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Virtues and Vices

Chapter 7.1 ETCI Barbara MacKinnon Ethics and Contemporary Issues Professor Douglas Olena Philippa Foot (2002)

Thesis One
113 [I]t seems that virtues are, in some general way, benecial. Human beings do not get on well without them. Nobody can get on well if he lacks courage, and does not have some measure of temperance and wisdom.

Thesis One: example


113 Communities where justice and charity are lacking are likely to be wretched places to live, as Russia under the Stalinist terror or Sicily under the Maa.

The Benet Goes to:

113 Does the benet of the virtue go to the person with the virtue or to the people who are affected by that person?

The Benet Goes to:


113 In the case of some of the virtues the answer seems clear. Courage, temperance and wisdom benet both the man who has these dispositions and the other people as well.

The Benet Goes to:


113 In the cases of justice and charity, the answer is not so clear. It seems as if the charitable person benets the other more than himself. It may even be that the charitable person loses in the performance of the virtue.

The Benet Goes to:


113, 114 Virtues are in general benecial characteristics, and indeed ones that a human being needs to have, for his own sake and that of his fellows.

Virtue is in the Will


114 Foot explains that excellences of the mind and body are not what we call virtuous. It is the will that is good in a man of virtue. What does this mean?

Virtue is in the Will


114 It is primarily by his intentions that a mans moral dispositions are judged. In many cases, however, it is not merely intention but performance that is judged. Virtue may require not only performance but attitude.

Wisdom: the Virtue


114 Wisdom, as I see it, has two parts. In the rst place the wise man knows the means to certain good ends; and secondly he knows how much particular ends are worth.

Wisdom
115 Wisdom is not cleverness, but rather is related only to good ends and to human life in general. Wisdom is available to any person, not just those with special training or innate cleverness.

Wisdom
115 For the rst part of wisdom, the man who is wise does not merely know how to do good things but must also want to do them. The second part of wisdom, having to do with values, is much harder to describe.

Wisdom
115 What we can see is that one of the things a wise man knows and a foolish man does not is that such things as social position, and wealth, and the good opinion of the world, are too dearly bought at the cost of health or friendship or family ties.

Wisdom
115 So we may say that a man who lacks wisdom has false values, and that vices such as vanity and worldliness and avarice are contrary to wisdom in a special way.

Wisdom
115 Wisdom in this second part is, therefore, partly to be described in terms of apprehension, and even judgment, but since it has to do with a mans attachments it also characterizes his will.

Virtue

116 Virtue is not, like a skill or an art, a mere capacity: it must actually engage the will.

II. Virtues as Correctives


116 Virtues are corrective, each one standing at a point at which there is some temptation to be good. resisted or deciency of motivation to be made It is only because fear and the desire for

pleasure often operate as temptations that

courage and temperance exist as virtues at all.

II. Virtues as Correctives


116 If human nature had been different there would have been no need for a corrective disposition in either place, as fear and pleasure would have been good guides to conduct throughout life.

II. Virtues as Correctives


116 Virtues are categorized as correctives to associated vices by Aquinas. industriousness as against idleness humility as against the temptation of pride hope because despair is a temptation

II. Virtues as Correctives


117 Justice and charity are set over against a deciency in human character. If we would love others as ourselves, we would need no virtue of benecence. If we would treat our neighbors fairly, we would need no virtue of justice.

II. Virtues as Correctives


117 On this view of the virtues and vices everything is seen to depend on what human nature is like. The virtues can be seen as correctives in relation to human nature in general but not that each virtue must present a difculty to each and every man.

II. Virtues as Correctives

It is at this point that we can see how the concept of natural law and natural rights plays into our discussion of virtue.

II. Virtues as Correctives


118 There is a question posed by Foot. Does the difculty in carrying out the virtuous act ad moral worth to the act itself?

She responds by citing Kants philanthropist who though distracted from the purpose of doing charity, nonetheless does it out of duty. This to Foot increases the moral worth of the act.

III. Virtues and Vice


119 Can virtue serve the cause of villainy? Aquinas says no. Virtues can produce only of which no one can make bad use. good actions, and that they are dispositions

III. Virtues and Vice


119 Can virtue serve the cause of villainy? The current opinion is mostly afrmative. Outside the unpalatable villain who is an injustice for a friend remains. courageous in crime, the question of doing

III. Virtues and Vice


120 It does not follow that if one were courageous. courageous in a criminal act that the act itself is We are inclined to say that it took courage,

and yet it seems wrong to think of courage as

equally connected with good action and bad.

III. Virtues and Vice


120 One way out of this difculty might be to say that the man who is ready to pursue bad ends does indeed have courage, and shows not a virtue.

courage in his action, but that in him courage is

III. Virtues and Vice


120 The same can be said of someone who is over-industrious or too ready to refuse pleasure. virtues.

In him industriousness and moderation are not

III. Virtues and Vice


121 For while wisdom always operates as a virtue, its close relation prudence does not, life. and it is prudence that inspires many a careful It is this that Kant warned about when he said that these gifts of nature may also become to make use of them is not good. (76) extremely bad and mischievous if the will that is