Howard J. Curzer presents a fresh new reading of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, which brings each of the virtues alive. He argues that justice and friendship are symbiotic in Aristotle's view; reveals how virtue ethics is not only about being good, but about becoming good; and describes Aristotle's ultimate quest to determine happiness.
Howard J. Curzer - Aristotle's Painful Path to Virtue - Journal of the History of Philosophy 40:2 Journal of the History of Philosophy 40.2 141-162 Aristotle's Painful Path to Virtue Howard J. Curzer [P]unishment . . . is a kind of cure . . . . We think young people should be prone to shame . . . . 1. Two Questions FOR ARISTOTLE, THE GOAL OF MORAL development is, of course, to become virtuous. Aristotle provides a partial description of (...) the virtuous person in the following familiar passage. The virtuous person performing virtuous acts, must have knowledge, secondly he must choose the acts, and choose them for their own sakes, and thirdly his actions must proceed from a firm and unchangeable character. By my count, this passage lists five components of virtue. Presumably, the virtuous agent's knowledge consists in true beliefs concerning which acts are virtuous plus a correct account of why they are virtuous. Virtue thus includes both the ability to identify which acts are virtuous in a given situation and an understanding of why they are virtuous. Choice is deliberate desire, so choosing virtuous acts is a combination of determining and desiring virtuous acts. People want to carry out virtuous acts for various reasons. For example, some choose virtuous acts merely because they are fashionable or instrumentally valuable. But Aristotle specifies that the virtuous person desires virtuous acts for their.. (shrink)
By maintaining that moral functioning depends upon four components, the Neo-Kohlbergian account of moral functioning allows for uneven moral development within individuals. However, I argue that the four-component model does not go far enough. I offer a more accurate account of moral functioning and uneven moral development. My proposal retains the account of sensitivity, divides the judgment component into a theorizing component and a reasoning component, and eliminates the motivation and character components.
Why do we admire Abraham1 so much? The standard answer is that Abraham’s faith in God is very great. Now in the context of Genesis, “faith in God” does not mean “belief in God’s existence.” Polytheism, not atheism, is the adversary in Genesis. Nor does “faith in God” mean “believing in order that we may come to understand God”2 or “believing because we cannot fully understand God”3 or “believing despite what we understand about God.”4 To minimize anachronism and controversy I (...) shall work with a minimalist reading of “faith in God,” a meaning shared by all interpretations. On every plausible conception of faith, if Abraham has faith in God, then he trusts God’s word. In Genesis “faith in God” means at least, “trusting that God will keep His promises.”5 But Abraham does not display this sort of faith. I shall argue that Abraham actually displays a lack of trust in God throughout his whole life. To show this I shall review the events of Abraham’s life, assessing his level of faith in God at each point. (shrink)
In this article I rebut conservative objections to five phases of embryonic stem cell research. I argue that researchers using existing embryonic stem cell lines are not complicit in the past destruction of embryos because beneficiaries of immoral acts are not necessary morally tainted. Second, such researchers do not encourage the destruction of additional embryos because fertility clinics presently destroy more spare embryos than researchers need. Third, actually harvesting stem cells from slated-to-be-discarded embryos is not wrong. The embryos are not (...) sacrificed for the good of others because they would have been destroyed anyway. Fourth, harvesting stem cells from embryos that are not doomed is morally acceptable, because preserving frozen embryos is futile therapy. Finally, creating embryos solely for the sake of harvesting stem cells from them is morally acceptable because the assumption that embryos have the right to life has very counterintuitive implications. (shrink)
The title of this paper is meant to be provocative. The issue is not whether Carol Gilligan and Nel Noddings, who are usually credited with originating the ethics of care, build explicitly upon AristotleÕs work, or even whether Aristotle is a source of inspiration for them.1 Instead, the issue is whether Aristotle is an earlier advocate, perhaps the earliest advocate, of the ethics of care. Aristotle cannot be an ethics of care advocate without a concept of care, but Aristotle does (...) have a concept of care. Although the Greek terms phil" esis and its infinitive version to philein are typically translated as ‘‘love,’’ or ‘‘friendly feeling,’’ or ‘‘friendly affection’’ by AristotleÕs translators, Aristotle uses phil" esis and to philein to mean approximately what advocates of the ethics of care mean by ‘‘caring’’ and ‘‘care.’’ Aristotle defines to philein in the following way. ‘‘We may describe to philein towards anyone as wishing for him what you believe to be good things, not for your own sake but for his, and being inclined, so far as you can, to bring these things about.’’2 Furthermore, Aristotle contrasts phil" esis with mere goodwill. He says that goodwill, ‘‘does not involve intensity or desire, whereas these accompany phil" esis; and phil" esis implies intimacy while goodwill may arise of a sudden.’’3 Hence, phil" esis is no shallow whim, but a deep desire for the wellbeing of another person sought not merely as a means to the wellbeing of the agent, but for the sake of the other person. The interests of the other person are sought because of the character of the person. Moreover, phil" esis includes substantial familiarity with the other person gained through meaningful personal interactions with the person. This is compassion and sympathy, core components of care. Aristotle says little about phil". (shrink)
Care is widely thought to be a role virtue for health care professionals (HCPs). It is thought that in their professional capacity, HCPs should not only take care of their patients, but should also care for their patients. I argue against this thesis. First I show that the character trait of care causes serious problems both for caring HCPs and for cared-for patients. Then I show that benevolence plus caring action causes fewer and less serious problems. My surprising conclusion is (...) that care is a vice rather than a virtue for HCPs. In their professional capacity HCPs should not care for their patients. Instead HCPs should be benevolent and act in a caring manner toward their patients. Keywords: care, ethics, virtue CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
The article argues that Aristotle takes the mean to be relative neither to character nor to social role, but simply to the agent’s situation. The “character relativity” interpretation arises from the contemporary common-sense impulse to hold people who must overcome obstacles to a lower standard than people who easily act and feel rightly. However, character relativity vitiates Aristotle’s distinction between what moral people should do and what people should do to become moral. It also clashes with Aristotle’s principle that the (...) virtuous person is the measure of which actions and passions are virtuous. The “role relativity” interpretation arisesfrom the contemporary common-sense impulse to hold people in different social roles to different standards. However, role relativity vitiates Aristotle’s distinctionbetween the good person, on the one hand, and the good ruler, subject, doctor, soldier, and citizen, on the other. It also clashes with his claim that children, natural slaves, and women are inferior to adult, naturally free men. (shrink)
The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee is entrusted with assessing the ethics of proposed projects prior to approval of animal research. The role of the IACUC is detailed in legislation and binding rules, which are in turn inspired by the Three Rs: the principles of Replacement, Reduction, and Refinement. However, these principles are poorly defined. Although this provides the IACUC leeway in assessing a proposed project, it also affords little guidance. Our goal is to provide procedural and philosophical clarity (...) to the IACUC without mandating a particular outcome. To do this, we analyze the underlying logic of the Three Rs and conclude that the Three Rs accord animals moral standing, though not necessarily “rights” in the philosophical sense. We suggest that the Rs are hierarchical, such that Replacement, which can totally eliminate harm, should be considered prior to Reduction, which decreases the number of animals harmed, with Refinement being considered last. We also identify the need for a hitherto implicit fourth R: Reject, which allows the IACUC to refuse permission for a project which does not promise sufficient benefit to offset the pain and distress likely to be caused by the proposed research. (shrink)
Is torturing innocent people ever morally required? I rebut responses to the ticking-bomb dilemma by Slote, Williams, Walzer, and others. I argue that torturing is morally required and should be performed when it is the only way to avert disasters. In such situations, torturers act with dirty hands because torture, though required, is vicious. Conversely, refusers act wrongly, yet virtuously, thus displaying admirable immorality. Vicious, morally required acts and virtuous, morally wrong acts are odd, yet necessary to preserve the ticking-bomb (...) dilemma’s phenomenology, the role of habituation in moral development, the virtue/continence distinction, and morality’s overridingness, consistency, and plausibility. (shrink)
Once again it is becoming fashionable to ask ‘What character traits are virtues?’ Naturally, it behooves us to try to recapture the insights of our predecessors, as well as forging ahead on our own. In this paper I shall examine one such insight.
