Saturday, January 30, 2010

20 Virtue Ethics and Ethic of Care

With our subject of Virtue ethics we have arrived at a fairly new station along the tracks of modern theories of ethics. It is exciting to discover that it plays an important role in the debates on ethics of today.

This means that in the research in preparation of my lecture I run into an abundance of new issues, names, publications related to Virtue Ethics. And we first have to sort them al out to get to the heart of the debate.

For instance, in my former lecture I mentioned the author of 'Lack of Character (2002), John M. Doris. Further research showed that he is not just somebody.

He also has written an article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy about Moral psychology. Let me quote him, so that you see how psychology and philosophy of ethics have become close connected these days.

-begin quote
To date, discussion of empirical psychology in philosophical ethics has tended to focus on moral character.

In contrast to Kantianism and Utilitarianism, which share an emphasis on identifying morally obligatory actions, the burgeoning tradition of contemporary virtue ethics emphasizes the psychological constitution, or character, of actors.

The central question for virtue ethics, so the slogan goes, is not what sort of action to do, but what sort of person to be. The importance of moral psychology to this tradition is not far to seek.

On the one hand, proponents of virtue ethics often contend that ethical theories focused on character manifest greater psychological realism than do their competitors .

On the other, there are masses of empirical research in personality and social psychology that appear directly relevant to familiar philosophical notions of character;

although the parallel was not much noticed until fairly recently, philosophers and psychologists had, to a considerable extent, been talking about the same things.
-end quote

And all this is mainly caused by Margret Anscombe 's article "Modern Moral Philosophy". Interesting to note, that when I was a philosophy student at the university in the early 70s, virtue ethics wasn't a subject at all.

The whole program was heavily leaning on deontological ethics, in particular Kant. In my program was some room for philosophers like Hare (emotivism) and Moore. Utilitarianism wasn't hardly mentioned, nor jeremy Bentham or John Stuart Mill.

So you can imagine that my "discovery" of virtue ethics (for me a logical outcome of our study of deontology and utilitarianism in all former lectures) is very exciting. In a way it fits into my personal ideas and frame of mind. On the other hand it opens all kinds of new perspectives and relations.

So lest summarize the potion we have reached once again. Moral theories are concerned with right and wrong behavior. This subject area of philosophy is unavoidably tied up with practical concerns about the right behavior.

However, virtue ethics changes the kind of question we ask about ethics. Where deontology and consequentialism concern themselves with the right action, virtue ethics is concerned with the good life and what kinds of persons we should be.

“What is the right action?” is a significantly different question to ask from “How should I live? What kind of person should I be?”

Where the first type of question deals with specific dilemmas, the second is a question about an entire life. Instead of asking what is the right act here and now, virtue ethics asks what kind of person should I be in order to get it right all the time.

Whereas deontology and consequentialism are based on rules that try to give us the right action, virtue ethics makes central use of the concept of character.

The answer to “How should one live?” is that one should live virtuously, i.e. have a virtuous character. [from IEP]

Another interesting aspect of our present subject is its relation with my former project on Women Philosophers. Not only because Margret Anscombe had a crucial influence in this matter. There is more. Just read this.

-begin quote
Over the past fifteen years, Carol Gilligan has been listening to women and men talk about morality. [In] her book, In a Different Voice (l982a), Gilligan describes a moral universe in which men,

more often than women, conceive of morality as substantively constituted by obligations and rights and as procedurally constituted by the demands of fairness and impartiality,

while women, more often than men, see moral requirements as emerging from the particular needs of others in the context of particular relationships.

Gilligan has dubbed this latter orientation the "ethic of care," and she insists that the exclusive focus on justice reasoning has obscured both its psychological reality and its normative significance.
-end quote

Because the relation between the theory of ethics ands psychology has become more tight due to the issue of virtue, there has developed also a feminist approach to ethics.

Where such other moral theories as Kantian morality and utilitarianism demand impartiality above all, the ethics of care understands the moral import of ties to families and groups. It evaluates such ties, differing from virtue ethics by focusing on caring relations rather than the virtues of individuals.

