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Virtue Ethics Author: John Waters

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1 Virtue Ethics Author: John Waters
Socratic Ideas Limited © All Rights Reserved

2 Virtue Ethics

3 A Concise Historical Overview
Socrates says... click on any philosopher for more information Aristotle ( BCE) Philippa Foot ( CE) David Hume ( CE) Alasdair MacIntyre ( CE) Elizabeth Anscombe ( ) Carol Gilligan (1953- CE)

4 Virtue Ethics Rejects Ethics of Dilemma Approach
Deontological Consequentialism Natural Law Kant Divine Command Egoism Utilitarian Too Legalistic Nazi Germany Secular Age Social Contract Conformity Lacks Intrinsic goods Socrates on any philosopher for more information

5 Agent Centred (Not Act Centred)
The “ethics of dilemma” approach to morality forgets an essential part of ethics - THE PERSON’S CHARACTER and how personal moral growth is encouraged. We are not concerned to know what goodness is but how to become good people, since otherwise our enquiry would be useless. (Aristotle) Nicomachean Ethics, II 1103b 27-9 The ethical condition is not the condition of having a certain right theory; rather the ethical condition is having a certain character. Professor Alasdair MacIntyre After Virtue

6 Developing Character Asking the Right Questions
Who am I? What do I want to become? How can I get there? (James Keenan, Dialogue 15)

7 How To Achieve Eudaimonia (Human Flourishing)
Aristotle defined `GOOD’ as something that fulfils its ends purpose The telos (end purpose) of humanity is to be rational The ergon (function) of reason in practice is virtue “The good for human beings is an activity of the soul in accordance with arete (virtue).” (Ethics p. 76)

The last side is really very important! Students are usually good at drawing out the point that the distinctive end purpose of human beings is to be rational…(though do avoid lapsing into writing about natural law!) However, what is frequently missed is the significance of ergon – putting reason into practise. This is where virtue ethics comes into its own. Through the practise (habituation) of arete (excellence) reason becomes an activity of the soul, leading to eudaimonia – human flourishing.

9 Intellectual and Moral Virtues
Intellectual Virtues Intellectual virtues are virtues of the mind. Such as the ability to understand, reason and make sound judgement Intellectual virtues may be taught, like logic and mathematics by teachers. Moral Virtues Not innate, rather they are acquired through repetition and practise, like learning a music instrument. It is through the practice and the doing that one becomes a type of person. Over a period of time virtues become second nature.

10 Aristotle’s Four Cardinal Virtues
Justice Prudence Temperance Fortitude (Determination in the face of adversity)

11 G O L D E N M A Excess Deficiency
“Virtue is concerned with emotions and actions, and here excess is error and deficiency a fault, whereas the mean is successful and commendable. Excess Deficiency Virtue then is a state of deliberate moral purpose consisting in a mean that is relative to ourselves, the mean being determined by reason, or as a prudent man would determine it.” Ethics

12 Excess Mean Deficiency
Doctrine of the Golden Mean Rash Profligate Over-indulge Being Rude Courage Generosity Temperance Honesty Cowardice Tight! Unimpressionable Lying

13 Quality vocabulary and specific examples to illustrate
your answers are always helpful. In an examination it is helpful to express your ideas in a succinct and focused manner. Offer an example of the Golden Mean, courage is always very clear to illustrate, and state how it avoids excess, rashness, and deficiency, cowardice Finally, be alert to the way in which reason, phronesis, is the executive (in charge), deciding which emotions to put into practise through a balanced appetite – so producing eudaimonia: human flourishing.

14 The Golden Mean and Eudaimonia
Golden Mean does not entail a denial of emotions. Rather what is at issue is how, and to what extent, reason permits the expression of emotions. Aristotle developed Plato’s tripartheid teaching of the soul by attributing virtues to each feature. Eudaimonia (human flourishing) is when there is balance within the soul. Reason is the executive, deciding when to act upon emotions through a balanced appetite. Reason = Phronesis (Wisdom) Emotions = Courage Appetite = Temperance (Self–control)

15 P H R O N E S I Phronesis is practical wisdom, acquired
through experience and past judgements. People are able to understand their human nature and recognise tensions between emotions and reason. Phronesis is therefore the exercising of a mature will which enables a person to act with wisdom and discernment.

