Whiteboards As clearly as possible Weakness 1 Lack

Whiteboards As clearly as possible Weakness 1 Lack of Guidance Weakness 2 Clashing Virtues Weakness 3 Circularity Weakness 4 Virtues and Eudaimonia

Virtue Ethics Vs Moral Rules One of the features we expect to see in an effective ethical theory is some clear guidance on how to act. Utilitarianism (hedonic calculus) and Kantian ethics (categorical imperative) provide rules or guidelines

that can be applied to different situations and explain how we should make judgements, but does Aristotles virtue ethics do the same? Virtue Ethics Vs Moral Rules Aristotles ethics provide a complex analysis of virtue. The doctrine of the mean describes how virtuous acts are in a mean

between excessive and deficient response, but that this mean is relative to the situation and to the person. What is missing however is a clear idea of what too much or too little actually is. The theory does not tell us for example, how often we should get angry and how angry we should get, just that it shouldnt be in excess. This is incredibly vague! Essentially, the doctrine of the mean suggests that every situation is different and there is no single rule to guide us in how we should act. Just about anything could be in the mean if the

circumstances are right! Criticism 1: Lack of Guidance What explicitly is the issue here? How might a virtue ethicist respond? Response 1: Morals are vague! Morals are vague we need to be aware that

sometimes there arent easy answers, and a onesize-fits-all rule will always have exceptions. Is this a satisfactory response? Response 2: Practical Wisdom A second response is that the doctrine of the mean on its own is not useful for working out what we should do, we also need practical wisdom. We may respond in turn by wondering

Well, what if we dont have practical wisdom? but this is missing the point Aristotle is trying to make. Most people (not necessarily all) have enough understanding of what is good to start themselves on the road to Eudaimonia, and we can continue to improve our practical wisdom and in turn our virtues through experience as we go.

Response 2: Practical Wisdom The philosopher Julia Annas supports this view, stating that Virtue Ethics assumes that each of us has already had a life by the time we start to reflect on which action is the right one. This means we will have some already existing conceptions about what the good is and how to pursue it. Crucially, it also means that the right action may be different for different people, it depends on what type of person you are already!

Response 3: V-Rules Rosalind Hursthouse has argued that through the virtues Aristotle has identified, he does offer guidance on how to act after all. Aristotle tells us that we apply practical wisdom in order to act virtuously and to avoid acting viciously (i.e. in excess or deficiently); also, through practical wisdom, Aristotle gives us specific examples of the virtues

that we should strive for, and the vices we should avoid. Hursthouse says that, taken together, these virtues and vices do offer rules or principles for action, and she calls these vrules. So virtues carry a positive prescription for action (do X), while vices carry a negative prescription (dont do Y). V-Rules Given what you know about Aristotles Virtues and Vices, what would you say the V-rules are in the following situations?:

- Lying to someone in order to cover up scratching their car. - Refusing to pay money you can easily afford to a charity that could desperately use it. - Not jumping in to a river to save a drowning dog because youre afraid of water. - Wanting to move up in the company so

much that you take credit for other peoples work. Counter-response V-Rules are all well and good, but arent virtues relative to different societies? Which ones do we follow? Warrior courage

Proper pride Humility & faith Summary So Far

Criticism 2: Clashing Virtues Does Virtue Ethics have an issue with clashing or competing virtues? Does VE have an issue with moral dilemmas? Axe-murderer style dilemmas do not seem to be a problem. Virtues can sometimes be moderate and sometimes in the extreme! The whole point for Aristotle is that they are not

universals. In these cases then a deficiency of honesty and an excess of loyalty / justice is appropriate. But what about cases where two or more virtues seem to clash? Due to the vagueness previously mentioned its sometimes unclear which virtues we are supposed to follow!

Example: Euthanasia Virtues of charity and love that may lead us to end someone's life. Virtues of justice that might prevent us from ever taking a life. Criticism 2: Clashing Virtues What explicitly is the issue here?

How might a virtue ethicist respond? Response 1: Virtues are not absolute! One advantage Virtue Ethics has over competing theories is that Aristotle explicitly rejects the claim that morality has absolute or universal rules. It is a matter of context and judgement, so clashing virtues should be resolved by those involved with a

full understanding of the situation. Once again, trying to give a one size fits all answer, isnt going to, and should not, work. Response 2: Moral Remainders Response: Hursthouse: Moral dilemmas are genuinely difficult no easy answer.

