Thursday, February 11, 2010

23 Virtue Ethics continued

In the former lecture I said : The big difference of approach in theories of ethics here is clear: “What is the right action?” is a significantly different question to ask from “How should I live?

What kind of person should I be?” , referring to consequentialist and deontological theories on the on hand, and virtue ethics on the other hand.

Such a question presupposes an explicit philosophy of psychology, an answer to the question: how is the inner person "constructed".

You only can do psychological research in moral behavior if you for instance assume that a person has a knowledge of good and evil.

Although Aristotle In the first book of the Ethica Nicomachea warns us that the study of ethics is imprecise, he has a clear and precise idea about the base of our ability to moral behavior.

He assumed, that the function of man is reason and the life that is distinctive of humans is the life in accordance with reason. If the function of man is reason, then the good man is the man who reasons well.

Reason is the human quality that shows us how true virtue requires choice, understanding, and knowledge. Virtue is a settled and purposive disposition.

So when someone has the virtue of compassionate it means, that he will act accordingly, since having the virtuous inner dispositions will also involve being moved to act in accordance with them.

Moral education and development are a major part of virtue ethics. There are a number of factors that may affect one’s character development,

such as one’s parents, teachers, peer group, role-models, the degree of encouragement and attention one receives, and exposure to different situations.

Our natural tendencies, the raw material we are born with, are shaped and developed through a long and gradual process of education and habituation.

Thus moral standards by education. Yet moral relativism one could say. However these standards are related to our natural tendencies. Compassion could be regarded as a general human trait, but the resulting moral action will depend on the given cultural context.

But if the morality of a person is so closely connected with his education of character, we have to face a serious problem, for not everyone is in the lucky position of receiving a good education, for instance.

Do we then have to conclude that not everyone is equally morally responsible for his actions? That is counterintuitive.

When you have killed someone on purpose, you are a murderer, even though your moral education wasn't that good.

Thus we can get trapped between intuition and fact. The intuition is that luck must not make moral differences. Whether you studied at a university or only 'graduated' from primary school can not affect what a person is morally responsible of.

However, the fact is that luck does seem to make moral differences. You were lucky to be born in a wealthy and educated family. The other person wasn't and that was out of his control.

I won't resolve this problem here, but just refer to what we can experience very day and then ask yourself what you would decide.

It is a fact that verdicts in Court often take into account the background (-lack of- education e.g) to decide on the punishment. Just think about it.

This is the present landscape of modern theories of ethics: deontology, consequentialism and virtue ethics. Virtue ethics is closest to the psychology of the person.

As it was clear from the beginning, there is no such thing as THE definite theory of ethics. Each of us has to find his way through this landscape and weigh all arguments.

Final lecture of this project will be on Ethics and Pragmatism. Will it bring us new insights?

