File Name: moral thinkers and philosophers .zip
Questions about moral character have recently come to occupy a central place in philosophical discussion. Part of the explanation for this development can be traced to the publication in of G. To do ethics properly, Anscombe argued, one must start with what it is for a human being to flourish or live well. That meant returning to some questions that mattered deeply to the ancient Greek moralists.
Questions about moral character have recently come to occupy a central place in philosophical discussion. Part of the explanation for this development can be traced to the publication in of G. To do ethics properly, Anscombe argued, one must start with what it is for a human being to flourish or live well. That meant returning to some questions that mattered deeply to the ancient Greek moralists. Answers to these ancient questions emerge today in various areas of philosophy, including ethics especially virtue ethics , feminist ethics, political philosophy, philosophy of education, and philosophy of literature.
Especially in Part III of A Theory of Justice , Rawls provided a picture of how individuals might be brought up in a just state to develop the virtues expected of good citizens. Although his interest was not in moral education per se, his discussion of how individuals acquire a sense of justice and of how they develop what he called self-respect stimulated other philosophers to explore the psychological foundations of virtue and the contributions made by friendship, family, community, and meaningful work to good moral character.
This entry provides a brief historical account of some important developments in philosophical approaches to good moral character. The latter half of the entry explores how other philosophers have responded to the concerns first raised by the Greeks. Green take an interest in the psychology of moral character that is more reminiscent of the Greeks.
Finally, this entry indicates the directions taken by some contemporary philosophers in recent work on or related to moral character. At the beginning of Book II of the Nicomachean Ethics , Aristotle tells us that there are two different kinds of human excellences, excellences of thought and excellences of character. When we speak of a moral virtue or an excellence of character, the emphasis is not on mere distinctiveness or individuality, but on the combination of qualities that make an individual the sort of ethically admirable person he is.
If someone lacks virtue, she may have any of several moral vices, or she may be characterized by a condition somewhere in between virtue and vice, such as continence or incontinence. The views of moral character held by Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics are the starting point for most other philosophical discussions of character.
Although these ancient moralists differed on some issues about virtue, it makes sense to begin with some points of similarity. These points of similarity will show why the Greek moralists thought it was important to discuss character.
They often begin by having Socrates ask his interlocutors to explain what a particular virtue is. In reply, the interlocutors usually offer behavioral accounts of the virtues. In the Charmides , Charmides suggests that temperance consists in acting quietly. In the Republic , Cephalus suggests that justice consists in giving back what one has borrowed. In each of these cases, Plato has Socrates reply in the same way. In the Republic Socrates explains that giving back what one has borrowed cannot be what justice is, for there are cases where giving back what one has borrowed would be foolish, and the just person recognizes that it is foolish.
If the person from whom you have borrowed a sword goes mad, it would be foolish for you to return the sword, for you are then putting yourself and others in danger. The implication is that the just person can recognize when it is reasonable to return what he has borrowed.
Similarly, as Socrates explains in the Laches , standing firm in battle cannot be courage, for sometimes standing firm in battle is simply a foolish endurance that puts oneself and others at needless risk. The trouble one encounters in trying to give a purely behavioral account of virtue explains why the Greek moralists turn to character to explain what virtue is.
It may be true that most of us can recognize that it would be foolish to risk our lives and the lives of others to secure a trivial benefit, and that most of us can see that it is unjust to harm others to secure power and wealth for our own comfort.
But the Greek moralists think it takes someone of good moral character to determine with regularity and reliability what actions are appropriate and reasonable in fearful situations and that it takes someone of good moral character to determine with regularity and reliability how and when to secure goods and resources for himself and others. Living well or happiness is our ultimate end in that a conception of happiness serves to organize our various subordinate ends, by indicating the relative importance of our ends and by indicating how they should fit together into some rational overall scheme.
