Friday, January 22, 2010

18: Virtue Ethis, an introduction

Virtue ethics is currently one of three major approaches in normative ethics. It emphasizes the virtues, or moral character, in contrast to the approach which emphasizes duties or rules (deontology) or that which emphasizes the consequences of actions (consequentialism).

When the physician of the village is in great need the utilitarian would feel morally obliged to help him, if it were only for the consequence that the village will keep its physician, which contributes to the well being of everyone.

The deontologist would say "Do unto others as you would be done by" and uses that as his moral maxime to guide his actions and do good.

The virtue ethicist would regard it as a quintessential feature of being human, that you are charitable or benevolent and kind towards the other in need. It was already Aristotle who formulated these thoughts perfectly in his "Ethica Nicomachea" about 330 B.C.!

- begin quote
However, to say that happiness is the chief good seems a platitude, and a clearer account of it is desired. This might perhaps be given, if we could first ascertain the function of man.

For just as for a flute-player, a sculptor, or an artist, the good is thought to reside in the function, so would it seem to be for man, if he has a function. Have the carpenter, then, and the tanner certain functions, and has man none? Is he born without a function?

Or as eye, hand, foot, and in general each of the parts evidently has a function, may one lay it down that man similarly has a function apart from all these? What then can this be?

Life seems to be common even to plants, but we are seeking what is peculiar to man. Next would be a life of perception, but it also seems to be common even to the horse and every animal.

There remains, then, an active life of the element that has a rational principle. Now if the function of man is an activity of soul which follows or implies a rational principle, and we state the function of man to be a certain kind of life, and the function of a good man to be the good and noble performance of this,

and if any action is well performed when it is performed in accordance with the appropriate excellence: if this is the case, human good turns out to be activity of soul in accordance with virtue, and if there is more than one virtue, in accordance with the best and most complete.
- end quote

It is historically interesting to see, that during the nineteenth century Aristotle's words were overshadowed by men like Kant with his deontic approach of ethics and in the Anglo-American philosophy by Bentham and Stuart Mill with their utilitarianism.

In our project on Women Philosophers we met Margret Anscombe. In 1958 she published the article "Modern Moral Philosophy", which lead to an increasing dissatisfaction with the forms of deontology and utilitarianism .

To quote from the Stanford Encyclopedia: "Neither of them, at that time, paid attention to a number of topics that had always figured in the virtue ethics' tradition

— the virtues themselves, motives and moral character, moral education, moral wisdom or discernment, friendship and family relationships, a deep concept of happiness,

the role of the emotions in our moral life and the fundamentally important questions of what sort of person I should be and how we should live."

And although I read this only today for the first time, you may recognize in this quote my increasing dissatisfaction with consequentialism,

my repeated remark, that I was missing something. And I think , that it was this that I was missing. This doesn't mean we have found the golden egg.

We still have to deal with serious questions like:
1. are the virtues natural or acquired?
2. are the virtues reliable?
3. what makes the virtues valuable? Are they instrumentally or intrinsically valuable?

