Phil A301

William Jamison


Notes on Chapter 6 of Philosophical Ethics

Aristotle and Virtue Ethics

The Virtues of Jane Addams

p. 180 Description of Jane's life. (But see her own description of twenty years at Hull House.)

p. 182 The Concept of Virtue -- classical version (Plato and Aristotle) concern is with character instead of "What morally ought we to do?"

*(Is this distinction based on the Ghost in the machine? (Ryle), or would it hold up to the critique given by Skinner in "Beyond Freedom and Dignity"?)

Definition of virtue: a character trait that is socially valued. A moral virtue is a character trait that is morally valued.

Mill: emphasis is on act and consequences, not on intentions.

p. 185 Right Actions and Right Motives

The reason why the person acted is central.

p. 185 Aristotelian Ethics --eudaimonia

Ethics and Politics: The Social Context of Ethics

Ethics as politics (remember the association of moral with law argument)

Ethics -- how to live well as an individual

Politics -- how to live well as a society

p. 187 Human Excellence and Moral Virtue

ethika = character. The quest for excellence. Virtue "is a disposition bred from an innate capacity by proper training and exercise of that capacity." Aristotle then proceeds to define this from his own perspective -- "we" are rational and want to be philosophers. But is this appropriate for all?

p. 188 Practical Wisdom

Moderation in all things. (Did Aristotle die of excessive moderation?) One must have a right relation between reason, feeling, and desire.

Aristotle -- Moral Virtue (Nic at Night) The Good is the End of Action

The Good is Complete: looking for the most complete. Criteria for Completeness: ends and not means are complete. The end that is always good in itself is (most) complete. Happiness meets the criteria for Completeness, But Other Goods Do Not. The Good is Self-Sufficient; so is Happiness etc. This is to be reached by the soul's activity that expresses virtue. Virtue of thought -- is taught, of character -- from habit. Legislating habits (i.e. legislating morality).

Conclusion: The Importance of Habituation. Virtue requires practice. (So this is not in conflict with behaviorist). Virtue is not a Feeling.... (defining the use of the terms). Are they states? By virtue I mean virtue of character. -- It is a mean in so far as it aims at what is intermediate -- the intermediate condition -- or moderation. Virtue defined: (a) a state that decides, (b) consisting in a mean, (c) the mean relative to us, (d) which is defined by reference to reason, (e) i.e., to the reason by reference to which the intelligent person would define it. It is a mean between two vices, one of excess and one of deficiency.

p. 196 Proper Motive and Good Habits

Virtuous character is cultivated (that is socialization)

The Special Place of the Virtues -- this is a deeper understanding of the issues?

The Claim of Primacy: you must have the right motive. Kant felt you must do it to satisfy the obligation. A true friend is one who does things because they are really a friend and not because of what they can get out of it. (Isn't having a friend getting something out of it? Love is this way? Aren't all of the virtues this way? What do we get out of it? Can we ask this? Do we get something out of being virtuous even when we are virtuous just because we want to be virtuous?)

If a person doesn't do things for their own sake -- because they are virtuous -- we feel they lack moral worth. They are not as trustworthy. (Is this just a measure of commitment in the socialization process?)

Is this not the same problem with belief in a world view: if you behave in order to fit in society you are not one with the spirit. If you are correct in your behavior to fit in society -- to satisfy your obligations or to promote the greatest good -- you are not "Virtuous". Your are not "saved" you are not "virtuous". Instead you are rationally motivated. Where is the distinction between being rational and being intuitive? *(note the article on Intuition and Reason by Miranda Fricker.) Was Darth Vader really saved? Discuss. There is really good in you.

Don't tell children they are bad. What they did is bad. They did a bad thing. They are good and should not do bad things. We teach this. If you define the person as bad they try to live up to it.

p. 198 MacIntyre's Aristotelian Program

The disaster has struck. We are a diverse society and so we invent ways of unifying our systems and make morality intelligible. Aristotelian virtue theory is our best solution.

Practice for Mac = language game of a role for Wittgenstein

internal good for Mac = reaching for the historical standard, being a "good" doctor. Standards have a history that define the practice. External and contingent goods are all the external rewards. (Where does this leave the internal good? Is this a mental event?)

Practice versus institutions: institutions are primarily concerned with external goods. They are required to maintain the practice but also are a danger to it. (ex. good teaching and an institutions interest in research).

Alasdair MacIntyre - The Nature of the Virtues

Comparing lists of virtues from different times. New examples -- Ben Franklin and Jane Austen. (Do a sketch of the new movie based on JA's Sense and Sensibility: character development. The female leads have to learn to have sense along with their sensibility. Too much of either one leads to poor results. Their concern is wining over their love interests. One male character lives up to his responsibilities even though they were made in youth and lack of wisdom. This is a good character. Another male character goes after love but yields to the lure of money. This is a bad character. Another is a good character consistently. Another is bad consistently. Comparison of all different character types. )

Core concepts (virtues) that we can list:

(1st the list must be in social context and the role of the individual.) Practice and internal and external goods.

Integrity or constancy.

Can Virtues and Obligations Coexist?

Virtue theory and obligation based theory are compatible. They just have a different emphasis. (This may not be the case if it takes true internal commitment to be Virtuous.)

Is this list of values our values today? Is the success of this dependent on one's Original Position? (OP) What about one's status frustration? Sociology anyone?

(Not in 3rd ed.) Nancy Sherman -- Fine and Right Action

Acceptance of the virtues is fine, but you have to act on them too. Weak willed consistently ignore the right action because of distracters. It requires seriousness of commitment. (I have to really believe it it!) The notion of what is right depends on character and motive.

Beauchamp says: "Principles serve to specify obligations; rights to protect interests; and virtues to establish models of conduct." Each of these perspectives contribute a perspective.

Moral Ideals -- Two Moralities?

Ordinary and extraordinary standards. Jane Addams was extraordinary. There is a practical continuum here.

Models from Saints and Heroes

These support Virtue ethics.

Criticisms and Defenses of Virtue Ethics

The Indispensable Role of Obligations and Rights in Ethics: Virtue theory is not sufficient. We need a common OP for virtue ethics to work and obligations must be agreed on.

Does Virtue Theory Presuppose Some Form of Obligation?

How does Virtue theory account for the language of obligation? (Social context?) Can we legislate morality? Virtue theory seems to imply NOT! How so? Because of the language element? Something else is going on here that must be explored.

p. 207 Joel Feinberg -- Obligation and Supererogation

Not all duties = moral obligations. (i.e. Law does not equal morality).

This is linguistics.

The Problem of Judging Right and Wrong Actions

From a plain virtue theory you cannot establish the code. You need the code to establish virtue. *(But if the stress is on commitment or belief in the code this is understandable.)

For our resolution of ethical dilemmas the question seems to be, "How do we create a moral code and law that reflects the values we all share and then make all of us that are part of our society (borders not yet defined) to truly believe and be committed (hence virtuous) to those ideals? American Ideals?

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