Another result and modern development thanks to Margret Anscombe.

To be continued next week…………

The Discussion

[13:22] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:22] herman Bergson: If you have any questions or remarks, feel free.....
[13:23] Laila Schuman: how does this relate to politics
[13:23] Repose Lionheart: great stuff!
[13:23] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:23] herman Bergson: Maybe this lecture gives little rise to debate, I know
[13:23] Bejiita Imako: :)
[13:23] Gemma Cleanslate: i think it makes more sense
[13:23] Laila Schuman: what government should be
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: to have a set ready and not to have to decide with each act
[13:24] herman Bergson: Yes Laila... I read somewhere a reference to politics and virtue ethics....
[13:24] Bejiita Imako: hmm yes and that government make right decisions for people and not just for themselves
[13:24] Bejiita Imako: as is case at many places in the world
[13:24] Bejiita Imako: china ex
[13:24] Repose Lionheart: yeah, makes more sense
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: laila the government connection project has not started yet in full
[13:25] herman Bergson: Yes.. a peculiar phenomenon that a government is more interested in its own preservation than that of the people
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: that is so true
[13:25] Laila Schuman: true... but i was thinking of the difference that herman brought up between the masculine and feminist approaches
[13:25] Bejiita Imako: indeed, they feed themselves then either jail n execute people or let them starve to death, make me so sad
[13:25] Adriana Jinn: unfortunatly
[13:26] herman Bergson: But what is more important to learn is that the person is put again in the center of the debate on ethics
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: that is true yes
[13:26] herman Bergson: Not only the person, but also its psychology
[13:26] Bejiita Imako: ah yes
[13:26] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:27] Repose Lionheart: even biology
[13:27] herman Bergson: I think we all have felt the cerebral character of discussions on deontological ethics and consequentialism
[13:27] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:27] herman Bergson: yes Repose...
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: OMG!!!
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: omg yes
[13:27] Adriana Jinn: yes
[13:27] Repose Lionheart: !!
[13:27] Repose Lionheart: too much so
[13:27] herman Bergson: And the fact that I kept saying... I am missing something in this debate...
[13:28] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:28] Gemma Cleanslate: we all felt so I think
[13:28] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:28] herman Bergson: I think that virtue ethics has put the discourse back on the right track
[13:28] Repose Lionheart: agreed!
[13:29] herman Bergson: If that is so Gemma, then we went trough a good learning process ㋡
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:29] herman Bergson: It is interesting to see that many important publications are from 2001 and after
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: i will always think of it as the cat chasing its tail lesson
[13:30] Repose Lionheart: hehe
[13:30] herman Bergson smiles
[13:30] herman Bergson: Yes… something like that indeed
[13:31] herman Bergson: What is so interesting to me is that when I was a student virtue ethics just didnt exist
[13:31] herman Bergson: so Like I discovered evolutionary epistemology I now have discovered this issue
[13:31] Repose Lionheart: really?
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: but it seems to be rooted way back with Plato
[13:31] Repose Lionheart: no ancient analogs?
[13:31] Repose Lionheart: oh
[13:31] herman Bergson: Yes...GEmma
[13:32] herman Bergson: But due to centuries of christianity the aristotelian ideas of virtue were blacked out
[13:32] Repose Lionheart: ooh
[13:32] herman Bergson: Ethics became a matter of deontology.... a matter or rules following..
[13:33] herman Bergson: and this is related with the idea that these rules must come from a lawgiver...
[13:33] herman Bergson: and religion has such lawgiver in a god or revelation through the bible
[13:34] Repose Lionheart: theology dominated
[13:34] herman Bergson: the utilitarians tried to escape that lawgiver/deontic idea
[13:34] herman Bergson: they made use to calculators of happiness by evaluating consequences
[13:35] Alarice Beaumont: sorry... i have to go :-(
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: Bye
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: al
[13:35] Repose Lionheart: bye, Alarice
