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Virtue Ethics

Virtue Ethics. Monday. http://ethics.sandiego.edu/video/Hinman/Theory/index.html. Alasdair MacIntyre. “we have lost moral wisdom” We need to return to the heroic society…. Two moral questions. The Question of Action: How ought I to act? The Question of Character

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Virtue Ethics

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  1. Virtue Ethics Monday

  2. http://ethics.sandiego.edu/video/Hinman/Theory/index.html

  3. Alasdair MacIntyre “we have lost moral wisdom” We need to return to the heroic society…

  4. Two moral questions • The Question of Action: • How ought I to act? • The Question of Character • What kind of person ought I to be? • Our concern here is with the question of character

  5. An analogy from the criminal justice system • As a country, we place our trust for just decisions in the legal arena in two places: • Laws, which provide the necessary rules • People, who (as judge and jury) apply rules judiciously • Similarly, ethics places its trust in: • Theories, which provide rules for conduct • Virtue, which provides the wisdom necessary for applying rules in particular instances

  6. Virtue ethics is currently one of 3 major approaches in normative ethics…. • It emphasizes the virtues, or moral character, in contrast to • duties or rules (deontology) • consequences of actions (consequentialism).

  7. Suppose it is obvious that someone in need should be helped…

  8. A utilitarian will point to the fact that the consequences of doing so will maximise well-being • A deontologist to the fact that, in doing so the agent will be acting in accordance with a moral rule such as "Do unto others as you would be done by" • A virtue ethicist to the fact that helping the person would be charitable or benevolent.

  9. Aristotle 5 Virtues • courage • compassion • self-love • friendship • forgiveness ethics

  10. What makes a Virtue? • Strength of character (habit) • Involving both feeling and action • Seeks the mean between excess and deficiency relative to us • Promotes human flourishing (eudemonia)

  11. It’s a package deal • You can’t have one perfectly without the others • You couldn’t say a bank robber had good courage • So Courage is misplaced if not correctly informed

  12. What could go wrong? • An excess or lack of courage • This is determined by making considered judgments

  13. Strength of character (virtue), Aristotle suggests, involves finding the proper balance between two extremes. • Excess: having too much of something. • Deficiency: having too little of something. • Not mediocrity, but harmony and balance

  14. ExcessLack PITY COMPASSION CALLOUS This means to “suffer with”

  15. You need to… • Think • Act • & Feel like doing the right thing.. Ethics involves emotions

  16. For Aristotle, virtue is something that is practiced and thereby learned—it is habit (hexis). • This has clear implications for moral education, for Aristotle obviously thinks that you can teach people to be virtuous.

  17. Learn how to do the right thing

  18. We can contrast two approaches to the moral life. • The childhood conception of morality: • Comes from outside (usually parents). • Is negative (“don’t touch that stove burner!”). • Rules and habit formation are central. • The adult conception of morality. • Comes from within (self-directed). • Is positive (“this is the kind of person I want to be.”). • Virtue-centered, often modeled on ideals.

  19. Looks for role models

  20. Aretaic • The aretaic turn is a movement in contemporary moral philosophy and ethics to emphasize character and human excellence or virtue, as opposed to moral rules or consequences. • The word "aretaic" is derived from the ancient Greek word arete, meaning excellence or virtue. "Aretaic" thus means "of or pertaining to virtue or excellence."

  21. The movement was a reaction against Kantianism and Utilitarian (Foot, MacIntyre & Taylor) • Emphasises BEING rather than DOING • Virtue ethics often points to ‘good’ people as examples (Socrates, Mother Teresa, Jesus)

  22. the justification problem • Problem for virtue ethics, which is shared by both utilitarianism and deontology, is (iv) "the justification problem." Abstractly conceived, this is the problem of how we justify or ground our ethical beliefs, an issue that is hotly debated at the level of metaethics.

  23. In its particular versions, for deontology there is the question of how to justify its claims that certain moral rules are the correct ones, and for utilitarianism of how to justify its claim that the only thing that really matters morally is consequences for happiness or well-being. • For virtue ethics, the problem concerns the question of which character traits are the virtues.

  24. Walter Schaller (1990) • Are virtues no more than dispositions to obey moral rules? • Does it rely upon the concept of duty - of acting in a certain way • Does it rely upon the idea that there are moral norms or absolutes?

  25. If so this is a problem.. • MacIntyre tried to get away from arguments about duties or moral actions, • But it could be argued that Moral Virtues only have ‘instrumental or derivative value’

  26. Julia Annas (1992) • An old idea isn’t necessarily a good idea • Could MacIntyre be guilty of nostalgia?

  27. “On some vices of virtue ethics” (1984) • Robert Louden identifies a number of difficulties: • VT doesn’t provide answers to specific moral dilemas such as euthanasia • It doesn’t provide a list of intolerable acts such as murder which we might want to condemn outright • It is difficult to decide who is virtuous… (interior acts)

  28. Does VT need to borrow principles from Utilitarian or Kantian ethics? • Would this remain being virtue ethics

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