16 Golden Mean Individual in Harmony Phronesis – Emotions - Appetite
“It is easy to become angry, anyone can do that; but to be angry with the right person, to the right extent, at the right time, in the right way, with the right aim; that is not easy.” (Ethics)

17 H A B I T U O N Habits form our character
Habits are a skill which are acquired through practise, like learning a musical instrument. Takes a holistic approach (Character viewed over a period of time) “One swallow does not make a spring so a short time does not make for a fortunate or happy man.” (Nicomachean Ethics) H A B I T U O N

18 H A B I T U O N “We acquire virtues by first doing virtuous acts. We acquire a skill by practising the activities involved in the skill. For example, we become builders by building and we learn to play the harp by playing the harp. In the same way, we become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts & courageous by doing acts of courage.” (Ethics) “For just as one swallow or one day does not make a spring, so one day or a short time does not make for a fortunate or happy man.” (Nicomachean Ethics)

19 Benefits of Virtue Ethics

20 Deontological ethics e.g. Divine Command or Kantian ethics,
Virtue Ethics “An ethics of aspiration rather than an ethic of duty” (Richard Taylor) Deontological ethics e.g. Divine Command or Kantian ethics, deny the human spirit / emotions Virtue ethics focuses on the GROWTH of the moral agent. “We may even go so far as to state that the man who does not enjoy performing noble actions is not a good man at all. Nobody would call a man just who does not enjoy acting justly, nor generous who does not enjoy generous actions.” Aristotle (Ethics)

21 `Life is not complete if emotions are not cultivated.’
Since Freud Psychology has considered emotions to be important for human development. `Life is not complete if emotions are not cultivated.’ (Martha Nussbaum)

22 It is always a good idea to quote scholars; even better to
make lateral connections by comparing them to other thinkers. Martha Nussbaum draws attention to a major strength of Virtue ethics over Kant’s Categorical Imperative. For Kant reason is all important for following the Good Will, whilst desires and inclinations lead the individual astray. Virtue ethics does pay attention to one’s emotions and let’s reason cultivate the whole person, which includes their emotions.

23 Virtue Ethics cultivates emotions through Aristotles’ model of Phronesis – Emotions - Appetite
Eudaimonia (human flourshing) Balance within the soul. Reason is the executive Deciding when to act upon emotions Through a balanced appetite. Reason = Phronesis (Wisdom) Emotions = Courage Appetite = Temperance (Self–control)

24 RECONCILES REASON AND EMOTION Overcomes Akrasia (Weakness of will)
“Unless reason takes the reins of government into its own hands, the feelings and inclinations play the master over the man.” (Kant) Recognises perennial tension between REASON and EMOTIONS “Reason is and ought to be the slave of the passions.” (David Hume) Overcomes akrasia as phronesis is the executive and channels emotions by adopting the Golden Mean

25 AKRASIA Reason and Emotion
For Aristotle the antidote for akrasia, weakness of will, is found by human beings following their rational choice over their irrational desires. Phronesis entails interpreting a moral dilemma from a holistic approach which recognizes an individual’s emotions and inclinations. By following the Golden Mean reason has ultimate authority as the executive but acknowledges the importance of emotions and feelings which are integral to the human condition.

Recognises the paradox of human living Life is constantly in a state of flux and change The consistency of character AGENT CENTRED NOT ACT CENTRED FLEXIBILE AND CONSISTENT

27 Promotes Individual Autonomy
Virtue ethics avoids the rigidity of legalistic, deontological ethical theories. e.g. Natural law and the Roman Catholic Church’s condemnation of artificial contraception e.g. Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, 1968. Rather with Virtue Ethics individuals may use their reason, and show phronesis in adopting the Golden Mean. e.g. prudence – the use of artificial contraception to avoid unwanted children, STDs and the oppression of women. Paul VI

28 “Virtues are better hard won than ready made.” (John Hick)
Virtue Ethics takes seriously problems which individuals face on life’s journey. Philippa Foot argues that virtue ethics may correct deviant behaviour. e.g. Vaclav Havel – courageously stood up against the Communist regime who invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968, even though this meant being imprisoned. John Hick Philippa Foot Vaclav Havel

29 Counter-cultural / an antidote to Western Capitalist Meritocracy
Individuals pressured by: (1) Materialism (2) Technology (3) Egoism May result in the loss of self-understanding. “Where is the wisdom? Lost in knowledge. Where is the knowledge? Lost in information." (Where is the information? Lost in data.) T.S. Eliot, The Rock What does it benefit a person to gain the whole world and yet loose their soul (Jesus, Mark 8:36)

30 Virtue Ethics benefits the individual and society
Individual Eudaimonia (Human Flourishing) Golden Mean Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations Virtuous conduct is beneficial for self and others e.g. Equitable, progressive taxation e.g. Citizenship on the school curriculum

31 Problems with Virtue Ethics

32 Virtue ethics collapses into moral relativism
Virtues lack universal application. Richard Rorty denies there is one, single agreed understanding of human nature. Rorty claims that virtues are relative to one’s culture and upbringing. e.g. the military uphold virtues such as bravery and courage whilst those who advocate pacifism admire different virtues - patience and compassion. Pacifist Bertrand Russell Emperor Constantine

33 Virtue is Vice and Vice is Virtue
Beyond Good and Evil (Nietzsche) Virtue is Vice Christian virtues of humility and obedience are detrimental to the human spirit, individuality and the evolutionary need for self-assertion. Vice is Virtue The vice of pride, condemned by St Paul, is to be regarded as a virtue; for without pride humanity will remain subservient and fail to fulfil their potential.