The Discussion

[13:18] herman Bergson: thank you
[13:18] herman Bergson: if you have a question or remark..feel free...
[13:18] Gemma Cleanslate: i am glad to hear it is closest to our psychology
[13:19] herman Bergson: yes...
[13:19] Gemma Cleanslate: rather then the other two
[13:19] Gemma Cleanslate: sounds better too lol
[13:19] herman Bergson: the other theories do hardly take the person into account
[13:19] oola Neruda: i have been amazed in this world how sometimes the poorest of people can be the most moral... unlike what Weil and Brecht emphasize
[13:19] herman Bergson: there are just rules...
[13:19] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:19] herman Bergson: or consequences...whether we are machines, robots or human beings
[13:20] Repose Lionheart: agree, oola
[13:20] herman Bergson: If the apply to us they apply to us
[13:20] oola Neruda: adversity often results in learning compassion
[13:20] herman Bergson: Well...that is a point...
[13:21] herman Bergson: morality is based on character acoording to virtue ethics..
[13:21] herman Bergson: doesnt matter what or who you are
[13:21] oola Neruda: right
[13:21] Alarice Beaumont: yes
[13:21] herman Bergson: you need the insight and the wisdom and experience of life
[13:22] Repose Lionheart: wonder if adversity is necessary for full moral development
[13:22] herman Bergson: these are closely connected with this theory of ethics
[13:22] Alarice Beaumont: what about a person to look up to?
[13:22] herman Bergson: adversity?
[13:22] Repose Lionheart: oh, what oola said above got me thinking
[13:22] herman Bergson: a role model Alarice?
[13:23] Alarice Beaumont: that would be something..
[13:23] herman Bergson: ah...adversoity...bad times...
[13:23] herman Bergson: I child I sometimes heard adults say, when they observed immoral behavior, it should be wartime again...
[13:24] Repose Lionheart: oh!
[13:24] Alarice Beaumont: i rather meant a person who really is - in most eyes - good.. and little one try to be like this one
[13:24] Repose Lionheart: hmmmm....
[13:24] Alarice Beaumont: oh
[13:24] herman Bergson: yes..the idea that adversity brings a man back to his basics
[13:25] herman Bergson: yes Alarice...that is one of the learning ideas of virtue ethics
[13:25] herman Bergson: To say something more...
[13:25] herman Bergson: Margaret Anscombe was a zealous defender of catholicism
[13:26] herman Bergson: and a christian idea is that the perosn of Jesus is THE role model of a virtuous man
[13:26] herman Bergson: so there is not only the link with Aristotelian thinking
[13:26] Repose Lionheart: interesting, yes, an ax to grind
[13:27] herman Bergson: for what do you want to use that ax Repose?
[13:27] Repose Lionheart: hehe
[13:27] Repose Lionheart: not sure, Prof
[13:27] herman Bergson smiles
[13:27] herman Bergson: I already got a bit nervous
[13:27] Abraxas Nagy: haaaahaaaahaaaahaaaahaaa
[13:28] Repose Lionheart: oh, I'm harmless
[13:28] Repose Lionheart: really
[13:28] Abraxas Nagy: ah but an ax is not
[13:28] herman Bergson: ah...good
[13:28] Alarice Beaumont: ^^
[13:28] herman Bergson: anyway....
[13:28] Repose Lionheart: she started a revolution in ethics, sounds like
[13:28] herman Bergson: Next lecture I want to look into Pragmatism....
[13:29] Repose Lionheart: people like that often have strong commitments
[13:29] herman Bergson: and I still have an intuition that we should look up Frankena too again
[13:29] herman Bergson: pieces of a puzzle
[13:29] herman Bergson: You find the lecture on Frankena in the blog
[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: ok
[13:30] Zinzi Serevi: ok
[13:30] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:30] Repose Lionheart: !
[13:30] herman Bergson: I have a feeling that a combination of Frankena, virtue ethics and pragmatism might lead to some coherent theory
[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:31] Repose Lionheart: oh, be interesting to see...
[13:31] herman Bergson: Dont know what you all think about it, but that is my feeling
[13:31] herman Bergson: You are rather quiet today
[13:31] Zinzi Serevi: its new for me
[13:32] herman Bergson: Ah Gemma found my present
[13:32] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:32] Gemma Cleanslate: very nice
[13:32] Zinzi Serevi: so i want to listen the first time..:)
[13:32] herman Bergson: Outside you can see it in action...
[13:32] Gemma Cleanslate: yes lol
[13:32] Gemma Cleanslate: it is lovely
[13:32] herman Bergson: you are free to take a copy....and cheer up your place with spring flowers
[13:33] Zinzi Serevi: thanks
[13:33] : Repose Lionheart raises hand
[13:33] herman Bergson: when you rezz it...just put it in edit mode and follow the instructions of the blue menu
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: ok
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: is it many prims?
[13:34] herman Bergson: keepin mind that you have no greater distance between pooint than 10m
[[13:34] herman Bergson: one little prim Gemma
[13:34] Abraxas Nagy: yep
[13:34] Abraxas Nagy: wow
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: oh good
[13:35] herman Bergson: the llSetPos() instruction only supports movements shorter than 10m
[13:35] Alarice Beaumont: thanks very much Herman :-))
[13:35] Abraxas Nagy: ah yes it does
[13:35] herman Bergson: My pleasure
[13:35] herman Bergson: Repose?
[13:35] Repose Lionheart: idea why my hand is up
[13:35] herman Bergson: A question?
[13:35] Zinzi Serevi: lol
[13:35] Abraxas Nagy: lol
[13:35] Repose Lionheart: good thing it's not the one with the ax init
[13:35] herman Bergson: press shift arrow
[13:35] Abraxas Nagy: shift arrow
[13:35] Repose Lionheart: oh
[13:36] herman Bergson: instructions are on the wall behind you
[13:36] herman Bergson: shift right arrow
[13:36] Abraxas Nagy: o A o!
[13:36] herman Bergson: Thank you all for your participation again
[13:36] Qwark Allen: thank you herman´
[13:36] Abraxas Nagy: thank YOU professor
[13:37] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:37] Zinzi Serevi: thanks Herman
[13:37] Gemma Cleanslate: see you thursday then

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