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Phil21 wk10,11 virtue ethics

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Phil21 wk10,11 virtue ethics

  1. 1. Good character
  2. 2. Williams‟s “Integrity objection”against Utilitarianism  There‟s a crucial moral distinction between what happens and what I do  Without this distinction we can not understand what it means to have integrity  Moral integrity requires the individual to view himself as a moral agent whose actions flow “from projects or attitudes which in some cases he takes seriously at the deepest level, as what his life is about”  Utilitarianism can‟t understand this notion of moral integrity, because it leaves no room for describing the ethical importance of the relationship between our projects, identity, and actions. 2
  3. 3. Williams‟s “One thought too many” objection to Kantianism At least in some cases, acting from moral duty can not be the right motivation. Some actions can not be adequately justified by reference to abstract impartial principles. Bernard Williams 1929 - 2003
  4. 4. Character-based theoriesSample approach 1: consequence-based ethics Utilitarianismo Start/focus on good states of affairso Right actions are those that bring about good states of affairso A good character is one that leads you bring about good states of affairsSample approach 2: duty-based ethics Kantianismo Start/focus on right actionso Good states of affairs are those in which right actions are takeno A good character is one that leads you to perform right actionsSample approach 3: character-based ethics Virtue Ethicso Start/focus on good charactero Good states of affairs are those in which good characters are developedo Right actions are those that bring about (arise from) good character
  5. 5. Virtue Ethics: being good & living well
  6. 6. Aristotle Ethics is practical science – the practical art of living well. What matters most to humans is to have a good human life – to flourish. Living a good life involves not just behaving well (doing the right things) but also having the right nature - the right feelings 384 BC – 322 BC and sensitivities and skills.
  7. 7. What is a good life? A life of wealth? A life of pleasure? A life of honor? A life of virtue? And no “life-busting” tragedies
  8. 8. A Functional Account of the Good  What good things have in common is that they perform their function well. And the qualities that make something good will differ depending on their ergon.  The ergon of a thing is what it does that makes it what it is as opposed to something else.  The good life for a human is one in which we perform well our distinctively human function (our ergon)
  9. 9. The Human Ergon What distinguishes normal human beings from everything else and gives us our nature?  Our nutritive activity? (digesting, sleeping, reproducing)  Our appetites/desires?  Our rational (intellectual) capacity to contemplate ideas and cosmos?
  10. 10. A good human life is…The good life is an active lifeexercising virtues of character andintellect, with our friends, andenjoying the pleasures associatedwith these activities. Virtue of intellect – A disposition to reason well. Virtue of character – A disposition to do the right things and in the right way.
  11. 11. Virtues of CharacterWe respond virtuously or well if we respond in the right way at theright time towards the right people and with the right attitudeA Virtue lies at the mean between excess and deficiency, relative to us.
  12. 12. Aristotle‟s Doctrine of the Unity of the Virtues You can‟t possess any virtue without also possessing all of the other virtue All virtues require finding the mean, and the practical skill of judging the mean is a general skill If you have this skill, you can find the mean with regards to all the virtues
  13. 13. How do become gain the virtues? (1) Find someone wise (a virtuous person – someone who has this skill) and imitate them. Develop good habits – practice doing as the virtuous person would do until it becomes your own. (2) Aim to avoid the extreme that is more tempting for you.
  14. 14. The good life and the best lifeIf you‟re a virtuous person yourlife could never be worthless orwretched, but unless you havesufficient support to be able toexercise your talents andpursue your ends, you‟ll neverhave the best kind of humanlife. Warren Buffett (Billionaire Philanthropist)
  15. 15. Friendship“Scipio used to complain that men were more painstaking in allother things than in friendship; that everybody could tell how manygoats and sheep he had, but was unable to tell the number of hisfriends; and that men took pains in getting the former, but werecareless in choosing the latter, and had no certain signs, or marks,so to speak, by which to determine their fitness for friendship.”- Cicero (from Laelius on Friendship)
  16. 16. Friendship and the good life: Why do we need friends? What‟s the point of being rich if  Friends help keep the young you can‟t use that money to help from making mistakes others – especially your friends?  Friends help the old by How can you preserve your ministering to their needs prosperity without friends? If things go wrong, friends are the  When men are friends there is only refuge. no need of justice Friends motivate us to do noble things. “Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods”
  17. 17. Aristotle‟s Conditions for FriendshipA friendship must have:  Feelings of liking and affection toward one another.  One must wish a friend well for that friend‟s own sake.  The mutuality of affection and goodwill must be recognized
  18. 18. Three Kinds of Friendship 1. Friendships of use – the basis of your friendship is your functionality to each other 2. Friendships of pleasure – based on the enjoyment you get from your interaction with the other person.Aristotle: “Such friendships are short-lived”
  19. 19. Three Kinds of Friendship3. Friendships of virtue – the friendship of men who are alike in virtue, wish well to each other, and are good themselves.Only virtuous people can have virtuefriendships with other virtuous people Unlike friendships of utility or pleasure, one can at best have few friendships of virtue. Such friendships are long-lasting (potentially permanent), but rare“Alike in virtue”: roughly on the same level
  20. 20. Friendship and the Good Life Virtue friends help make you a better person  Help you know yourself  Let you know if your judgment is good  Support you in projects that are tough, but good for you AND Friends are pleasurable – they make people happy. Part of the good life is being able to exercise our virtues with our friends and enjoy sharing that experience.