34 The Virtue of Selfishness
Ayn Rand Adopting the Aristotelian methodology Ayn Rand thought “the achievement of his OWN happiness is man’s highest moral purpose.” Moral duty is to the self, irrespective of benefit or harm incured on others. Virtue ethics lacks objective criteria for establishing virtues.

35 Virtues: Gender Specific
Freud claimed that “For women what is ethically moral is different from what it is in men….women show less sense of justice than men, that they are less ready to submit to the greater exigencies of life, that they are more often influenced in their judgements by feelings of affection or hostility.” Carol Gilligan argues that there are male and female virtues Female Virtues Responsibility in Relationships Caring / Loyal Compassionate Male Virtues Rules of Contract Justice / Fairness Determination

36 Catherine Greeno challenged Carol Gilligan, arguing
Gender virtues are due to stereotypical gender roles Female Roles Home-makers Women reared children Became house-wives Focus on personal relationships and care Male Roles World of work Emphasis on contractual agreements Ideas of rights and justice Universally applied Formal assessment of people’s worth. Changing roles of the late 20th century, e.g. female executives / house-husbands, has seen women adopting “male roles / virtues” and men adopting virtues based upon personal relationships and care.

37 Are Virtues Dependent On Culture Or Are Virtues Universal?
Universal to Human Nature Relative to the Person’s Culture Perhaps the Scottish philosopher David Hume can provide an answer….

38 Hume’s distinction between two types of virtues (1) Artificial and (2) Natural.
Artificial virtues When the individual conforms to social convention, relative to the individual’s circumstances. Hume ridiculed the monastic virtues of celibacy, fasting, penance, self-denial, humility, silence, solitude for being horrible as “they stupefy the understanding and harden the heart, and sour the temper.” Artificial virtues rejected by Hume. Natural virtues A greater appeal to uniformity, as natural virtues are universal shared by all human beings. Virtues such as friendship, kindness, patience, mercy and fairness. Commended by Hume.

39 Human Beings Are Weak & Unable To Behave Virtuously When Placed Under Pressure
Human beings are unable to exercise their freedom (Liberty of spontaneity, not liberty of indifference) Even people who habitually follow virtue ethics when faced with pressurised moral dilemmas seem to be manipulated by authoritarian structures. E.g. `Stanley Milgram electric shock experiment’. Professor Philip Zimbardo: tyrannous dictatorships, such as Stalin, rule as the majority of civilians placidly “stand-by” as opposed to standing up and protesting against unethical regimes. Zimbardo Stalin

40 Virtue Ethics is dull and boring!
“Aristotle’s doctrine, in focusing upon the middle way, is therefore too middle-aged, middlebrow and middle-class, suggesting a rather limited individual prone to pomposity, who, in shunning the extremes of passion, love, anguish and like states, cannot know the value of them as source of insight and creativity.” (A.C. Grayling, What is Good? p.30) BORING

41 Virtue Ethics Justifies Evil Acts
Suicide bombers kill & maim innocent civilians. Disregard for innocent human life. Yet do suicide bombers show courage and bravery; claiming to correct injustice? Who is to decide what is worthy or otherwise? Danger of Western Imperialism? H O W E V R Philippa Foot argued that actions performed in an unworthy cause cannot be called virtuous

42 The Courage to Act Worthy or Unworthy Cause?
Bonhoeffer Truman Mother Teresa Mandela Gosden Tutu Attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler? Dropping the Nuclear bomb on Hiroshima? Protect the rights of the unborn child? Opposing Apartheid through non violence? Opposing Apartheid through violence? Use the eggs of aborted foetuses to help infertile couples conceive & eradicate genetic abnormalities?