The Discussion

[13:22] Myriam Brianna: (damn, gotta go already)
[13:22] herman Bergson: sorry for the confusion..I hope you still could understand me..
[13:22] Repose Lionheart: :(
[13:23] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:23] Paula Dix: lol yes
[13:23] Abraxas Nagy: I do
[13:23] Justine Rhapsody: yes
[13:23] Corona Anatine: for 1 i would say - surely like all human charactristics - a bit of both
[13:23] herman Bergson: ok.. so much for an introduction of this subject
[13:23] Repose Lionheart: great stuff
[13:24] herman Bergson: not consequences but virtue are now our focus
[13:24] Alarice Beaumont: think so
[13:24] Corona Anatine: ??
[13:24] herman Bergson: What astonishes me are the words of Aristotle
[13:24] Corona Anatine: vitrue without context?
[13:25] Repose Lionheart: virtue becomes primary, but consequences are not denied, right?
[13:25] herman Bergson: A man who lived in a completely different information technology, no easy access libraries...only his brilliant mind
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: i wonder how he would state it if he weer alive today
[13:25] herman Bergson: of course not Repose...
[13:25] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:25] Repose Lionheart: right
[13:25] herman Bergson: Yes Gemma...That would be something
[13:26] herman Bergson: Well..we still have to find out what virtue is...
[13:26] herman Bergson: one interesting question to begin with...
[13:26] herman Bergson: is it innate or acquired...
[13:27] herman Bergson: so is it nature or nurture...!
[13:27] herman Bergson: and here is the next step to link up with biology and ethology I think
[13:27] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:27] herman Bergson: Darwin awakes again
[13:28] Abraxas Nagy: its aquired
[13:28] herman Bergson: ok..thnx Abraxeas
[13:28] Abraxas Nagy: :D
[13:28] Corona Anatine: i would disagree in part
[13:28] herman Bergson: Well...just kidding
[13:28] Paula Dix: lol
[13:28] Repose Lionheart: hehe
[13:28] Corona Anatine: acquiring requires that the acquiring is possible
[13:28] herman Bergson: First we have to get a clear idea of what virtue is
[13:29] Abraxas Nagy: ah... isnt it a concept?
[13:29] herman Bergson: Yes Corona…there has to be a fertile soil...
[13:29] herman Bergson: A concept...I would is not an abstraction…
[13:29] herman Bergson: it IS observable behavior
[13:30] Alarice Beaumont: virtues are defined by the society... groups of people
[13:30] Alarice Beaumont: and they must be accepted by the majority
[13:30] Abraxas Nagy: right
[13:30] herman Bergson: There is the behavioral component.....
[13:30] herman Bergson: Socially accepted behavior
[13:30] Repose Lionheart: maybe biological too
[13:30] herman Bergson: YEs repose...
[13:30] Alarice Beaumont: yes.. sounds good
[13:31] herman Bergson: that leads to the question of universality
[13:31] Abraxas Nagy: but doesnt that vary from culture to culture?
[13:31] Corona Anatine: it has to be so- as all consider themselves virtuous - it is for others to decide if that is true
[13:31] Alarice Beaumont: yes.. it varies... depending on culture
[13:31] Alarice Beaumont: notuniversal
[13:31] herman Bergson: Well...there is something coming up in my mind all the time...
[13:31] herman Bergson: about immoral behavior...
[13:31] Alarice Beaumont: that's why so different groups are spreading over the world
[13:32] Paula Dix: i guess the biological thing would be universal?
[13:32] herman Bergson: let me give you the story...
[13:32] herman Bergson: yes paula I would assume that
[13:32] herman Bergson: but the story...
[13:32] herman Bergson: in war...
[13:32] herman Bergson: a village is taken by the enemy...
[13:33] herman Bergson: all men are killed and all women are raped by the conquerer...
[13:33] herman Bergson: how to understand this behavior
[13:33] herman Bergson: we would say...war crime...
[13:33] Gemma Cleanslate: happened over and over and still does
[13:33] Alarice Beaumont: i think power andhumiliation
[13:33] herman Bergson: senseless murdering and raping..
[13:33] herman Bergson: but someone gave this explanation..
[13:34] herman Bergson: this behavior is very basic....
[13:34] herman Bergson: you kill the stop procreation of that tribe
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:34] Abraxas Nagy: right
[13:34] herman Bergson: and rape all women to bring in your genes in that tribe
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: going on in where ?? congo now???
[13:34] Abraxas Nagy: nowadays yes
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: or next country
[13:34] Repose Lionheart: biological imperative then...
[13:34] herman Bergson: this is almost universal behavior
[13:35] Corona Anatine: your overlooking one item of fact - in early times it was not the women who were raped it was everyone
[13:35] Corona Anatine: it was a humiliation thing
[13:35] Alarice Beaumont: yes you are right Herman... unfortunately
[13:35] Paula Dix: lions do that also
[13:35] Repose Lionheart: yes, Corona
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: still corona
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: it is definitely a power thing
[13:35] herman Bergson: The men may be raped too Corona, but then killed I guess
[13:35] Corona Anatine: definitly
[13:35] Abraxas Nagy: exactly
[13:36] Repose Lionheart: hehe
[13:36] Repose Lionheart: yeah
[13:36] Corona Anatine: if you reread bible
[13:36] Repose Lionheart: that was a grim laugh
[13:36] Corona Anatine: it was women killed too
[13:36] herman Bergson: I was flabbergasted by this explanation especially while it sounded so obvious
[13:36] Corona Anatine: only preteens were spared
[13:36] Gemma Cleanslate: or left to bear a child who was not the pure tribe
[13:36] Paula Dix: yes scary!
[13:37] Repose Lionheart: cooperation, kindness and love have evolved in us too
[13:37] Gemma Cleanslate: yes of course
[13:37] herman Bergson: what I want to say is that related to virtue ethics our basic ethical drives could be innate