  21. 21. Friendship among unequals  Virtue friendships are equal  Other friendships are properly not equal  Older/younger, wealthy/poor, ruler/subject, mentor/mentored  In such relationships, the love should be proportional to the merit of the parties.  Friendships do not tolerate difference in virtue, wealth or anything else that are too large.
  22. 22. What do we owe our friends? Friendship asks a man to do what he can, not what is proportional to the merits of the case In unequal friendships, we must repay what we can and how we can.  if you receive money or virtue, return in honor. Wronging someone becomes increasingly worse, the closer friends you are with him What you owe to your friend increases with the intensity of the friendship.
  23. 23. Friendship and MoralityYour best friend is dying and needs akidney transplant to survive. Yourconnections at the hospital allow you toput her name at the top of the list. Ifyou do it, a stranger that would haveotherwise lived, will die.Does your obligation to your friendconflict with the moral thing to do? “Friends help friends move, real friends help friends move bodies”
  24. 24. William Frankena‟s criticismSample approach 3: character-based ethicso Start/focus on good charactero Good states of affairs are those in which good characters are developedo Right actions are those that bring about (arise from) good character Without principles we wouldn’t know what traits to encourage! For every moral principle there‟s a morally good trait – the disposition to act according to it. For every good moral trait there is a principle that defines how that trait expresses itself in action Because it‟s a matter of principle, you It‟s the principles that are basic should develop the kind of character that But we still need the virtues: will act accordingly. “I  To motivate us to be moral made the wrong  To act responsibly decision but I did it in a responsible way.”
  25. 25. Good actions & Good people Ex: 2 people work for a bank & An action is right if it follows the right principles have the opportunity to embezzle $1 million from the bank. One Whether an action or person is morally good doesn‟t depend on rightness, but on motive. person doesn’t even consider it, What kind of motive? the other considers & wrestles 1. When done solely from a sense of duty or with it but doesn’t end up doing it. desire to do what is right (Kant) Which one is more right? 2. When motivated primarily by a sense of duty Aristotle: “you won’t think about or desire to do what is right (Kant-ish) your duty, but it’ll flow naturally 3. When motivated at least in part by a sense of from who you are, because you duty or desire to do what is right (Aristotle) have a certain kind of character” 4. If your sense of duty or desire to do right Ex: one person donates $100 to would keep you trying to do your duty, Ethiopia b/c she thinks it’s the right whatever your actual motivation was; OR if thing to do but has no feelings you acted out of natural kindliness, about it, the other person does the gratefulness, or similar morality-supporting same because they feel empathy motivation (Frankena) & THIS is the right motivation while acting from a sense of duty is not.
  26. 26. Cardinal Virtues A cardinal virtue is a virtue that: A contemporary view: 1. Can‟t be derived from any other virtues;  Beneficence 2. Other moral virtues are derived from it  Justice Ancient Greek view: Traditional Christian view:  Wisdom  Faith, hope and love (the  Courage theological virtues)  Temperance  Prudence, fortitude, temperance  Justice and justice (the human virtues)Virtue ethics begins with principle. Criticism is that it needs to begin with principle.Cardinal virtue: the grounding for other virtues – fundamental character trait from which other charactertraits come. The cardinal virtue doesn’t come from any other virtue.Traditional Christian view has different sorts of cardinal virtues – Jesus is the modelFrankena’s view: there are really only 2 kinds of virtues: (contemporary view) desire to bring beneficence& justice into the world
  27. 27. First and Second-order virtues First order moral virtues - all the virtues cardinal or otherwise that correspond to corollaries of moral principles; help to become a good person.  Ex. Honesty = one must always tell the truth Second-order virtues – more general virtues that help us make good moral decisions or be a good person more generally; tell us how to be so that we can develop first order virtues. 1. Conscientiousness 2. Moral courage (have this  have courage to do what‟s right) 3. Disposition to find out and respect the relevant facts 4. Disposition to think clearly 5. Ability to make moral decisions 6. Ability to revise your principles and change your opinions 7. Ability to realize vividly the “inner lives” of others (5-7 are abilities, not virtues)
  28. 28. Moral Ideals “you have integrity if you‟ll still say 4 with a gun to your head”Having a moral ideal is wanting to be a person of a certainsort, wanting a certain trait of character rather than others.If one‟s ideal is truly a moral one, nothing in it wouldn‟t becovered by the principles of beneficence or justice – even itgoes beyond the call of duty.