43 Wrong to follow Role Models (Kant and Jean-Paul Sartre)
Role models are `fatal to morality’ Role Models – Hypothetical Imperative (following someone else, peer pressure) Autonomous individuals should use reason and as an individual make their own decision. Should not be led by others. Inauthentic, `bad faith’ People are free, autonomous agents and so should welcome the challenge of deciding the good for its own sake. Jean-Paul Sartre

44 Virtue Ethics Denies the Grace of God
Calvin: Virtue Ethics leads to arrogant and proud people basking in their own glories. The appropriate attitude to adopt is one of praising God as the creator of the world and author of morality. Erasmus: Virtue Ethics denies the need for the assistance of God. Virtue Ethics challenges Christian doctrine of Original Sin Fallen human nature is dependent on God’s grace for salvation.

45 Application of Virtue Ethics to Moral Issues
Case Studies Application of Virtue Ethics to Moral Issues

46 Morally Should Students Pay University Tuition Fees?
In January 2004 the Labour government experienced an unprecedented Back-bench revolt over its planned reforms on the funding of University education. Tony Blair’s Government proposed that students should pay up to £3,000 per year for their University tuition fees. (Though measures were in place to support those students whose parents are on lower incomes.) Unhappy at the proposals numerous Labour M.P.s rebelled. Eventually the government won the vote by just 5 votes, in spite of its 160 seat majority in Parliament. Explain the views of a Virtue ethicist.

47 Morally Should Students Pay University Tuition Fees
Morally Should Students Pay University Tuition Fees? Some further points to consider… Many consider education to be an intrinsic human right and students should not be deterred by the cost of tuition fees. Labour claim that to repay a student loan would cost just £8.75 per week. Graduates should accept contributing to their education as they earn significantly more than non-graduates. The Russell Group (University Vice-Chancellors) drew attention to the current annual £10 billion short-fall in university funding. Funding is required from somewhere. If U.K. students are not required to pay tuition fees then Universities may offer their places to overseas students who are charged approximately £13,000 per year. Pius XII Williams J.S. Mill

48 2003 War Against Iraq Morally Justifiable?
George Bush and Tony Blair were prepared to sanction war against Iraq as there was a real and current danger from weapons of mass destruction George Bush Saddam Hussain The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, did not support military action as the war did not satisfy the Just War criteria. Tony Blair Rowan Williams What might Virtue ethics suggest?

49 War Against Iraq – Morally Justifiable
War Against Iraq – Morally Justifiable? Some further points to consider… George Bush declared that Iraq was in breach of the United Nations Resolutions. (But so too are other countries, though they lack the oil of Iraq.) Saddam Hussein was a tyrant who imprisoned and tortured those who opposed him. He used bio-chemical warfare against the Kurdish people. As yet no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. The United Nations Security Council, who many consider to be the legitimate authority, did not support the resolution to go to go war. Is it possible to win the peace in Iraq or has it turned the country into a terrorists’ playground? Pius XII J.S. Mill

50 Socrates Says Links

51 Aristotle (384-322 BC) Nicomachean Ethics
“We are not concerned to know what goodness is but how to become good people, since otherwise our enquiry would be useless.” Nicomachean Ethics, II 1103b 27-9 “The good for human beings is an activity of the soul in accordance with arete (virtue).” (Aristotle)

52 David Hume (1711-1776 CE) Enquiry Concerning the Principals of Morals p.279
“But what philosophical truth can be more more advantageous to society than those which represent virtue… Virtue talks not of useless austerities and rigours, suffering and self denial. Virtue declares that her sole purpose is to make mankind, if possible, cheerful and happy…… The sole trouble which Virtue demands, is that … of just calculation, and a steady B……preference of the greatest happiness.” (David Hume)

53 Elizabeth Anscombe rejects the Divine Command Theory where God is understood as the source of morality e.g. Decalogue In 1958 Professor Elizabeth Anscombe, commented “in a secular age modern moral philosophy is misguided because it rests on the notion of a `law’ without a lawgiver.” To follow a moral law out of a sense of obedience belittles the status and integrity of human beings. Virtue should be its own reward, irrespective of the source of authority or the desirable / undesirable consequences (heaven or hell). M O S E

54 Elizabeth Anscombe President Truman
After World War II Oxford University proposed honouring President Truman, (a former American President) However, Elizabeth Anscombe spoke against the proposal on the grounds that it would be wrong to honour the person who was responsible for dropping two nuclear bombs on Japan. Anscombe knew that by speaking out she would make herself unpopular, but showed courage and fortitude.

55 Professor Philippa Foot Virtue ethics: Agent centred
Virtues, such as courage, used in an unworthy cause cease to be virtues.. Virtue ethics can help to correct deviant behaviour as it it is agent, not act, centred. Professor Foot Virtues are a skill, they develop with practise. Reason selects appropriate emotions for the particular situation.

