aristotle and the Ethics of Virtue and Character (Lucas), 169 -172; The Moral Virtues (Aristotle), 173178; Habit and Virtue (Aristotle), 179 -182; Courage (Aristotle), 183186; Friendship, (Aristotle), 187190; Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle (Gray), 191 -193. • CSME (5 pages) – CWO Hugh W. Thompson at My Lai (Lucas), pp. 95 -98; Hugh Thompson; The Sequel (Lucas), pp. 2227. Comprehend key concepts of Aristotelian Virtue or Character ethics • What is Aristotle’s basis for human flourishing? • What is the concept of the “golden mean? ” • Relative importance of mentorship and habituation • What exactly is character? • 4 cardinal virtues • How does Aristotle’s view of the virtues of courage and friendship fit w/in the context of our roles as military officers?
The Range of Ethics Absence of Relativism Consequentialism Ethics The Criminal “I KILLED HIM AND I DON’T CARE” The Delinquent Normative Relativism Utilitarianism Descriptive Relativism Most Pleasure Individual Relativism Greater Net Happiness Accepted Practices Based On : Consequences Outcomes Duty Ethics (Absolutism) Virtue Kantian – Duty Aristotle Truth Honor Justice Character Rights Habituation Divine Law Stoicism Natural Law “I DON’T CARE ABOUT THAT” “CATCH ME IF YOU CAN. ” Rule Based Moral Theories Character Based
Admirable action? Extreme action? Justifiable? What if the Capt had died?
Would you rather lead an enviable or an admirable life? • Why? • What is the difference? Which life is best for the bearer?
Enviable vs. Admirable • What is a good life? • Would you rather lead an enviable life or an admirable life? – Give your example of an enviable life – Give your example of an admirable life • How do you want to live? – What do you value? – How do you want to LEAD your life? • Intrinsic vs Instrumental
To live the “right” kind of life… How ought I to act? (question of action) What kind of person ought I to be? (question of character)
Merriam Webster on Virtue Main Entry: vir·tue Pronunciation: ˈvər-(ˌ)chü Function: noun Etymology: Middle English vertu, virtu, from Anglo-French, from Latin virtut-, virtus strength, manliness, virtue, from vir man — more at virile Date: 13 th century 1 a: conformity to a standard of right : morality b: a particular moral excellence 2 plural : an order of angels — see celestial hierarchy 3: a beneficial quality or power of a thing 4: manly strength or courage : valor 5: a commendable quality or trait : merit 6: a capacity to act : potency 7: chastity, especially in a woman
Class Exercise: List Virtues of Professions • “Excellence” (arete, virtue) is defined with respect to a specific practice • Some traits show up on several lists • Some traits are recognizably moral traits • Q: Are there excellences pertaining to the “practice” of being a human being? • Aristotle’s problem: what are the traits of character that make for a full and flourishing human life (happiness, eudaimonia)
Character and Excellence (arete) Heretofore we have discussed rational decision theory; morality seems to be procedural… u (X) = B(x) - H(x) – Utilitarian “Greatest Happiness” calculus – Categorical Imperative (CI) procedure • (e. g. , do not kill, harm, lie, cheat, steal, develop yourself, help others) But is Morality more than just a set of decision procedures?
What Else might be Involved? Perhaps morality is not just about making the right choice – doing the “right thing” (duty) – getting the right result (greatest good for the greatest number) Perhaps morality is also about building character – what kind of person do I wish to kind become? – “what kind of a human being ARE you? ” Utilitiesman 2 nd Class Michael Deangelo attached to Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit Two Zero Two (CBMU-202) looks for the name of a Seabee killed during combat in Vietnam
Merriam Webster on Character Main Entry: Etymology: Function: noun Pronunciation: ˈker-ik-tər, ˈka-rik- Middle English caracter, from Latin character mark, distinctive quality, from Greek charaktēr, from charassein to scratch, engrave; perhaps akin to Lithuanian žerti to scratch 1 a: a conventionalized graphic device placed on an object as an indication of ownership, origin, or relationship b: a graphic symbol (as a hieroglyph or alphabet letter) used in writing or printing c: alphabet e (1): writing, printing (2): style of writing or printing (3): cipher 2 a: one of the attributes or features that make up and distinguish an individual b (1): a feature used to separate distinguishable things into categories; also : a group or kind so separated <advertising of a very primitive character> (2): the detectable expression of the action of a gene or group of genes (3): the aggregate of distinctive qualities characteristic of a breed, strain, or type <a wine of great character> c: the complex of mental and ethical traits marking and often individualizing a person, group, or nation <the character of the American people> d: main or essential nature especially as strongly marked and serving to distinguish <excess sewage gradually changed the character of the lake> 3: position, capacity 4: reference 4 b 5: reputation <the scandal has damaged his character and image> 6: moral excellence and firmness <a man of sound character> 7 a: a person marked by notable or conspicuous traits <quite a character> b: one of the persons of a drama or novel c: the personality or part which an actor recreates <an actress who can create a character convincingly> d: characterization especially in drama or fiction e: person, individual <a suspicious character> 8: a short literary sketch of the qualities of a social type Proposal: Virtue = strength/excellence of character
Central Questions about Character or Virtue Ethics • What are the “right habits”? – (i. e. , the ones that lead to human flourishing, happiness)? • Are you born with them or are they cultivated? • Can they be taught? – Or must they be acquired over time?