Sometimes it may seem like there is not correct answer. Either course of action has a moral remainder an emotional impact that reminds you of the hard decision you made. This is significant for the agent, even life changing A strength of V. E. is that it acknowledges this as an important part of our development. Summary So Far

Criticism 3: Circularity Copy this into your notes or take a photo. Aristotle attempts to answer the question what is a virtuous act by pointing to virtuous people. In what way is this circular reasoning? How might a virtue ethicist respond?

Response Maybe we can use Eudaimonia to avoid the circle? The virtuous person is one who has reached Eudaimonia and is flourishing, living the good life. Does this solve the problem of circularity? Does eudaimonia solve the problem? Mackie: NO!

Summary So Far Criticism 4.1: Virtue And Eudaimonia For Aristotle the main aim of Virtue Ethics is ultimately to achieve Eudaimonia to live well and flourish. He doesnt seem to distinguish between a life that is good for me and a life that is morally good. But does this idea of moral goodness being a flourishing life fit with what we usually consider to be moral? Surely morality sometimes

requires elements of self-sacrifice? For example charity: Option 1: Donate a small amount to charity , ensure my own flourishing and good life with the money I have left over. Option 2: Donate a lot more to charity, help many more people yet make it much harder for myself to truly live well. Which would we usually consider to be the more moral

action? Which does Aristotle seem to imply is correct? Criticism 4.2: Virtue And Eudaimonia Aristotle seems to suggest throughout all his ethical writing that by acting on the virtues we will eventually achieve Eudaimonia. We will flourish and live well. But this does not seem to be the case

for many people we would say are explicitly demonstrating virtues. Instead they have put themselves (willingly) in situations in which they are enduring extremely tough conditions. They are certainly not flourishing or living well. Criticism 4.2: Virtue And Eudaimonia The philosopher Christine Swanton

articulates this criticism she argues that virtues are not always and should not always be about the Eudaimonia of the person who has them. There are other values, other final ends the good of others, environment, knowledge etc. that are just as important and in some cases even more important than personal Eudaimonia. A virtuous person is one who can apply their

virtues correctly and appropriately in regards to these ends. Sometimes being virtuous may be about improving our own life, but we also need to accept that sometimes to be truly virtuous will require self-sacrifice. Criticism 4.1/4.2: Virtue And Eudaimonia What explicitly are the issue(s) here?

How might a virtue ethicist respond? Response: Virtues lead to Eudaimonia! Annas argues in response that we have misunderstood the idea of eudaimonia. Just because weve said it means flourishing does not mean its some independent standard (i.e. someone having all they want) that is separate from the virtues. A good life is good precisely because it demonstrates the virtues!

We can use our old example of a knife to illustrate this response in better detail a good knife is not one that adheres to some standard independent of the knife virtues. A good knife is considered good because it demonstrates the virtues we wish to see in a knife (sharpness, consistency etc.) Similarly with people, a person isnt good due to some independent standard, they are good if they demonstrate the virtues we wish to see (those

following the mean)! Response: Virtues lead to Eudaimonia! She argues that Aristotle believed that living in accordance with the virtues gives us the best account of a flourishing life. If that life sometimes seems hard, then so be it. If the person is truly acting virtuously (i.e. it is part of their character) they are still flourishing and reaching eudaimonia.

Think about someone we would consider to be doing a hard but virtuous act. Whilst it may not seem like they are flourishing in terms of rewards or material gain, they themselves might argue that they are gaining a deep sense of satisfaction from their job. This is the flourishing Aristotle seems to be referring to.

Response: Virtues lead to Eudaimonia! If Annas is correct here then if someone claims that Eudaimonia (flourishing) is simply getting what you want, for example money and power, theyve not agreed with Aristotle about the goal of Eudaimonia but disagreed on the means to achieve it - theyve fundamentally misunderstood his idea of eudaimonia to start with. What's more, if your goal is simply a life of

comfort for yourself VE may not be for you. Summary So Far Homework Due Monday Briefly explain three of the criticisms and at least one response for each in your own words. Do these responses successfully solve the issues? Read carefully through your notes from this lesson

and the previous one and make sure you are happy with the information. Read through and highlight key points in the handout.

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