- Slides: 10
Virtue Ethics revision summary
Key Words to be happy with Virtue (arete) – skill or habit of character Prudence (phronesis) – practical wisdom Intellectual excellence (sophia) – non-moral wisdom Happiness (eudaimonia) – flourishing Golden Mean – midpoint between excess and deficiency Cardinal virtues – Aquinas’ word for four key virtues Theological virtues – Aquinas’ word for faith, hope, love Teleological – theory where goodness depends on ends
Key assumption To do right actions we need right character. This character (ethos) can be developed by - Emulation (copy your heroes) - Education (wisdom and understanding) - Experience (learn from mistakes)
Aristotle’s idea of the soul We have a rational side: - Intellectual skills or virtues (technical, scientific) - Moral skills or virtues (practical wisdom) And an non-rational side - Desires (warmth, clothing, shelter) - Appetites (food, sex, drink) By developing the intellectual skills we excel in sophia. By developing the moral skills we excel in phronesis.
An ultimate aim Eudaimonia – the supreme good is flourishing We flourish personally as we pursue the virtues. We flourish as a community as virtues govern our common life. We acquire intellectual virtues by training and education. We acquire moral virtues by habit (practising).
How do we pursue excellence? The virtue lies at a mid point between the vice of deficiency the vice of excess. Example: courage lies between cowardice (vice of deficiency) and recklessness (vice of excess). Some of Aristotle’s list of virtues might surprise us: Magnificence = greatness lies between meanness and over-indulgence So a BMW lies between a Skoda and a Rolls-Royce
Aquinas added to Aristotle’s virtues Aquinas tried to reconcile Aristotle and Christianity Aquinas called these the cardinal virtues - justice (giving people their deserts) - temperance (moderation) - wisdom (phronesis or prudence) - courage Aquinas calls these theological virtues (Christian) - faith - hope - love
Reason is the key We should act out of virtue, not because of the consequences, but because we are wise. The exact way to apply the virtue of courage for example depends on circumstances. So we need reason (phronesis or practical wisdom) to decide on the right action in a situation. This skill of reason is developed by practice. Throughout our lives we build this skill, just as we develop intellectual skills to gain sophia (wisdom in the intellectual sphere).
The importance of character As humans we seem to need heroes. Our heroes (Wayne Rooney, Rihanna) have great skill (virtue means skill in Greek, arete). But their characters are not always morally skilful or virtuous (they get sent off, take drugs etc) So our society may arguably have lost the idea of emulating (copying) moral heroes to build a greater society. . . so that all may flourish (eudaimonia). Modern virtue ethicists like Alasdair Mac. Intyre argue we have lost our way. Click on the link to find out more about Mac. Intyre. http: //www. philosophicalinvestigations. co. uk/index. php? view=article&catid=48%3 Avirtue&id=246%3 Ahandoutanscombe-and-macintyre&option=com_content&Itemid=54&limitstart=2
Evaluating Virtue Ethics morality is about building character. the view of human nature is more holistic (emotions, reason, habits). recognises our social life is a construct, and so is our idea of virtue. So virtues are adaptable to our culture. But. . . decisions are difficult – how do you solve dilemmas? virtues may conflict eg lying to save a friend (truth v loyalty). Bertrand Russell argued they are bourgeois values of passionless mediocrity. Click on link for a table. http: //www. philosophicalinvestigations. co. uk/index. php? view=article&catid=48%3 Avirtue&id=86%3 Atable-strengths -and-weaknesses-of-virtue-ethics&option=com_content&Itemid=54