[13:35] herman Bergson: and virtue ethics goes back to the agent in all this, the acting human, and his psychology
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: bye Alarice
[13:36] Alarice Beaumont: bye :-)
[13:36] herman Bergson: Bye Alarice, be well
[13:36] bergfrau Apfelbaum: byebye :o) Ala
[13:36] Repose Lionheart: wow, 2000 year story arc
[13:36] herman Bergson: Yes indeed Repose...
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: ah yes and thats logical because as u said before, who we are determine how we act
[13:36] herman Bergson: amazing....
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: at least a great deal
[13:37] herman Bergson: Yes Bejita, that is becoming the focus of the debate now
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: :)
[13:37] herman Bergson: We still have not zeroed in on the real matter of virtue, but we'll soon get to that
[13:38] herman Bergson: I think Next Tuesday we'll get to that in more detail
[13:38] Repose Lionheart:(^_^)
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:38] Adriana Jinn: ok
[13:39] herman Bergson: The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Stanford Encyclopedia both have very good articles on this subject.
[13:40] herman Bergson: I'll certainly will use these as sources
[13:40] Bejiita Imako: oki
[13:40] herman Bergson: Any questions left unanswered?
[13:41] Repose Lionheart: do you think virtue ethics is a deeper position than duty or consequestialist ehtics
[13:41] Repose Lionheart: ?
[13:41] herman Bergson: Personally I would say yes...
[13:41] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:41] Gemma Cleanslate: at least it is understandable
[13:42] Repose Lionheart: it combines the strengths of both the other positions
[13:42] herman Bergson: My reasons for this are, that it has a closer link to realistic psychology
[13:42] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: that can be true
[13:43] herman Bergson: and that deontic theories are hard to hold, because we have lost our belief in who formulates the obligation, the laws
[13:43] Repose Lionheart: i see
[13:43] herman Bergson: and consequentialism is a too theoretical construct in my opinion...
[13:43] ZANICIA Chau: bravo
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: if the one making the rules have a bad personality everything he decide becomes wrong
[13:44] herman Bergson: the idea of pain and pleasure was well understood, but the theory is before the emergence of evolutionary theory and psychology
[13:44] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:44] herman Bergson: a good example of this is Jeremey Bentham, who made even pleasure/pain calculations
[13:45] herman Bergson: Mill dropped that idea, but yet it shows how theoretical the theory was
[13:45] herman Bergson: this does not mean that we should not think anymore about the consequences of our actions....
[13:46] Adriana Jinn: of course
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: that we must always do
[13:46] herman Bergson: but in virtue ethics we look at them from a different perspective
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: from who you are
[13:46] herman Bergson: yes Bejita
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: seems logical
[13:47] herman Bergson: Well I think that we have come a long way and really found something to work on...
[13:48] Adriana Jinn: hi rod
[13:48] herman Bergson: So.. I would like to thank you for your participation today and hope to see you next Tuesday
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:48] Rodney Handrick: Hi Adriana
[13:48] Bejiita Imako: hmm ill try to come by then
[13:48] Bejiita Imako: :)
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: see you Tuesday
[13:48] herman Bergson: Rodney!! Right on time as usual
[13:48] Adriana Jinn: thank you so much herman
[13:48] Bejiita Imako: can be interesting
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: lololol
[13:48] Repose Lionheart: Thank you, Professor!
[13:48] bergfrau Apfelbaum: daanke herman!
[13:48] Rodney Handrick: Hi Herman
[13:49] ZANICIA Chau: Thanks very much
[13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: well at least we know you are alive Rod
[13:49] Rodney Handrick: lol...hi Gemma
[13:49] Adriana Jinn: hihih
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: hi Rodney
[13:49] Rodney Handrick: Hi Bejiita
[13:49] herman Bergson: Class dismissed
[13:49] Jarapanda Snook: Thanks Herman
[13:50] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:50] Qwark Allen: ******* Herman *******
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: interesting this
[13:50] Qwark Allen: thank you
[13:50] Bejiita Imako whispers: :)
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