Aristotle 384 -322 BC • Student of Plato at the Academy (no not Annapolis!) • Teacher of Alexander the Great • Zoologist, Biologist (chemist, mathematician, political scientist, literary, geography, geology, meteorology, , etc) • Founded the Lyceum • Author- Significant writings: – – – Logic Physical and scientific Metaphysics Ethics Aesthetics Politics Influenced : • Aquinas, • Bentham, • Mill, • Kant
The “Range” of Attitudes Facing Danger or death Giving Towards other’s suffering Towards Self Deficit (Vice) Mean (Virtue) Excess (Vice) Cowardice Courage Reckless Cheap Charitable Prodigal Indifference Meanness Empathy Compassion Pity “Bleeding Heart” Self-deprecating Self Respect Vanity, Arrogance Conceit, Narcissism For each of these…do we have a natural tendency in one direction?
The “Range” of Attitudes
Aristotle’s Types of Virtues or excellences of character include: – Moral virtues honesty, fairness or justice – Prudential virtues temperance, modesty – Intellectual virtues wisdom – Some that are hard to classify courage
Virtue As the “Golden Mean” • Strength of character (virtue), involves finding the proper balance between two extremes – Excess: having too much of something. – Deficiency: having too little of something. ncy Deficie Excess Main Entry: mean Function: noun • Not mediocrity, but harmony and balance • There do not seem to be general rules or principles, and certainly no algorithms or formulae for virtue • Example of courage – Sometimes the deficiency is more to be avoided than the excess 1 a (1): something intervening or intermediate (2): a middle point between extremes b: a value that lies within a range of values and is computed according to a prescribed law * Courtesy of Merriam-Webster Dictionary “It is the things which we are naturally inclined that appear to us more opposed to the mean. ”
Childhood & Adult Morality • We can contrast two approaches to the moral life. – The childhood conception of morality: • Comes from outside (usually parents) • Is negative (“don’t touch that stove burner!”) • Rules and habit formation are central – The adult conception of morality. • Comes from within (self-directed) • Is positive (“this is the kind of person I want to be. ”) • Virtue-centered, often modeled on ideals
Moral Growth & Progress • Both of these conceptions of morality are appropriate at different times in life. • During adolescence and early adulthood (some) people make the transition from the childhood conception of morality to the adult conception…. hopefully Do some take longer than others…?
Rightly-ordered Desires Aristotle draws an interesting contrast between: – Weakness of will (akrasia) occurs when individuals cannot keep their desires under control. – Continent people, who have unruly desires but manage to control them. – Temperate people, whose desires are naturally—or through habit, secondnature—directed toward that which is good for them.
Rightly-ordered Desires & the Goals of Moral Education • Moral education may initially seek to control unruly desires through rules, the formation of habits, etc. • Ultimately, moral education aims at forming rightly-ordered desires – that is, teaching people to desire what is genuinely good for them. Gen Hagee conducting USMC Core Values Training at Al, Asad, Iraq, May 2006 From “Weak-willed” to “Continent” to “Temperate”… …cultivating the right desires
Aristotle’s Observations about Virtues, including moral virtues, are not so much taught as learned by example, observation, practice. – Cultivating these traits is compared to practicing archery or marksmanship – Hitting the “bull’s eye” takes time, practice, patience Demonstrating the appropriate behavior at the “right” time, “right” place, to the “right” degree This has clear implications for moral education, for Aristotle obviously thinks that you can teach people to be virtuous.
