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  1. 1. 11-30
  2. 2. virtue ethics <ul><li>is different from other ethical systems which concentrate on how one should act </li></ul><ul><li>virtue ethics concentrates on how one should be </li></ul><ul><li>is teleologically driven; it is concerned with the proper ends of a human being </li></ul><ul><li>what makes someone moral is that they have some virtue, some character trait, that is a disposition to act in a certain kind of way </li></ul>
  3. 3. three central concepts <ul><li>arete (virtue) </li></ul><ul><li>phronesis (moral or practical wisdom) </li></ul><ul><li>eudaimonia (happiness) </li></ul>
  4. 4. virtue <ul><li>virtue is not merely a tendency, nor is it (exactly) a desirable or morally valuable character trait </li></ul><ul><li>it is a trait that “goes all the way down” </li></ul><ul><li>it is multi-track; that is, it is not related to any one certain kind of action. rather it is connected to many other actions as well, with emotions and emotional reactions, choices, values, desires, perceptions, attitudes, interests, expectations and sensibilities. hence, virtue can never be decided based on any single action. </li></ul><ul><li>virtue is often a matter of degree </li></ul>
  5. 5. moral or practical wisdom <ul><li>just because someone has some specific virtue does not make them a morally virtuous person </li></ul><ul><li>virtues can be taken too far: someone can be so generous that their children go hungry; a criminal can be very courageous, thus enabling him to better commit crimes; etc. </li></ul><ul><li>what is needed is the wisdom to know when it is appropriate to exercise particular virtues </li></ul><ul><li>best example is the idea of a moral adult versus (merely) nice children. children are not held accountable the way adults are </li></ul>
  6. 6. eudaimonia <ul><li>can be translated as “happiness,” “flourishing,” or “well-being.” each has benefits and drawbacks. </li></ul><ul><li>might be thought of as the kind of happiness that is worth having, a “supreme good” </li></ul><ul><li>wisely exercising virtue is necessary for the eudaimon life </li></ul>
  7. 7. aristotle’s virtue ethics <ul><li>virtues are those things which allow human beings to live well in a society, hence politics is the science of the good for humanity </li></ul><ul><li>while all actions aim at some end, and these ends may often be described as some good, there must be some ultimate Good at which all human action is directed </li></ul>
  8. 8. some general claims <ul><li>“ [ethical cases] do not fall under any art or law, but the actors themselves have always to take account of circumstances, as much as in medicine or navigation” (444). </li></ul><ul><li>too much or too little of anything is bad. hence, we must attempt to find some middle road, the “golden mean.” </li></ul><ul><li>we become virtuous by acting virtuous, that is, we become virtuous out of habit. </li></ul>
  9. 9. criticisms of virtue ethics <ul><li>virtue ethics is anti-codifiable. it does not allow for the expression of specific rules that would guide action. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>as deontologists and utilitarians are concerned with generating universal rules of conduct that can be employed by everyone, they are disdainful of a system of ethics that does not provide any such rules </li></ul></ul><ul><li>there is the problem cultural relativism: as all cultures have different virtues what is virtuous will vary from culture to culture. thus, as a normative system, virtue ethics fails </li></ul><ul><li>there is a problem of conflict. there are cases when different virtues will require different responses. at such a time there is no way to determine what the moral thing to do is. </li></ul><ul><li>how do we ground our ideas of what dispositions are virtues? what is the justification for calling honesty a virtue? </li></ul>
  10. 10. responses <ul><li>codifiability: there simply are no simple rules that guide action. what we do have are ideas about what we shouldn’t do. that is why our language has more words for vices than virtues </li></ul><ul><ul><li>much invaluable action guidance comes from avoiding courses of action that would be irresponsible, feckless, lazy, inconsiderate, uncooperative, harsh, intolerant, selfish, mercenary, indiscreet, tactless, arrogant, unsympathetic, cold, incautious, unenterprising, pusillanimous, feeble, presumptuous, rude, hypocritical, self-indulgent, materialistic, grasping, short-sighted, vindictive, calculating, ungrateful, grudging, brutal, profligate, disloyal, and on and on. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>cultural relativism: such is a problem for all normative ethics. one proposed solution is that there really are genuine virtues that apply to all, but there is disagreement as to which virtues these are </li></ul><ul><li>conflict: such problems exist for all systems. this is why moral wisdom is of utmost importance </li></ul><ul><li>justification: again, this is problem for all systems. however, there are some v-ethicists who claim that we can find justification for virtue ethics in evolutionary theory and psychology </li></ul>
  11. 11. deontological ethics <ul><li>based on the notion of duty (deon means duty) </li></ul><ul><li>rightness or wrongness of any act is in no way dependent upon outcome. it is based upon the intent of the doer of the action. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>breaking a moral rule is wrong even if the outcome is desirable </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>performing an action according to a moral rule is good even if the outcome is undesirable </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. immanuel kant <ul><li>thought that morality is not contingent but necessary </li></ul><ul><ul><li>our feelings and inclinations have no bearing on the moral worth of any action </li></ul></ul><ul><li>the only thing that is wholly good without qualification is the good will </li></ul><ul><ul><li>the good will alone determines the virtuous character of any act. without it any act can also be vicious. however, it is a contradiction to think of the good will being anything other than good </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. different imperatives <ul><li>hypothetical imperative </li></ul><ul><ul><li>if you want a, then do b </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>if you want a good job, then graduate from school with honors; if you want to graduate from school with honors, then get good grades; if you want to get good grades, then study hard; etc. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>kant said these cannot characterize moral actions because they are determined by the particulars of any situation. left in such a state actions will always be guided by inclinations, and inclinations cannot provide universality, something necessary for an act to be truly moral </li></ul></ul><ul><li>categorical imperative </li></ul><ul><ul><li>says to do something merely because it is the right thing to do without regard for some further end </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. categorical imperative <ul><li>“ act only on that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it would become a universal law” </li></ul><ul><li>this universalizes the principles of conduct </li></ul><ul><li>you can judge whether any maxim (subjective rule) you have is moral by attempting to make it a law (objective rule). if you can do so without contradiction, the action is moral. </li></ul><ul><li>it is important to note that, on its own, the categorical imperative is empty. it is only with the application of some particular maxim that it attains its power </li></ul>
  15. 15. second formulation of the c.i. <ul><li>“ act as to treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of an other, in every case as an end and never as merely a means only.” </li></ul><ul><li>rational beings, as the ground for moral laws, must be of absolute worth. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>all objects treated as means are only of conditional worth </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>if they were only of conditional worth, there would be no moral law whatsoever. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>hence, it cannot be the case that rational beings are only of conditional worth. </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. issues with kant <ul><li>look at the four illustrations (pp. 459-460). many people consider these to be problematic in terms of demonstrating the kind of contradiction kant believes to exist </li></ul><ul><li>can’t we universalize non-moral acts? </li></ul><ul><li>can’t we come up with non-moral acts that don’t involve any sort of contradiction? </li></ul>