Montgomery Community College Virtue and Ethics Questions

  • What two virtues of Aristotle do you think our most important for living in society today?
  • How does one become virtuous?
  • In the powerpoint there is a list of Aristotle’s Virtues, what else would you include for living in today’s world?
  • Please explain the ethics of care.
  • How does one recognize when she is not being virtuous ?
  • A Non-Relative Virtues:
    An Aristotelian Approach
    Martha Nussbaum
    Aristotelian Ethics…
    • “… ethics is not an exact science,
    any more than are medicine and
    the art of navigation; and
    consequently the rules of conduct
    that it lays down are only of general
    validity, and their application must
    vary with the circumstances of the
    particular occasion, and be
    modified by the discretion of the
    Nicomachean Ethics, Book 1, Chapter 2
    Aristotle: A defender of moral Virtues
    • “Aristotle’s Ethics combine rigor and
    concreteness, theoretical power with
    sensitivity to actual circumstances of
    human life and choice, in the multiplicity
    of variety and mutability.”
    • Is virtue-based ethics a return to
    • “… all [traditions] connect virtue ethics with a
    relativistic denial that ethics, correctly understood,
    offers any trans-cultural norms justifiable with
    reference to reasons of universal human validity,
    with reference to which we may appropriately
    criticize different local conception of the good.”
    • “If the position of women, as established by local
    traditions in many parts of the world, is to be
    improved, if traditions of slave holding racial
    inequality, if religious intolerance, if aggressive
    and warlike conceptions of manliness, if unequal
    norms of material distribution are to be criticized in
    the name of practical reason, this criticizing will
    have to be done from a Kantian or utilitarian
    viewpoint, not through the Aristotelian approach.”
    Nussbaum, page 440
    Aristotle according to Nussbaum…
    • Aristotle was a defender of an ethical theory based
    on the virtues, but also a defender or a single
    objective account of the human good, or human
    • Aristotle’s objectivism is derived from features of
    humanness that lie beneath all local traditions and
    are recognized in local traditions.
    • Aristotle believes that there is no incompatibility
    between basing an ethical theory on the virtues
    and defending the singleness and objectivity of the
    human good (happiness).
    For Nussbaum, Aristotle have two major
    arguments for a non-relative concept of virtue:
    • Aristotle’s specifications of virtues is a
    criticism of some common Greeks
    conceptions of the local and traditional
    • Aristotle defended an objective theory of
    the virtues by identifying spheres of
    human experience- these spheres are
    common to all human beings.
    Aristotle’s Virtues:
    • Aristotle is simply describing
    • Examples of
    what is admirable in his own
    – fear or important
    • Some of his virtues and vices
    are nameless, what implies
    – Bodily appetites.
    that he is studying virtues and
    – Management of
    vices are not only prominent
    one’s property.
    in his tradition.
    – Social Association.
    • In each of his description of a
    – Intellectual life.
    vice/virtue he isolates a
    sphere of any human
    For Nussbaum Aristotle is a
    defender of an ethical theory
    based on a SINGLE
    Human Flourishing – Happiness
    • Nussbaum presents five basic arguments:
    1. There is one single objective good – human
    flourishing – happiness.
    2. In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle isolates a
    sphere of human experience- common to all human
    3. Aristotle asks, What is to choose and respond well
    within that sphere?
    4. Aristotle, characterized each sphere as universal
    experience and choice.
    5. No matter where one lives, one cannot escape these
    questions/spheres, so long as one is living a human
    Aristotle account for Ethics:
    • We began with some experiences-individual as well
    communal- broadly constructed.
    • Experiences fix the reference of the corresponding virtue
    word-experiences informs us of harm, deprivation,
    inequality.Only human beings, develop concepts
    • The reference of the virtue terms is fixed by spheres of
    choice, frequently connected with our finitude and limitation,
    that we encounter in virtue of shared conditions of human
    • Understanding and assessing the circumstances of the
    problems of human experience, we can then provide
    responses to those problems.
    • To hold tradition fixed is to prevent ethical progress- systems
    of laws that progress beyond the past.
    Aristotelian approach to the spheres of
    human experience:
    • “ An initial demarcation of the sphere of
    choice, of the grounding experiences.”
    • “The ensuing more concrete inquiry into what
    appropriate choice in that sphere is.”
    These approach creates the framework for the
    development of an
    objective human morality based on the idea of
    The Spheres of Human Existence
    • THE BODY
    • HUMOR

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