When we are living well, our life is worthy of imitation and praise. For, according to the Greek moralists, that we are happy says something about us and about what we have achieved, not simply about the fortunate circumstances in which we find ourselves. Whatever happiness is, it must take account of the fact that a happy life is one lived by rational agents who act and who are not simply victims of their circumstances.
The Greek moralists conclude that a happy life must give a prominent place to the exercise of virtue, for virtuous traits of character are stable and enduring and are not products of fortune, but of learning or cultivation.
Moreover, virtuous traits of character are excellences of the human being in that they are the best exercise of reason, which is the activity characteristic of human beings. In this way, the Greek philosophers claim, virtuous activity completes or perfects human life. Although the Greek philosophers agree that happiness requires virtue and hence that a happy person must have virtuous traits of character such as wisdom, bravery, temperance, and justice, they disagree about how to understand these traits.
As explained in Section 2. Bravery requires more than standing up against threats to oneself and others. This led the Greek moralists to conclude that virtuous traits of character have two aspects: a a behavioral aspect — doing particular kinds of action and b a psychological aspect — having the right motives, aims, concerns, and perspective.
The Greek philosophers disagree mostly about what b involves. In particular, they differ about the role played in virtuous traits of character by cognitive states e. Socrates and the Stoics argued that only cognitive states were necessary for virtue, whereas Plato and Aristotle argued that both cognitive and affective states were necessary. On this view later revived by Epicurus, — BCE , having a virtuous character is purely a matter of being knowledgeable of what brings us more pleasure rather than less.
In the Protagoras , Socrates recognizes that most people object to this view. Someone may be overcome by anger, fear, lust, and other desires, and act against what he believes will bring him more pleasure rather than less. He can, in other words, be incontinent or weak-willed. Socrates replies that such cases should be understood differently. When, for example, a cowardly person flees from battle rather than endanger his life, even though he may seem to be pursuing the more pleasant action, he is really just ignorant of the greater pleasure to be achieved by entering battle and acting bravely.
In other words, incontinence is not possible, according to Socrates. Both Plato and Aristotle argue that virtuous character requires a distinctive combination of cognitive and affective elements. In the Republic , Plato divides the soul into three parts and gives to each a different kind of desire rational, appetitive, or spirited.
As types of non-rational desire, appetitive and spirited desires can conflict with our rational desires about what contributes to our overall good, and they will sometimes move us to act in ways we recognize to be against our greater good.
When that happens, we are incontinent. To be virtuous, then, we must both understand what contributes to our overall good and have our spirited and appetitive desires educated properly, so that they agree with the guidance provided by the rational part of the soul. A potentially virtuous person learns when young to love and take pleasure in virtuous actions, but must wait until late in life to develop the understanding that explains why what he loves is good.
Once he has learned what the good is, his informed love of the good explains why he acts as he does and why his actions are virtuous. Of all the Greek moralists, Aristotle provides the most psychologically insightful account of virtuous character. By calling excellence of character a state, Aristotle means that it is neither a feeling nor a capacity nor a mere tendency to behave in specific ways. Rather it is the settled condition we are in when we are well off in relation to feelings and actions.
We are well off in relation to our feelings and actions when we are in a mean or intermediate state in regard to them. If, on the other hand, we have a vicious character, we are badly off in relation to feelings and actions, and we fail to hit the mean in regard to them.
So it is not easy to hit the mean. Aristotle emphasizes that the mean state is not an arithmetic mean, but one relative to the situation. The different particular virtues provide illustrations of what Aristotle means. Each virtue is set over or concerned with specific feelings or actions. The virtue of mildness or good temper, for example, is concerned with anger. Aristotle thinks that a mild person ought to be angry about some things e.
It would also be inappropriate to take offense and get angry if there is nothing worth getting angry about. That response would indicate the morally excessive character of the irascible person. Sometimes intense anger is appropriate; at other times calm detachment is. Aristotle seems to think that, at bottom, any non-virtuous person is plagued by inner doubt or conflict, even if on the surface she appears to be as psychologically unified as virtuous people.
