The Ethics of Character Virtues and Vices by zhangyun


									    Unit 8

The Ethics of
Virtues & Vices
                  Two Moral Questions

   The Question of Action:
    – How ought I to act?
   The Question of Character
    – What kind of person ought I to be?
   Our concern here is with the
    question of character

   Strength of
    character (habit)
   Involving both heart
    and mind
   Seeks the mean
    between excess and
   Promotes human
    through action
    especially character
              Virtue As the Golden Mean

   Strength of character (virtue), Aristotle
    suggests, involves finding the proper
    balance between two extremes.
    – Excess: having too much of something.
    – Deficiency: having too little of something.
   Not mediocrity, but harmony and balance.
   Where have we seen this idea of harmony
    and balance before?
    – Augustine
    – Benedict
   This leads to the growth on a individual
    – Esp. on his/her conscience                    4
                                             Virtue and Habit
   For Aristotle, virtue is something that is practiced and thereby learned—it is

   not defined the same way as we use it today

   This has clear implications for moral education, for Aristotle obviously
    thinks that you can teach people to be virtuous.
   Through several channels, but specifically through action and experience

   One could not simply study what virtue is; one must actually be virtuous.
    Analogously, in order to become good at a sport like football, one does not
    simply study but also practices. Aristotle first establishes what was
    virtuous. He began by determining that everything was done with some goal
    in mind and that goal is 'good.' The ultimate goal he called the Highest
    Good: happiness

   We have seen this idea before as well, achieving our happiness through our
    desire, that are ultimately paralled with God

   Aristotle believed that every ethical virtue is an intermediate
    condition between excess and deficiency.
    – For example, fear isn't bad in and of itself, it is just bad when
      felt to excess or deficiency. A courageous person judges that
      some dangers are worth facing and others not, the level of fear
      is appropriate to the circumstances
   The strength of character necessary to continue
    in the face of our fears
    – Deficiency: Cowardice, the inability to do what is necessary to
      have those things in life which we need in order to flourish
        • Too much fear
        • Too little confidence
    – Excess
        • Too little fear
        • Too much confidence
        • Poor judgment about ends worth achieving


   Both children and adults need courage.
   Without courage, we are unable to take the
    risks necessary to achieve some of the
    things we most value in life.
    – Risk to ask someone out on a date.
    – Risk to show genuine vulnerability.
    – Risk to try an academically challenging
      program such as pre-med.

          Courage and the Unity of the
   To have any single strength of character
    (virtue) in full measure, a person must
    have the other ones as well.
    – Courage without good judgment is blind,
      risking without knowing what is worth the risk.
    – Courage without perseverance is short-lived,
    – Courage without a clear sense of your own
      abilities is foolhardy.


Excess                    Mean                         Deficiency
Underestimates actual     Correctly estimates          Overestimates actual
danger                    actual danger                danger
Overestimates own         Correctly estimates own      Underestimates own
ability                   ability                      ability
Undervalues means,        Properly values means     Overvalues the means,
what is being placed at   that are being put at riskwhat is being placed at
risk                                                risk
Overvalues goal, what     Properly values goal that Undervalues goal, what
the risk is being taken   is being sought           the risk would be taken
for                                                 for

                   Concluding Evaluation

   Virtues are those strengths of character that
    enable us to develop as a conscience
   The virtuous person has practical wisdom
    (developed reason and logic), the ability to
    know when and how best to apply these
    various moral perspectives.
   This is gained through experience, for an
    individual, but for a Christian through
    several other means as well.
                         Concluding Evaluation

    This ability to develop “habit” by a person and
     use it through their active life and development
     of their self leads to 4 categories
    1.   Virtuous - those that truly enjoy doing what is right
         and do so without moral dilemma
         1.   What we, (Christians) strive to achieve
    2.   Continent - does the virtuous thing most of the time,
         but must overcome conflict
         1.   Where most people are within their lives
    3.   Incontinent - faces the same moral conflict, but
         usually chooses the vicious ("full of vice") thing
    4.   Vicious - sees little value in virtue and doesn't attempt
   Slide should go before the Christians
    influences slide!!!!

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