Unit 8 The Ethics of Character: 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 2 Virtue Strength of character (habit) Involving both heart and mind Seeks the mean between excess and deficiency Promotes human development through action especially character Aristotle 3 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 habit. 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 5 Courage 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 6 Courage 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. 7 Courage and the Unity of the Virtues 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, etc. – Courage without a clear sense of your own abilities is foolhardy. 8 Courage 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 9 Concluding Evaluation Virtues are those strengths of character that enable us to develop as a conscience person 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. 10 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 it Slide should go before the Christians influences slide!!!!
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