3 Aretology Arete - Excellence, Strength, Virtue Aretaic Ethics - Strength-Centred EthicsEmphasizes Virtues (Strengths) and Vices (Weaknesses) of CharacterNot “What Should I Do?” (both Deontology and Teleology) but“What Kind of Person Should I Be?”
4 Aristotle’s Ethics 384-322 B.C. The Nicomachean Ethics Two Kinds of PersonsContinent:Do what is right, but not necessarily because they want toTemperate:Do what is right because they want to; the more holistic person
5 The Goal of Human Existence EudaimoniaFlourishing, HappinessA Lifelong Pursuit, accomplishedRationally, through theoretical wisdom and contemplationFunctionally, through practical wisdom and politics
6 The Goal of Human Existence & Eudaimonia Aimed at the “perfect happiness” which is the perfect activityAn excellence in any activity in accordance with the nature of that activityThus, “Human happiness is the activity of the soul in accordance with perfect virtue (excellence)”. (I.8; Pojman, 394).
7 The Virtues Intellectual Virtues Moral Virtues Wisdom, Understanding, PrudenceTaught through instructionMoral VirtuesPrudence, Justice, Fortitude, TemperanceThe result of habitNot natural or inborn but acquired through practiceHabit or disposition of the soul (our fundamental character) which involves both feeling and action“Those strengths of character that enable us to flourish” (Hinman)
8 The VirtuesDefined / understood in terms of spheres of human experienceFear of important damagesCourageBodily appetites and their pleasuresModerationDistribution of limited resourcesJusticeAttitude to slights and damagesMildness of TemperAdapted from Martha C. Nussbaum, “Non-Relative Virtues”
9 The Doctrine of the Mean Proper position between two extremesVice of excessVice of deficiencyNot an arithmetic medianRelative to us and not the thingNot the same for all of us, orAny of us, at various occasions“In this way, then, every knowledgeable person avoids excess and deficiency, but looks for the mean and chooses it” (II.6)
11 Virtues and the Mean Defined through Reason Education, contemplation, reflectionBalanced with Other Virtues and applied using phronesis:To have any single strength of character in full measure, a person must have the other ones as well.*Courage without good judgement is blindCourage without perseverance is short-livedCourage without a clear sense of your own abilities is foolhardy“The virtuous person has practical wisdom, the ability to know when and how best to apply these various moral perspectives.” (*Hinman)
12 Virtues and Community Virtues are defined and lived in community Sharing a common identity and storyModelling the VirtuesImportance of Moral Exemplars (Saints and Heroes)Practicing the Virtues – Habit is Crucial!“In a word, then, like activities produce like dispositions. Hence we must give our activities a certain quality, because it is their characteristics that determine the resulting dispositions. So it is a matter of no little importance what sort of habits we form from the earliest age ̶ it makes a vast difference, or rather all the difference in the world.” (II.i.) (Pojman, 396)Reinforcing the Virtues
13 Other Virtue Ethicists G.E.M. (Elizabeth) AnscombeIn 1958 she published an articlecalled Modern Moral Philosophy arguingthat we should return to the virtues,as the idea of a law without a lawgiverwas incoherent.
14 Other Virtue Ethicists Alasdair MacIntyreAfter Virtue (1981)Modern moral philosophy is bankrupt; it must recover the tradition of virtue.Importance of Narrative as a“live tradition” – you need to know where ethics has come from.Virtues change over time.
15 Other Virtue Ethicists Philippa FootTries to modernise Aristotle.Ethics should not be about drytheorising, but about making theworld a better place (she was one of the founders of Oxfam)Virtue contributes to the good life.
16 Other Virtue Ethicists Rosalind HursthouseA neo-Aristotelian – Aristotle was wrong on women and slaves, and there is no need to be limited to his list of virtues.We acquire virtues individually, andso flourish, but we do so togetherand not at each other’s expense.
17 Other Virtue Ethicists Carol GilliganIn a Different Voice (1982)Developmental theories have been built on observations and assumptions about men’s lives and thereby distort views of female personality.The kinds of virtues one honors depend on the power brokers of one’s society.The Ethics of Care
18 Other Virtue Ethicists Michael SloteDevelops the feminist ‘ethics of care,’and links it to a virtue ethics inspiredmore by Hume and Hutcheson’s moralsentimentalism than by Aristotle.Slote’s version of virtue ethics is agent-based (as opposedto more Aristotelian forms which are said to be agentfocused) i.e. the moral rightness of acts is based on thevirtuous motives or characters of the agent. The motives are all important.
19 Other Virtue Ethicists Martha NussbaumShe interprets Aristotle’s views asabsolutes… justice, temperance,generosity etc. are essential to human flourishingin all societies and in all times.Nussbaum sees a relativist approach as being incompatible with Aristotle’s virtue theory.
20 Examples of Virtue Ethics Bruderhof and Amish communitiesAnti-worldlyPacifistFamilyStory
21 What makes one group virtuous and not another? Inner-City GangsCommon valuesModels“Virtuous” actionsCodes of honour
22 Ku Klux Klan? Focused Live tradition Stories and Models Common enemy “The family is the strength of our nation.”
23 The Christian Church?The Taliban?The Scouting Movement?Your school?Your friends?
24 Are the virtues the same for everyone? People are very different.But we face the same basic problems and have the same basic needs.Everyone needs courage as danger can always arise.Some people are less well off, so we will need generosity.Everyone needs friends so we need loyalty.
25 Strengths of Virtue Ethics Importance of the Person, Motive, Heart, ConscienceConnection to CommunityRealization that morality is not defined by moments but by a long-term processAllowance for gray areas, varying contexts, different levels of moral maturity and life contexts
26 Weaknesses of Virtue Ethics Dependence on strong communitiesNot easily applied to ethical issues or to give us practical solutionsDemands timeCan be turned into a really poor duty- based ethicsMight be taken as situational ethics
27 Conclusions Utilitarianism and Deontology are helpful They demand some kind of larger criteria or grounding, a larger viewVirtue ethics seems to provide this viewIt seems to reflect Christian ethics best, andIt is not dependent on any particular way of thinking (e.g. Enlightenment rationalism)
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