Importance of Habituation “…Virtues are concerned with actions and feelings; but every feeling and every action implies pleasure or pain. ” – Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics • Natural capacities are not acquired by habituation • Virtue and vice are formed by good and bad actions • Right sort of habituation must avoid excess and deficiency • Virtue requires habituation, and therefore requires practice, not just theory …until it becomes second nature
Aristotle vs. Kant “To help others where one can is a duty, …there are many spirits…that find inner pleasure in spreading happiness…Yet, I maintain that in such a case an action of this kind, however right and amiable it may be, has still no genuinely moral worth. ” –Kant Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals You can always trust a dishonest man to be dishonest. Honestly, it’s the honest ones you have to look out for, cause you never know when they're going to do something incredibly stupid. Captain Jack Sparrow “Someone who abstains from bodily pleasures enjoys the abstinence itself, then he is temperate, but if he is grieved by it, he is intemperate. ” - Aristotle Nichomachean Ethics
Is this about Character? … Will Col Mac. Kenzie be able to lead his troops as well tomorrow as he did yesterday? Which virtues of his character got Col Mackenzie in trouble here? Col. Tom Mackenzie dances with Sgt. Copeland of US Combined Forces Command during a New Year celebration at their base in Kabul, Afghanistan
Aristotle on Friendship “Reciprocal Good Will” • 3 Motives for Friendship – Pleasure – Utility – Friends for Friends’ own sake • Good and alike in virtue • Involves experience and familiarity • Challenges – Friendship between “superior” and “junior” • Do you agree with his equation of proportionality? – Delta in virtue between friends
Moral Virtue - Courage • 5 kinds of false courage – Applied Compulsion – Ignorance – Sanguine, optimistic – Passion – Experience with particular regard to facts • True courage – is not forced, – is cognizant of the real peril, and – is the execution of the rational decision to face that peril - because it is the right thing to do Do you think this is important for a ENS/2 nd. Lt to understand? ? ?
The Right Action… Moral Courage=Moral Values+Character The Moral Values to Know What is Right To Do the Right Action Determine the Specific Rule/Principle Our Basic Moral Values The Character to Do What is Right Specific Virtue Required Our Virtues (Character) If you knew it was wrong, then why did you do it?
Hugh Thompson: Moral Courage
Case Study: Hugh Thompson April 15, 1943 – January 6, 2006 Future Actions Character Actions What were his options? Why would someone in his situation chose the hardest possible option with all these terrible consequences? From his actions, how would you describe his character? Hugh Thompson, on the right, and Lawrence Colburn, his helicopter door-gunner, at My Lai village, 16 March 1998
Summary of Virtue Theory • Human happiness, flourishing, stem from cultivation of proper virtues • This is an ongoing, life-long task • Social practice: – Experienced veterans provide “mentorship” and constraints (laws) • Friendship, and the role (and regulation) of emotions are included in the mix
Limitations of the Theory • Some vices (murder, adultery) don’t have a “mean” or a virtue-correlate • Some people are just not “teachable, ” they cannot hope to take on even a “tincture” of virtue • Law and legal institutions limit their behavior, and also help habituate the teachable (especially the young) “Virtuous, Weak-Willed, Innocent, Wicked” BBC- 29 April, 2005: The defense said Sgt Hasan Akbar was mentally ill at the time of the attack
Criticisms of Virtue Theory • Indeterminate, vague, imprecise • Possessing the requisite virtues does not guarantee how one will act in a given situation NASA Astronaut Being Charged in Murder Plot • Indeed, virtue theory does not provide the specific kind of behavioral guidance that modern procedural theories offer Posted Feb 6, 2007, 2: 45 PM ET
Reading For Next Class Religion & Military Ethics (Divine Law) • EMP (4 Pages) – Religion and Military Ethics (Lucas), pp. 97 -98; Religion and Morality: Exploring the Connections (Cook), pp. 99 -103; Abraham’s Obedience Test, p. 135. • CSME (9 Pages) – A Sailor’s Request for Abortion Case (Rubel), pp. 167 -169; Altering the Uniform (Gunther), pp. 171 -176. Objectives from reading: Religion in the Military (Divine Law) What are differences & similarities between ethics based on divine command ethics based on natural law? What are the possible tensions between divine command & legal rules and obligations? (Give an example of such) Are these tensions resolvable? If yes: How? If no: Why not?
Reading & Homework for Next Class Natural Law • EMP (15 pages) – The Tradition of Natural Law (Lucas), pp. 195 -198; from “Summa Theologica (St. Thomas Aquinas), pp. 199 -202; from The Ethics of Natural Law (Harris), pp. 203 -209. Objectives from reading: Natural Law Know difference between descriptive (scientific ), prescriptive (natural and divine), & human (civil, positive, statue) laws Comprehend Aquinas’ features of a law, how natural law can be explained in terms of moral standards and the 4 natural inclinations of human beings. Comprehend the concept of “the common good” vs. concept of “greatest good for the greatest number. ” Know & apply the Principle of Forfeiture and the Principe of Double Effect