  29. 29. (Moral) Saints and Heroes
  30. 30. How Morality  Some actions are “forbidden”. We must not perform them.  Some actions are “required”. We have a duty to perform those actions.  All other actions are “permitted”. They are morally neutral. We can do them if we like.
  31. 31. 3 ways to be a saint or hero: Someone who does his duty regularly in contexts in which inclination, desire or self- interest would lead most people not to do it, and does it through exercising abnormal self- control is a saint. Ex: stay home & care for sick relative Someone who exercises abnormal self- control in contexts in which terror or fear are involved is a hero. Ex: care for a population that‟s contagious &fatally ill, when normal people would flee from thesituationJ.O. Urmson (1958)
  32. 32. 3 ways to be a saint or hero:  Someone who does his duty in contexts in which inclination or self-interest would lead most men not to do it, without effort is a saint. Ex. washing a homeless person‟s feet in skid row  Someone who does his duty in the context of fear and terror without effort is a hero. Ex: an ER nurse, responsibility for the lives of othersJ.O. Urmson (1958)
  33. 33. 3 ways to be a saint or hero:  Someone is saint if she performs actions that are far beyond the limits of her duty. Ex: Contagion (movie), the CDC doctor goes the extra mile & chooses to enter the area where the epidemic is going on  Someone is heroic if they perform actions that are far beyond the limits of their duty in the context of fear and terror. (Going beyond the call of duty.) Ex: Soldier that jumps on a grenade, self-sacrifice, his body takes the impact & saves other soldiers but nobody would have blamed him had he not done it. Ex: Stand & Deliver (movie), teacher quits his great job for one at a bad HS & teaches a remedial math class full of gang- bangers, but he teaches them calculus & they ace the AP exam.J.O. Urmson (1958) This goes beyond the call of duty
  34. 34. Are saintly and heroic moral actions beyond the call of duty? Does it matter whether St. Francis thinks his actions are obligatory or whether they really are obligatory? What he thinks the action is a duty for him, but not for others? Minimally, there is something different between duties all of us have and these types of duties. St. Francis preached to the birds about Christ because he believes it was his duty. Is he going beyond the call of duty when his duty is to preach to people, not animals? Is this action supererogitory? Urmson doesn‟t give answers to these questions, just gives them as food for thought.
  35. 35. Other types of moral actions that are neither optional, forbidden, or permitted Going the extra mile (Ex: dropping a friend off at the airport & stopping on the way so that they can also run an errand.) Favors (Ex: Charity – can of food… Something done out of the goodness of your heart, not because you have to.) Acts of generosity (give because you want to) Forgiveness (you don‟t have to forgive) Mercy (Ex: “I‟ll overlook something you did that typically goes against justice,” such as not pressing charges against someone who did you wrong. Ignoring, not = forgiving!) All of these acts aren’t required!
  36. 36. Supererogatory actionsSupererogatory actions are morally good actions that seem to go beyond „thecall of duty‟ – actions that are good, but that the agent has no overallobligations to do. (Actions that are good, but not required.)Some initial thoughts:1. Supererogatory acts are praiseworthy because unlike most moral actions, which are required, they are done voluntarily. Saintliness can‟t be a duty. (Urmson, 1958)2. Supererogatory acts appear to „extend‟ moral demands. They promote moral value „beyond the call of duty‟ and so seem essentially connected to moral duties and the values they promote.3. Supererogatory acts are praiseworthy for (at least something like) the usual moral reasons, rather than other types of reasons (e.g. pragmatic or aesthetic). Urmson asks why it is that we think these acts to be so praiseworthy. Answer: the fact that we‟re voluntarily doing something good, something we don‟t have to do.
  37. 37. What should we make of all this?Supererogatory actions are morally good actions that seem to go beyond „thecall of duty‟ – actions that are good, but that the agent has no overallobligations to do.  Option 1: Show that we do, in fact, have duties to do these morally good actions  Option 2: Conclude that the praise we have for these actions is not for their morality, but for something else (e.g. – the beauty of character they reveal). (We‟re not saying that they did something better than what‟s morally expected/there‟s something morally better about them, just that there‟s something beautiful about their choice.)  Option 3: Explain what it is that could make an act morally valuable other than than being morally required
  38. 38. The “moral” & the “ethical”Option 3: Explain what it is that could make an act morallyvaluable other than than being morally required  The agent makes a first-order judgment Φ that:  morality requires A  to do B would be to perform a morally superior action  She is (physically) capable of doing B  The agent then makes a second-order ethical judgment Ψ concerned with what to do given Φ, which concludes that she should do B
  39. 39. Is moral sainthood too good for its own good?“I don‟t know whether there are any moral saints. But if thereare, I am glad that neither I nor those about whom I care mostare among them. By moral saint I mean a person whose everyaction is as morally good as possible, a person, that is, who is asmorally worthy as can be. In other words, I believe that moralperfection in this sense, does not constitute a model of personalwell-being towards which it would be particular rational orgood or desirable for a human being to strive.” - Susan Wolf, “Moral Saints” (1982)