- Slides: 38
PHIL 2525 LECTURE 20 The Ethics of Virtue
Abraham Lincoln and the piglets. .
The Ethics of Right Action vs. the Ethics of Virtue � Action ethics focuses on the rightness and wrongness of rules, obligations, and actions. � Virtue ethics focuses on character traits of the individual.
Virtue Ethics. . . for the ancient Greeks. . . � Arete. . . � Character. . . � Habits. . .
Aristotle � Followed teachings of Socrates and Plato…the concept of "virtue" � “Man is by nature a social and rational animal…”
Aristotle. . . � Aristotle’s account of virtue is found in The Nichomachean Ethics, which he named in honor of his son Nichomachus.
Aristotle’s Virtue Theory: � The elite are to be guided by their will to excellence � The non-elite by their sense of duty � Illustration from the Nurnberg Chronicle 15 th. C.
An aside. . Nietzsche � Like Aristotle, Nietzsche saw the concept of duty (slave morality) as necessary and fit for those who could not achieve the higher morality of excellence
What are virtues? One answer… � Qualities which allow us to control our emotions… �The quality of courage helps us dominate our fear. �The quality of honesty helps us do the right thing even when we are afraid of the consequences. �The quality of charity helps us overcome our selfishness.
Aristotle’s virtue theory: � Moral virtues are habits that regulate the desires of our appetitive nature � Most virtues are at a mean between two vicious habits � My moral actions are freely chosen and are an extension of my virtuous habits
� Personification of Virtue in the Library at Ephesus (the virtues of Roman Senators)
Somewhere along the way… � Virtue gave way to rules… � For Christianity, virtue lay in conducting one’s life according to the will of God…
Christianity stressed… � Original Sin � The frailty of human character � The need for God’s help
After a thousand years of Christendom. . . The emphasis changed from doing the right thing for God to doing the right thing for other reasons. . . � Because it will make living together easier (Hobbes and Locke and social contract theory) Because it will increase general well-being (Bentham and Mill) � Because it’s the right thing (Kant) �
Hobbes’ Virtue Theory � The pre-political state of nature for humans is a condition of mutual conflict that contains no objective moral values � We achieve peace by mutually agreeing to give up our rights to harm each other (social contract) � To assure compliance, we create governments that punish those who break the agreements
David Hume: Catalog of Virtues Natural virtues are those which do not change from one place or time to another… � compassion, generosity, gratitude, friendship, fidelity, charity, good sense, wit and humour, perseverance, patience, courage, parental devotion, good nature, cleanliness, etc.
David Hume: Catalog of Virtues Artificial Virtues are those which are context specific and… are developed to meet specific needs � are developed by communities to suit themselves � are taught to new or young members � aid in social cohesion � contribute to social order and good government �
(Hume on Christian Virtues…. ) � 'Celibacy, fasting, penance, mortification, self denial, humility, silence, solitude, and the whole train of monkish virtues’ are, neither agreeable nor useful; they ‘stupefy the understanding and harden the heart, obscure the fancy and sour the temper. ’
For Hume, all moral virtues fall into these categories… (1) qualities useful to others (2) qualities useful to oneself (3) qualities immediately agreeable to others (4) qualities immediately agreeable to oneself
Hume's theory: Moral agents perform actions that are motivated by either instinctive or acquired character traits. � Recipients experience pleasure (pain) either immediately from the agent’s action, or from the usefulness (inconvenience) of that action. � Moral spectators sympathetically experience pleasure (pain) when observing the recipient’s pleasure (pain). � The moral spectator's pleasure (pain) constitutes his moral assessment of the agent's character trait, thereby deeming the trait to be a virtue (vice). �
Immanuel Kant developed the classical formulation of deontological ethics. right action consists solely in the conformity of an action to a justified rule or principle.
Wisdom. . Doing the right thing doesn’t make you a good person… Being a good person makes you do the right thing…
Legalistic morality Good conduct = obedience to moral law God given: Divine Command As dictated by Utility: Rule Utilitarianism As dictated by pure reason: Kant As dictated by society: Social Contract Theory
Legalistic vs. Virtue Ethics. . Legalistic ethics ○ begins ethics with rules ○ defines good conduct as that which accords with the rules ○ defines Virtue good persons as those who ○ begins with a conception of the good person ○ defines good conduct as the sort of conduct that follows
Elizabeth Anscombe: Modern Moral Philosophy. . 1958 . . . proposed that moral philosophers should abandon their obsession with moral rules. . . with notions such as obligation and duty. . . recommended a return to Aristotle (and the development of a proper ‘moral psychology’)
Should We Return to the Ethics of Virtue? Anscombe's complaint: legalistic ethics rest on the incoherent notion of a "law" without a lawgiver the alternative sources of moral "legislation" are inadequate substitutes
12. 2 The Virtues (and the vices). . . Traits of character expressed by habitual patterns of behaviour
List virtues. . Remember that virtues (and vices) are traits of character expressed by habitual patterns of behaviour . . . .
Aristotelian virtues. . . Virtues (and vices) are traits of character expressed by habitual patterns of behaviour courage temperance Liberality greatness of soul good temper or gentleness being agreeable in company wittiness modesty
Aristotle. . naturalistic background The purpose of everything is to flourish. . . Vegetative fulfillment Animalistic fulfillment Uniquely human fulfillment (to live according to reason)
Moral Virtues as Means between Vices of Excess & Defect Example. . . Cowardice - Courage – Foolhardiness What is wanted. . . facing dangers at the right place, at the right time, for the right purposes.
Courage. . . Courage is a quality so necessary for maintaining virtue that it is always respected, even when it is associated with vice. - Dr. Samuel Johnson
Cleverness and Wisdom � The clever person knows the best means to any possible end. � The wise person knows which ends are worth striving for. 10/2/2020 (c) Lawrence M. Hinman 34
12: 3 Advantages of Virtue Ethics. . . Correct Account of moral motivation Makes room for partiality Speaks to feminist concern for the personal…. instead of just male concern for the public
12. 4 The Problem of Incompleteness. . . Virtue theory leaves you flying by the seat of your pants. . . Virtue theory isn’t much help in moral conflicts…
� Hercules between Virtue and Vice Emmanuel Benner (1836 -1896) � A Young Man Between Virtue and Vice Paolo Veronese 1528 -1588 � A Philosopher between Virtue and Vice Orazio Samacchini 1532 -1577
� Whose actions are moral? � Does Karl exhibit virtues or vices? � What about the mother?