Animal research in laboratories is currently informed by the three R’s (Replacement, Reduction, and Refinement), a common-sense theory of animal research ethics. In addition a fourth R (Refusal) is needed to address research plans that are so badly conceived that their chances of gaining any knowledge worth the animal suffering they cause are nil. Unfortunately, these four R’s do not always yield workable solutions to the moral problems faced regularly by wildlife researchers. It is possible to develop analogs in the (...) sphere of environmental research to these four R’s, creating a common-sense theory of environmental research ethics that will provide significant guidance to researchers and win acceptance from almost all stakeholders. This theory can be articulated in terms of twenty basic principles. (shrink)
Mencian benevolent government intervenes dramatically in many ways in the marketplace in order to secure the material well-being of the population, especially the poor and disadvantaged. Mencius considers this sort of intervention to be appropriate not just occasionally when dealing with natural disasters, but regularly. Furthermore, Mencius recommends shifting from regressive to progressive taxes. He favors reduction of inequality so as to reduce corruption of government by the wealthy, and opposes punishment for people driven to crime by destitution. Mencius thinks (...) government should try to improve the character of the population by preventing or relieving poverty, by setting a good example, and by teaching people to respect and care for each other. He considers a government to be legitimate only if it has the support of the people. His recommended foreign policy is approximately the same as his recommended domestic policy: set a good example and enhance the material wellbeing and moral values of one’s own people so that they will enthusiastically support their country, while foreigners will long to immigrate. These are policies of today’s left. Mencius was a radical reformer in his own day. His description of benevolent government shows that he is an extreme liberal by contemporary standards, too. (shrink)
Virtue ethics has been criticized for having little or nothing to say about contemporary moral issues. However, virtue ethics can address contemporary moral issues by evaluating social practices and institutions. Nor is virtue ethics limited to the politically conservative uses to which some theorists have put it. Indeed, virtue ethics can be a powerful engine for social progress. To illustrate, this paper will develop an Aristotelian critique of the white, middle-class, heterosexual American traditional family. The paper's critique will have the (...) fringe benefit of providing a basis for criticizing the choice of those who voluntarily opt for such families. (shrink)
In I 7 Aristotle lays down criteria for what is to count as human happiness. Happiness for man is self-sufficient , complete without qualification , peculiar to humans , excellent , and best and most complete . Many interpreters agree that in X 6–8 Aristotle uses these along with other criteria to disqualify the life of amusement and rank one happy life above another.
Aristotle's Account of the Virtue of Temperance in Nicomachean Ethics III. 1 o- 11 HOWARD J. CURZER 1. INTRODUCTION maNY ?ONTEMPOX~RY SOCIAL eROBL~S arise from inappropriate indulgence in food, drink, and/or sex. Temperance is the Aristotelian virtue which governs these three things, and Aristotle's account of temperance contains important insights and useful distinctions. Yet Aristotle's account of temperance has been surprisingly neglected, despite the resurgence of virtue ethics. I shall remedy this neglect by providing a passage- by-passage commentary on Aristotle's (...) account of temperance in Nicomachean Ethics III. lO-11. I shall describe the sphere of temperance and Aristotle's distinctions among the character traits of temperance, self-indulgence, insensi- bility, continence, incontinence, and brutishness. I shall also describe the pas- sions and parameters of temperance and argue that Aristotle's account of temperance is compatible with his doctrine of the mean. My interpretation includes several controversial claims. For example, I maintain that Aristote- lian temperance governs not only the enjoyment of certain tactile pleasures, but also the desire for these pleasures. Aristotle's account clashes with common sense and with his own architec- tonic at several points. For example, he maintains that a person is intemperate only if he or she goes wrong.. (shrink)
Sara T. Fry maintains that care is a central concept for nursing ethics. This requires, among other things, that care is a virtue rather than a mode of being. But if care is a central virtue of ethics and medical ethics then the claim that care is a central concept for nursing ethics is trivial. Otherwise, it is implausible.
