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A QUICK, AND YET SOMEHOW STILL EXHAUSTING, TOUR OF A THOUSAND YEARS VIRTUE IN THE MIDDLE AGES.

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Presentation on theme: "A QUICK, AND YET SOMEHOW STILL EXHAUSTING, TOUR OF A THOUSAND YEARS VIRTUE IN THE MIDDLE AGES."— Presentation transcript:

1 A QUICK, AND YET SOMEHOW STILL EXHAUSTING, TOUR OF A THOUSAND YEARS VIRTUE IN THE MIDDLE AGES

2 TWO WAYS OF APPROACHING THE MATERIAL One or two selected figures The grand historical sweep

3 ORGANIZING QUESTIONS FOR THE GRAND TOUR 1. What is the role of virtue in each thinkers ethics as a whole? 2. How does each thinker arrive at a characterization of particular virtues? 3. Whats more important: human nature or the human condition? 4. Does psychological analysis play a crucial role? 5. How are knowledge, love, and virtue related?

4 ORGANIZING QUESTIONS FOR THE GRAND TOUR 6. What is the connection between virtue and happiness? 7. What is will? 8. How trainable are the appetites? 9. What about the unity of the virtues?

5 ONE THOUGHT PER THINKER Augustine: The pagan idea of virtue is pride and delusion. Anselm : Its all about obedience. Peter Abelard : Intentions are all that matters. Thomas Aquinas: Virtue perfects human nature. John Duns Scotus : Its all about the will. William Ockham : The language of virtue falls apart.

6 AUGUSTINE ( ) THE PAGAN IDEA OF VIRTUE IS PRIDE AND DELUSION Youve heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates? Morons.

7 AUGUSTINE ( ) THE PAGAN IDEA OF VIRTUE IS PRIDE AND DELUSION Human responsibility for sin: the concept of will The damage to human nature The anti-Pelagian polemic What the Pelagians said Augustines retort The problems of ignorance and difficulty

8 AUGUSTINE ( ) THE PAGAN IDEA OF VIRTUE IS PRIDE AND DELUSION Implications for standard philosophical doctrine Against the inseparability of the virtues Against the Stoic theory of emotions Against the philosophers conception of virtue Against the Grand End Theory The fate of the cardinal virtues

9 ANSELM ( ) ITS ALL ABOUT OBEDIENCE As you wish.

10 ANSELM ( ) ITS ALL ABOUT OBEDIENCE Anselm never approaches ethics as an independent area of inquiry. Our purpose Our place Two definitions of rectitude of will (which come to the same thing) Justice is rectitude of will preserved for its own sake.

11 WHAT IS JUSTICE IN ANSELMS ACCOUNT? Its a disposition, but not an Aristotelian hexis: it is neither acquired by human effort nor strengthened by habituation. In this life our possession of justice is always precarious. Hence, the moral life requires exceptional vigilance, and every disobedience, however apparently trivial, is a grave evil. Notice how unlike an Aristotelian virtue this is.

12 FURTHER INDICATIONS THAT THE ROLE OF VIRTUE IS LIMITED AT BEST The traditional vocabulary of the cardinal virtues other than justice is almost completely absent. Anselm doesnt appear to envision the possibility of training the emotions. And anyway, preserving rectitude of will is whats important – and obedience is always possible, no matter what the state of ones emotions might be. And what about charity?

13 PETER ABELARD ( ) INTENTIONS ARE ALL THAT MATTERS Start with the analysis of cases The tempted monk The servant who kills his master The man who marries his sister The two hangmen

14 PETER ABELARD ( ) INTENTIONS ARE ALL THAT MATTERS The key terms Disposition of the mind Will Consent Act So what about virtue?

15 THOMAS AQUINAS ( ) VIRTUE PERFECTS HUMAN NATURE From natural law to virtue The standing analogy between speculative and practical reasoning Speculative reason Practical reason Starts fromFirst principlesNatural law Proceeds by way of Theoretical syllogism Practical syllogism Until it reachesA conclusionAn act

16 FROM NATURAL LAW TO VIRTUE (CTD) The first precept of the natural law is that good is to be done and evil avoided. The most general precepts of the natural law are more substantive principles that point out specific goods to be pursued. Aquinas identifies these goods by appealing to a general metaphysical theory of goodness and a philosophical anthropology. These goods are arranged hierarchically and inclusively. Aquinas posits appetites corresponding to each level of good.