Aristotle seems to have this point in mind when he says of vicious people in Nicomachean Ethics IX. Virtuous persons, on the other hand, enjoy who they are and take pleasure in acting virtuously. Like the morally vicious person, the continent and incontinent persons are internally conflicted, but they are more aware of their inner turmoil than the morally vicious person. Continence is essentially a kind of self-mastery: the continent person recognizes what she should do and does it, but to do so she must struggle against the pull of recalcitrant feelings.
The incontinent person also in some way knows what she should do, but she fails to do it because of recalcitrant feelings. Recall that Socrates had explained apparently incontinent behavior as the result of ignorance of what leads to the good.
Since, he thought, everyone desires the good and aims at it in his actions, no one would intentionally choose a course of action believed to yield less good overall. Because Aristotle thinks that virtue is a unified, unconflicted state where emotional responses and rational assessments speak with the same voice, he, like Plato, thinks that the education of our emotional responses is crucial for the development of virtuous character.
If our emotional responses are educated properly, we will learn to take pleasure or pain in the right things. Virtue is the state that makes a human being good and makes him perform his function well Nicomachean Ethics a15— His function his ergon or characteristic activity is rational activity, so when we exercise our fully developed rational powers well, when we realize our nature as rational beings, we are good virtuous human beings and live well we are happy Nicomachean Ethics , I.
According to Aristotle, human beings can reason in ways that non-human animals cannot. They can deliberate about what to do, about what kind of lives to live, about what sort of persons to be. They can look for reasons to act or live one way rather than another.
In other words, they can engage in practical reasoning. They can also think about the nature of the world and why it seems to behave as it does. They can consider scientific and metaphysical truths about the universe. There is no agreement among scholars as to whether, and how, these types of reasoning can be distinguished. How do one realize these powers fully? Not by becoming adept at every kind of activity in which deliberating and judging on the basis of reason is called for.
For then one would have to master every kind of cultural, scientific, and philosophical activity. When that happens, his exercise of these abilities is a continuing source of self-esteem and enjoyment.
He comes to like his life and himself and is now a genuine self-lover Nicomachean Ethics b28—a3. In Nicomachean Ethics IX. People with reproachable self-love want most to have the biggest share of money, honors, and bodily pleasures cf.
Nicomachean Ethics I. Because one person cannot have a big share without denying these goods to others, these are the goods that are contested and fought over.
Abundant of ancient Greek moral theories are concerned with the good life for human beings, or, in a word, happiness. Ethical thinking is vital part of human history. It can be religious or theoretical or geared toward practical application. Ethical thinkers can be grouped into ancient thinker, moral thinkers from modern world and moral thinkers of India from ancient to present day Santosh Ajmera, Nanda Kishore Reddy, In developing moral standards in their moral theories, the ancient philosophers were depended on several important concepts. These include the virtues, happiness eudaimonia , and the soul. Philosophers claimed that virtue is a good of the soul.
While moral theory does not invent morality, or even reflection on it, it does try to bring systematic thinking to bear on these activities. Ancient moral theory, however, does not attempt to be a comprehensive account of all the phenomena that fall under the heading of morality.
Youtube Link: youtube. Socrates, Aristotle, Plato. Moral Heroism. Socrates is regarded as the founder of Moral Philosophy. He founded the method of trying to reach truth by persistent questioning.
Philosophy is complicated stuff. But what follows is your introduction, a rapid-fire look at 20 Major Philosophers, their Big Ideas, and their most important written works. But think fast, because these mindblowers come at a furious pace. Thomas Aquinas was a 13th century Dominican friar, theologian and Doctor of the Church, born in what is known today as the Lazio region of Italy. His most important contribution to Western thought is the concept of natural theology sometimes referred to as Thomism in tribute to his influence.
Abundant of ancient Greek moral theories are concerned with the good life for human beings, or, in a word, happiness.
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