[13:37] Gemma Cleanslate: hmmmm
[13:37] Repose Lionheart: oh, yes
[13:37] Corona Anatine: has this not be shown to be the case?
[13:37] herman Bergson: like our bad habits are greed and selfishness
[13:38] Repose Lionheart: in that case, some may be more evolved than others
[13:38] Repose Lionheart: evolved
[13:38] herman Bergson: that is not abnormal...
[13:38] herman Bergson: some are more intelligent than others..
[13:38] Paula Dix: very interesting Herman!
[13:38] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:38] herman Bergson: maybe you know the Gauss graph
[13:38] Paula Dix: no
[13:38] Abraxas Nagy: yep
[13:38] Corona Anatine: yes
[13:38] Repose Lionheart: no
[13:39] Corona Anatine: also called a normal graph
[13:39] herman Bergson: When you test human abilities...doesnt matter what..also physical features you get as a graph of the score a Gauss graph
[13:39] Alarice Beaumont: yes
[13:40] herman Bergson: in simple terms...
[13:40] Alarice Beaumont: most are in the middle
[13:40] herman Bergson: only a few are really stupid...the majority is average and only a few are really clever
[13:40] Repose Lionheart: oh, right
[13:40] Repose Lionheart: got it
[13:41] herman Bergson: I'll bring a picture with me next time
[13:41] Abraxas Nagy: the bell shape graph
[13:41] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:41] Corona Anatine: yeh
[13:41] herman Bergson: so maybe this also applies to virtues
[13:41] Paula Dix: oh, i get it now
[13:41] herman Bergson: if they are innate for instance
[13:41] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:42] herman Bergson: in other is not surprising that we have criminals in our society...
[13:42] Corona Anatine: before you build a bell curve of virtue you would first have to assign them numerical values
[13:42] Alarice Beaumont: mm.. how do you mean it applies to virtues?
[13:42] herman Bergson: nor Nobel prize Winners for science
[13:43] herman Bergson: Well Alarice..a virtue like courage is a personal benevolence is
[13:43] herman Bergson: as are vices like selfishness and sadism
[13:43] Paula Dix: i see, some no virtuous at all, most average, some very virtuous
[13:43] Repose Lionheart: and there would be a moral average (to which politicians appeal)
[13:43] herman Bergson: yes Paula...
[13:43] herman Bergson: Good point Repose
[13:44] Paula Dix: and that would apply to every conceivable virtue
[13:44] herman Bergson: I would say so yes
[13:44] herman Bergson: on the other hand...if we look at the nature / nurture debate...
[13:45] Repose Lionheart: allows for a social ethic, policy creation and an attention to outcomes...
[13:45] Paula Dix: lol yes, you would "distort" the curve with culture
[13:45] herman Bergson: Even Aristotle knew that virtue is also a product of education]
[13:45] Repose Lionheart: blends duty and consequence
[13:45] herman Bergson: Like Corona already remarked
[13:45] herman Bergson: there has to be the grows the plant
[13:46] Corona Anatine: tho to make another analogy it is like a vessel being filled with water
[13:46] Corona Anatine: which allows for the vesel to be of differing shape
[13:47] herman Bergson: yes Corona..
[13:47] Paula Dix: interesting idea Corona
[13:47] Corona Anatine: the vessel being the socail structure
[1[13:47] herman Bergson: like the Gaussian Curve shows
[[13:47] Repose Lionheart: agree, Corona
[13:48] Corona Anatine: so perhaps an idea of virtue is innate
[13:48] Corona Anatine: but what is seen as vitruous varies
[13:48] herman Bergson: This discussion is a wonderful prelude of the three final lectures of this project
[13:48] Paula Dix: and we would have all trends of virtue around on every society
[13:48] herman Bergson: in the next lecture we will dig into the concept of virtue
[13:48] Paula Dix: only some being enhanced and others not
[13:48] Corona Anatine: which often conflict paula
[13:49] Paula Dix: yes :)
[13:49] herman Bergson: then in the next we'll put it in the social context by loking at the ethics of pragmatism
[13:49] Repose Lionheart: good ㋡
[13:49] herman Bergson: and finally I'd like to investigate the bounderies of ethics and biology/ethology
[13:50] Corona Anatine: would that be a partical demonstration : )
[13:50] Paula Dix: :)))
[13:50] herman Bergson: and thus we have come far from our startingpoint: moral relativism
[13:50] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:50] Paula Dix: now it starts to make sense :)
[13:51] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:51] herman Bergson: yes Paula..that was what I said to myself too ^_^
[13:51] Paula Dix: lol
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: LOL
[13:51] Qwark Allen: loool
[13:51] Qwark Allen: lol
[13:51] herman Bergson: So class dismissed ..time to celebrate
[13:52] Abraxas Nagy: ty herman
[13:52] Repose Lionheart: Thank you, Professor
[13:52] Corona Anatine: ty Herman
[13:52] Paula Dix: yay!
[13:52] Justine Rhapsody: thank you Professor
[13:52] Abraxas Nagy: yay
[13:52] Corona Anatine: will it be a virtuous celebration or an immoral one
[13:52] herman Bergson: I prefer the virtuously immoral one, Corona
[13:53] Corona Anatine: lol
[13:53] Repose Lionheart: hehe
[13:53] Paula Dix: lol
[13:53] Corona Anatine: hmm virtuous immorality
[13:53] Repose Lionheart: there's a wonderful concept
[13:53] Abraxas Nagy: are we gonna party Qwark?
[13:53] Repose Lionheart: find in believe in it
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:53] Alarice Beaumont: lol
[13:53] Qwark Allen: yes
[13:53] Qwark Allen: ehehehe
[13:53] Repose Lionheart: i
[13:53] Abraxas Nagy: w0oh0o!
[13:53] Qwark Allen: at relaxation
[13:53] Corona Anatine: doing immoral actions for virtuous reasons
[13:53] Qwark Allen: ;-)))
[13:53] Abraxas Nagy: :D
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:53] Qwark Allen: now that you talk about it
[13:54] Qwark Allen: need to get ready
[13:54] Qwark Allen: loool
[13:54] Qwark Allen: lol
[13:54] Corona Anatine: sounds good to me

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

No comments:

Post a Comment