17 AND SO WE ARRIVE AT VIRTUE Virtues are dispositions by which we achieve our specific good effectively. We need them because our specific good is rational activity, and our appetites alone do not suffice for fully rational choice. Sensory appetite needs virtue in order to follow reason. Intellectual appetite needs virtue in order to be directed toward the common good. Reason needs virtue in order to judge well.

18 THUS THE FOUR CARDINAL VIRTUES There are two virtues perfecting the sensory appetite: Temperance (temperantia) perfects the concupiscible appetite Fortitude (fortitudo) perfects the irascible appetite. Justice (iustitia) perfects the intellectual appetite (will). Practical wisdom (prudentia) perfects reason.

19 ANALYZING PARTICULAR VIRTUES Well take temperance as our example, just because I have a handy chart. The basic rule of temperance: natural law at work The psychological complexity of temperance

20 THE LINCHPIN: PRACTICAL WISDOM In deliberate action We apprehend the end We deliberate about how that end can be achieved here and now We judge what is to be done We command the external bodily members to do it Practical wisdom in the broadest sense is the virtue by which we deliberate well, judge well, and command well.

21 THE LINCHPIN: PRACTICAL WISDOM There are corresponding vices in each case Foolish haste or precipitation is a failure in deliberation: you dont stop and think. Thoughtless is a failure in the act of judgment: you cant be bothered to pay attention to the relevant considerations. Inconstancy is a failure in the act of command: you dont follow through. Since moral defects cause these defects in practical reason, practical wisdom is impossible without moral virtue.

22 NATURAL & SUPERNATURAL GOODS (OR, HOW AQUINAS OUT-BOOK-TENS BOOK TEN) The specifically human activity that constitutes our good is not theoretical but practical reason. The life of practical reason – the life of the activity of the moral virtues – is proportionate to human beings. The life of theoretical reason is in an important sense superhuman. But as a Christian Aquinas believes that God intends human beings for a life that surpasses their nature.

23 NATURAL & SUPERNATURAL GOODS (OR, HOW AQUINAS OUT-BOOK-TENS BOOK TEN) But note: grace does not destroy nature; it brings nature to fulfillment. (Gratia non tollit naturam sed perficit.) Heaven fulfills our nature, though in a way beyond natures power; and our supernatural life begins not with death but with baptism. We need virtues that dispose us toward that supernatural happiness: faith, hope, charity. These virtues have a parallel structure to the moral virtues.

24 JOHN DUNS SCOTUS (1265/ ) ITS ALL ABOUT THE WILL All virtues of character are in the will. Possession of a virtue is neither necessary nor sufficient for right action. The virtues are not necessarily connected; they are partial perfections.

25 WILLIAM OCKHAM (C ) THE LANGUAGE OF VIRTUE FALLS APART Ockham agrees with Scotus that Virtues exist only in the will. The virtues are not necessarily connected. The intellects judgment never determines the will. No innate inclination or acquired habit in the will – not even a virtue – causally determines the wills actions. But hes more radical than Scotus in his view of the neutrality of the will.

26 WILLIAM OCKHAM (C ) THE LANGUAGE OF VIRTUE FALLS APART The most characteristic feature of Ockhams discussion of the virtues is that he uses the language of virtue and vice to talk about particular actions rather than dispositions. This tendency aligns Ockham with the approach that is commonly said to be characteristic of modern moral philosophy.

27 ORGANIZING QUESTIONS FOR THE GRAND TOUR 1. What is the role of virtue in each thinkers ethics as a whole? 2. How does each thinker arrive at a characterization of particular virtues? 3. Whats more important: human nature or the human condition? 4. Does psychological analysis play a crucial role? 5. How are knowledge, love, and virtue related?

28 ORGANIZING QUESTIONS FOR THE GRAND TOUR 6. What is the connection between virtue and happiness? 7. What is will? 8. How trainable are the appetites? 9. What about the unity of the virtues?


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