After defining what I mean by “rituals,” I list some benefits claimed for rituals by Confucians, but then go on to develop utilitarian, existentialist, liberal, radical, and Confucian critiques of rituals. (The Confucian critiques are particularly poignant. Rituals can hinder, rather than forward the goals of the Confucian tradition.) The drawbacks of rituals are not merely historical accidents; they grow out of essential features of rituals and are ineliminable. Yet there is hope. Because the drawbacks appear when rituals decay, they (...) can be ameliorated by fostering the creation of new rituals as alternatives to the old ones. (shrink)
In I 7 Aristotle lays down criteria for what is to count as human happiness. Happiness for man is self-sufficient, complete without qualification, peculiar to humans, excellent, and best and most complete. Many interpreters agree that in X 6–8 Aristotle uses these along with other criteria to disqualify the life of amusement and rank one happy life above another.
In Reasons and Persons Parfit vacillates between two views of personal identity. Both views have unpalatable consequences. According to one view, the question, "Is person A the same as person C?" is always empty. According to the other view, this question is empty only some of the time. The first view is elegant, but it has consequences which are counterintuitive and incompatible with Parfit's later claims. The second view is commonsensical, but its only coherent version is vulnerable to an argument (...) made by Parfit, himself. (shrink)
The average net income of physicians in the USA is more than four times the average net income of people working in all domestic industries in the USA. When critics suggest that physicians make too much money, defenders typically appeal to the following four prominent principles of economic justice: Aristotle's Income Principle, the Free Market Principle, the Utilitarian Income Principle, and Rawls' Difference Principle. I shall show that no matter which of these four principles is assumed, the present high incomes (...) of physicians cannot be defended. (shrink)
Aristotle says that we learn which acts are virtuous, choose virtuous acts for their own sake, and acquire virtuous habits by performing virtuous acts. According to Burnyeat, Aristotle thinks this works successfully because virtuous acts are pleasant. The learner’s virtuous choices and passions are positively reinforced. I argue that Burnyeat’s interpretation fails because virtuous acts are not typically pleasant for learners or, perhaps surprisingly, even for virtuous people. Instead, I maintain that according to Aristotle moral progress is motivated by different (...) sorts of pain associated with vicious acts. I find a series of stages in Aristotle. First, the many come to choose virtuous acts for their own sake by internalizing punishment and becoming generous-minded. Second, motivated by shame, they gain knowledge of which acts are virtuous, becoming incontinent. Third, learners gain habits of virtuous action by regretting their vicious acts and thus become continent. Fourth, they gain habits of virtuous passions by regretting their vicious passions and become well-brought-up. Finally, they are fully virtuous by being taught why virtuous acts are virtuous. (shrink)
Bernard Williams quotes Charles Fried's description of an emergency situation in which a man (call him Joe) must choose between helping his wife and helping a stranger. Famously, Williams goes on to remark, -/- It might have been hoped by some (for instance, by his wife) that his motivating thought, fully spelled out, would be the thought that it was his wife, not that it was his wife and that in situations of this kind it is permissible to save one's (...) wife. -/- That is, Williams maintains that in this situation Joe should help his wife simply because of their loving relationship. His first thought should be to help her, and he should have no second thoughts. In particular, he should not even consider the question of whether helping his wife is morally permissible. A Permissibility Thought would be "one thought too many.". (shrink)
Xiahui. While Confucius’ actions are intermediate between the actions of these three sages, the sages’ character traits do not bracket Confucius’ character traits. Instead, the failings of the three sages are skew to each other. Boyi lacks righteousness; Y i Yin lacks benevolence; and L iu Xiahui lacks wisdom. The comparison of the sages centers on the question of when to resign an advisory position. According to Mencius, one should resign only if one’s advice will not be heeded, or if (...) declining to resign would somehow lead to wrongdoing. Associating with wrongdoers and benefiting from the wrongdoing of others might lead to wrongdoing. Wrong motives might distort one’s advice. Insults from the advisee might be evidence of the futility of giving advice. But in themselves, fastidiousness, non-benevolent motives, and mistreatment by the advisee are not legitimate reasons to resign. (shrink)