At any rate, what I’d like to do here is to explore a bit more of my own preferred framework for ethics, neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics (the “neo” prefix should alert the reader that I’m not about to defend everything Aristotle said, but rather discuss an updated version of the idea, based of course on his original insights). Specifically, I want to focus on the concept of virtue and the work that it can do in moral philosophy.
Massimo Pigluicci addresses a common criticism of virtue ethics: how does one identify what is a virtue and what is a vice?
Virtue ethics is one of the three major philosophical ethical frameworks. The other two are consequentialism and deontology. I considered myself a consequentialist for a long time, although as time has passed, I’ve drifted more and more toward virtue ethics.
I like virtue ethics because, unlike the other ethical frameworks, it is honest about its goal being to help you live the good life, and about its foundations (virtues and vices) not being objective. It gets a lot of criticism for that from advocates of utilitarianism, the most popular form of consequentialism.
But, as I covered in a previous post, none of the normative philosophical frameworks can ultimately claim objectivity. None of them can make the decisions for you. If you think they can, then think about how you judge what maximizes utility in utilitarianism (or more broadly, how you evaluate consequences in consequentialism), or how you judge which rules are good in deontology.
Ultimately, you judge these systems by your pre-existing values, which arise from a combination of your evolved instincts for cooperation (which vary by person), and from social learning (which vary by culture). We have no choice but to do the hard work of finding rules of conduct that most of us can live with.
That said, I do think moral philosophy can clarify our thinking. It just can’t make the decisions for us. In that light, I find it productive sometimes to run a moral dilemma through all three systems, doing a virtue check, a utilitarian check, and a deontological one.
If a proposition promotes the good life (virtue ethics), maximizes utility, and it is a rule I’d feel confident turned against me (deontology), then I can usually feel good about it being moral. At least unless it gets vetoed by my revulsion reflex, in other words, by my evolved instincts.
- And Justice for All? (microcosmology.wordpress.com)
- Moral Decisions – Some Examples (Part 8) (happinessiou.com)
- Triangulations : Is All religion bad? An Ethical Dissection (triangulations.wordpress.com)
- Seeing the moral and practical cases for freedom as one and the same (venitism.blogspot.com)
- What is Virtue Jurisprudence? (virjuris.wordpress.com)
- Comparing Kant to Plato (poignantboy.wordpress.com)