The Three Elements in MacIntyre's Account of TheVirtues

 

(1) Practices

            (a) Internal and External Goods

 

(2) The Good Life for Human Beings (Aristotle would add:  In Groups)

 

(3) Tradition

 

 

AN ARISTOTELIAN ACCOUNT OF VIRTUE

 

 

1.  Every function or activity can be performed well or poorly. 

 

2.  Special Virtues:  Corresponding to each type of activity X, there are special (non-moral) virtues that are exercised in Xing well (e.g., the characteristics of a good violinist, a good chess player, or a good doctor.)

 

3.  Moral Virtues:  The moral virtues are the most general virtues, because they pertain to an activity that everyone engages in--the living of one's life.  The moral virtues are those characteristics required to live one's life well. 

 

4.  An Aristotelian Definition of Moral Virtue:  A moral virtue is a stable disposition to respond (to act and feel) appropriately. 

 

5.  Virtues are developed by habituation.  To develop a virtue, one must imitate the responses (acts and feelings) of a virtuous person.

 

6.  Aristotle's "Golden Mean" formula for moral virtues:  A moral virtue is the mean between two vices, one of deficiency and one of excess. 

 

7.  Virtue is practical wisdom.  It involves reason, though not in the way that Socrates thought.

 

 

IS ARISTOTLE'S "GOLDEN MEAN" FORMULA AN ATTEMPT TO PROVIDE PURELY DESCRIPTIVE NECESSARY AND SUFFICIENT CONDITIONS FOR MORAL RIGHTNESS/WRONGNESS?

 

 

1.  The problem of determining the endpoints:  "Virtue" is defined in terms of "vice".

 

2.  The problem of finding the "mean" between the extremes:  "mean" is a metaphor.

 

3.  The problem of conflicting virtues:  for example, Antigone's dilemma.

 

4.  The exceptions (e.g., adultery).

 

 

LOUDEN'S CRITICISM OF VIRTUE ETHICS

 

1.  PRACTICAL ETHICS:  Virtue Ethics cannot supply very much useful advice on practical moral questions.

 

2.  TRAGIC HUMANS:  Even the best person can make wrong choices. 

 

3.  MORALLY INTOLERABLE ACTIONS:  Some prohibitions are absolute.

 

4.  CHARACTER CHANGE:  Need some way to assess which ones are morally good and which ones are not. 

 

5.  SOCIO-HISTORICAL PROBLEM:  Virtue ethics is not appropriate for the modern world.

 

How would Aristotle reply?

 

 

THE ARISTOTELIAN VERSION OF THE EUTHYPHRO QUESTION:  Is an act A virtuous (right) because a person with the proper training (i.e, a person of practical wisdom or a reasonable person) would choose it, or would a person with the proper training choose it because it is virtuous (right).

 

THE TRUTH-MAKING ANSWER:  Act A Is Right Because A Person With Proper Training Would Choose It.  (The practically wise person's choosing A makes it true that A is right.)

 

TRUTH-DETECTION ANSWER:  A Person With Proper Training Would Choose A Because It Is Right.  (The practically wise person detects the truth that A is right.)

 

 

ARISTOTLE'S ANSWER:  THE IMPORTANCE OF VIRTUE THAT IS NOT BLIND

 

            1.  According to Aristotle, what does moral training produce?  Practical wisdom/moral judgment. 

 

            2.  What is practical wisdom/moral judgment?  It cannot be understood in terms of "blind" dispositions.  It involves reason or judgment.

 

            3.  How could reason or judgment play a role in moral judgment, other than by the explicit application of principles? 

The difference between EXPLICITLY APPLYING a principle/rule and being IMPLICITLY GUIDED by a principle/rule.  The Ken Griffey, Jr. Example.

