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PHIL 2525 Lecture 19

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Title: PHIL 2525 Lecture 20 Author: Ursula Last modified by: Ursula Stange Created Date: 2/28/2009 2:44:25 AM Document presentation format: On-screen Show (4:3) – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: PHIL 2525 Lecture 19


1
PHIL 2525 Lecture 19
  • The Ethics of Virtue

2
Abraham Lincoln and the piglets....
3
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. 

4
Virtue Ethics...for the ancient Greeks...
  • Arete...virtue
  • Character...
  • Habits...skills

5
Aristotle
  • Followed teachings of Socrates and Platothe
    concept of "virtue"
  • Man is by nature a social and rational animal

6
Aristotle...
  • Aristotles account of virtue is found in The
    Nichomachean Ethics, which he named in honor of
    his son Nichomachus.

7
Aristotles 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 15thC.

8
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

9
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.

10
Aristotles 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

11
  • Personification of Virtue in the Library at
    Ephesus
  • (the virtues of Roman Senators)

12
Somewhere along the way
  • Virtue gave way to rules
  • For Christianity, virtue lay in conducting ones
    life according to the will of God

13
Hypatia 415 CE Alexandria
  • Hypatia
  • - brilliant mathematician, eloquent Neoplatonist
    - murdered by a mob of Christians in 415 CE.

14
Hypatia 415 CE Alexandria
  • Hypatia
  • - brilliant mathematician, eloquent Neoplatonist
    - murdered by a mob of Christians in 415 CE.

15
Christianity stressed
  • Original Sin
  • The frailty of human character
  • The need for Gods grace

16
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 and utilitarian theory)
  • Because its the rational thing (Kant and
    deontological theory)

17
Thomas Hobbes
18
Hobbes Moral 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

19
David HumeCatalog 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.

20
David HumeCatalog 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

21
(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.

22
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

23
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 agents action, or from the
    usefulness (inconvenience) of that action.
  • Moral spectators sympathetically experience
    pleasure (pain) when observing the recipients
    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).

24
  • Immanuel Kant developed the classical formulation
    of deontological ethics.
  • right action consists solely in the conformity of
    an action to a justified (by reason) rule or
    principle.
  • Categorical imperative

25
Wisdom....
  • Doing the right thing doesnt make you a good
    person
  • Being a good person makes you do the right thing

26
Legalistic moralityGood conduct obedience to
moral law
  • Divine Command God dictates
  • Utilitarianism pleasure and pain dictate
  • Social Contract Theory society dictates
  • Kant reason dictates

27
Legalistic Ethics Virtue Ethics
  • begins with rules
  • defines good conduct as
  • that which accords with the
  • rules
  • defines good persons as
  • those who conduct
  • themselves accordingly
  • begins with a conception
  • of the good person
  • defines good conduct as
  • the sort of conduct that
  • follows naturally from
  • good character
  • rules are just rough
  • generalizations

28
Elizabeth AnscombeModern Moral
Philosophy....1958
  • ...proposed that moral philosophers should
    abandon the obsession with moral rules...with
    notions such as obligation and duty...
  • ...recommended a return to Aristotle (and the
    development of a proper moral psychology)

29
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

30
Should We Return to the Ethics of Virtue?
  • ...rather the living spirit (of good character)
    than the dead letter (of the law)

31
Virtue resides in the character, not in the
action...
  • A truth thats told with bad intent, beats all
    the lies you can invent.
  • William Blake

32
12.2 The Virtues (and the vices)...
  • Traits of character expressed by habitual
    patterns of behaviour

33
12.2 The Virtues (and the vices)...
  • List virtues
  • Virtues (and vices) are traits of character
    expressed by habitual patterns of behaviour

34
Aristotelian virtues...
  • courage
  • temperance
  • liberality
  • greatness of soul
  • good temper or gentleness
  • being agreeable in company
  • wittiness
  • modesty
  • Virtues (and vices) are traits of character
    expressed by habitual patterns of behaviour

35
Virtue resides in the character, not in the
action...
  • You dont have the virtue of honesty just because
    you tell the truth.
  • You dont have the vice of dishonesty just
    because you tell a lie

36
Aristotle....naturalistic background
  • The purpose of everything is to flourish...
  • Vegetative fulfillment
  • Animalistic fulfillment
  • Uniquely human fulfillment(to live according to
    reason)

37
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.

38
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

39
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.

40
The Golden Mean
  • shyness PRIDE boastfulness
  • stinginess GENEROSITY wastefulness
  • dishonesty HONESTY - tactlessness

41
Virtue is its own reward?
42
Cleverness and Wisdom
  • The clever person knows the best means to any
    possible end.
  • The wise person knows which ends are worth
    striving for.

43
123 Advantages of Virtue Ethics...
  • Provides more complete account of moral
    motivation
  • Reinstates room for partiality

44
124 Virtue and conduct
  • In combination with...
  • As alternative to...

45
124 Virtue and conduct
  • WWJD
  • ADDAMS N E

46
12.5 The Problem of Incompleteness...
  • Virtue theory leaves you flying by the seat of
    your pants...
  • Virtue theory isnt always helpful in moral
    conflicts

47
  • 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

48
SLING BLADE
  • French-Canadian title
  • Justice of the Heart

49
Question.....
  • Is it appropriate to describe a Nazi soldier who
    fought zealously for Hitler as courageous?
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