56 The Crisis of Modernity
MacIntyre considers that since the Enlightenment ethics has been too pre-occupied with autonomy and reason. This is a serious mistake as ethics is grounded in communal living, forms of life. Virtues such as loyalty, trust, friendship arise out of communal living, and is it to this that ethics should return…

57 Problems of Rule Based Ethics
Often founded on a theistic belief – which lacks relevance in a secular age. Can ignore the spiritual dimension to the human character. Focuses too much on the issue of autonomy at the expense of communal life. “We need to attend to virtues in the first place in order to understand the function and authority of rules.” MacIntyre After Virtue

58 Virtues are Gender Specific (Carol Gilligan)
Female Virtues Male Virtues Rules of Contract Justice / Fairness Determination Courage Responsibility in Relationships Caring / Loyal Compassionate

59 Natural Law Upheld By The Magisterium is Too Authoritative
Hans Kung regards the Catholic Church as being too authoritarian. He thinks the Roman Catholic church is operating with a Medieval world view ethic where Nature is held to be superior to reason. The laity are instructed by the clergy through Papal authority e.g. Humanae Vitae, which forbids the use of artificial contraception. Pius XI Pius XII Paul VI Hans Kung John Paul II

60 Duty for Duty’s Sake… Reason is cold and impersonal
The Shoah (Holocaust) Trial of Adolf Eichmann, SS officer, his defence was that he was simply performing his Kantian duty.

61 Trial of Adolph Eichmann, Chief Administrator of the Holocaust
Duty, without guidance from human benevolence and sympathy, can lead to rigid moral fanaticism Trial of Adolph Eichmann, Chief Administrator of the Holocaust Jerusalem 1961 (Source: Peter Singer How are we to live? p. 220) “I meant by my remark about Kant that the principle of my will must always be such that it can become the principle of general laws.” Eichmann also cited, in support of his Kantian attitude to his duty, the fact that out of the millions of cases that passed through his hands, he allowed sympathy to sway him from his path of duty on only two occasions. Because Eichmann believed one should do one’s duty unaffected by sympathy, he steadfastly stuck to his duty, instead of being tempted to bend the rules and help the Jews.

62 Elizabeth Anscombe rejects the Divine Command Theory where God is understood as the source of morality e.g. Decalogue In 1958 Professor Elizabeth Anscombe, commented “in a secular age modern moral philosophy is misguided because it rests on the notion of a `law’ without a lawgiver.” To follow a moral law out of a sense of obedience belittles the status and integrity of human beings. Virtue should be its own reward, irrespective of the source of authority or the desirable / undesirable consequences (heaven or hell). M O S E

63 Thomas Hobbes Social Contract Theory of Ethics
Thomas Hobbes took a rather pessimistic view of human nature, thinking “Life is isolated, nasty, brutish and short.” Hobbes recommended the need for a Leviathan – a ruler who would have the right to force people to comply to the general will. People’s incentive to follow the social contract was founded upon veiled egoism; as by cooperating the individual was most likely to prosper.

64 Utilitarianism: Undermines Justice
Instrumental Approach Utilitarians think that justice is only important if it serves the principle of utility. Justice has no intrinsic value. e.g To Kill a Mocking Bird, Harper Lee Tom, a black farm-hand, is made a scapegoat and is unjustly accused of having raped a young, white woman. If the racist, white, jury adopted an act-utilitarian approach it would be justified in finding Tom guilty of a crime he did not commit, on the grounds that the predominantly white townsfolk would have justice “seen to be done” and so the majority of people would be happy.

65 Utilitarianism: Lack of Intrinsic Goods
Utilitarianism is a consequential morality and so lacks intrinsic goods, such as trust, honesty and dignity. This creates an ethos of uncertainty where people are never really sure if they are valued. e.g YUPPIES (Young Urban Professional People) In the early 1980s many middle-aged businessmen, who had shown great loyalty accruing high profits for their companies, were sacked over-night and replaced by YUPPIES. YUPPIES were considered to be of greater immediate use to the company, being younger and so cheaper in the short run.

66 Socrates says... It is important to realise that Aristotle’s use of the term soul is different to that of Plato or Christianity. For Aristotle the term soul does not refer to a separate incorporeal (spiritual) entity existing inside the physical body, rather the soul gives form to the body’s matter; and so may be understood as referring to a person’s personality. Human beings will therefore be happy when they are living a life that enables them to flourish. The Greek word Aristotle used which means happiness is `eudaimonia’, a flourishing of the soul, it is an active kind of well being and well doing. This state of happiness, eudaimonia, is recognized by reason as being desired for its own sake.

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