 

 

ARISTOTLE ON VIRTUE IN THE STRICT SENSE

 

"For all men think that each type of character belongs to its possessors in some sense by nature; for from the very moment of birth we are just or fitted for self-control or brave or have the other moral qualities; but yet we seek something else as that which is good in the strict sense—we seek for the presence of such qualities in another way.  For both children and brutes have the natural dispositions to these qualities, but without reason these are evidently hurtful.  Only we seem to see this much, that, while one may be led astray by them, as a strong body which moves without sight may stumble badly because of its lack of sight, still, if a man once acquires reason, that makes a difference in action; and his state, while still like what it was, will then be virtue in the strict sense.  Therefore, as in the part of us which forms opinions there are two types, cleverness and practical wisdom, so too in the moral part there are two types, natural virtue and virtue in the strict sense, and of these the latter involves practical wisdom.  This is why some say that all the virtues are forms of practical wisdom, and why Socrates in one respect was on the right track while in another he went astray. . . . All men, then, seem somehow to divine that this kind of state is virtue, viz. that which is in accordance with practical wisdom.  But we must go a little further.  For it is not merely the state in accordance with the right rule, but the state that implies the presence of the right rule, that is virtue; and practical wisdom is a right rule about such matters.  Socrates, then, thought the virtues were rules or rational principles (for he thought they were, all of the, forms of scientific knowledge), while we think they involve a rational principle." 

(Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. VI, Ch. 13, 1144b13-29.)

 

 

MORAL PRINCIPLES vs. MORAL VIRTUES:  TWO TYPES OF PRIORITY

 

A.  The MORAL PRIORITY of Virtue That is Not "Blind" over non-virtuous EXPLICIT APPLICATION OF PRINCIPLES [moral priority = is regarded as having greater value, when evaluated from the moral point of view]:

 

B.  THE EXPLANATORY PRIORITY OF PRINCIPLES OVER VIRTUES [Need principles to provide non-arbitrary explanation of the distinction between right/wrong, or virtue/vice; otherwise, the distinction would be arbitrary]

 

            1.  It is possible to imagine a world of ideally virtuous agents--saints--(who exercise practical wisdom/moral judgment) without EXPLICITLY APPLYING any principles/rules.

 

            2.  A world of EXPLICIT RULE APPLIERS without any of the virtues would be far from morally ideal.   Even simple moral rules will be better SATISFIED by a virtuous person. 

 

            3.  Even if there are principles IMPLICITLY GUIDING the virtuous person, it does not follow that EXPLICITLY APPLYING those principles could be a substitute for virtue/practical wisdom/moral judgment.

 

 

ARISTOTLE (AS INTERPRETED BY TALBOTT) AS THE MEAN BETWEEN KANT AND HUME: 

PRACTICAL WISDOM AS A COMBINATION OF REASON AND PASSIONS/SENTIMENTS

 

Virtue "in the strict sense" is not blind.  It is an emotional and behavioral responsiveness IMPLICITLY GUIDED by principles detected by REASON, though the principles generally may not be EXPLICITLY FORMULATED and are not EXPLICITLY APPLIED.

 

 

Attempts to Formulate the Principles Implicitly Guiding the Virtuous Person

 

1.  The Two Versions of the Golden Rule

 

2.  Kant's Deontological Principle:  Be rational (in the Kantian sense) = Act on maxims that can be universalized without contradiction.

 

3.  The Act Utilitarian Principle (Consequentialist):  Maximize overall utilility.

 

4.  Rawls's Deontological Principle:  Be reasonable (in the Rawlsian sense)  = Be willing to cooperate on fair terms of social cooperation.

            a.  Example of Reasonableness:

Talbott’s Universalizability Test = In a Collective Action Problem, Don't Freeride on the Cooperation of Others.

 

NOTE WELL:  Even if moral philosophers are successful in formulating adequate principles, there will still be a big difference between EXPLICITLY APPLYING them and being IMPLICITLY GUIDED by them.

(Recall the difference between a professor of physics and Ken Griffey, Jr., as “fly ball interceptors”.)

 

 

GENERAL EUTHYPHRO QUESTION

 

For a particular statement S and a given authority A:  Is S true [or appropriate] because the relevant authority A agrees that S is true [or appropriate]; or does the relevant authority A agree that S is true [or appropriate] because S is true [or appropriate]? 

 

            TRUTH [OR APPROPRIATENESS] MAKING ANSWER:  S is true [or appropriate] because the relevant authority A agrees that S is true [or appropriate].  (Agreement of the relevant authority A makes S true [or appropriate].)

 

            TRUTH DETECTION ANSWER:  The relevant authority A agrees that S is true (or appropriate) because S is true.  (The relevant authority A detects (though perhaps not infallibly) that S is true.)