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PHIL215 Lecture Notes - Virtue Ethics, Hard Wired, Vagueness

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Brian Orend

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C) But What Does it Mean to Behave Ethically?
My own strategy is to look up the Top Five Ethical Models and be
guided by them:
Virtue Ethics what would a virtuous person do?
(oldest, originated in Ancient Greece, prominent religious traditions
have a prominent virtue ethics component to them)
Character, not action, focused
o From action to character (a person who lies is deemed
as a “liar)
o Makes stronger and sweeping claims about someone’s
Development of good character over time
o “A virtuous character” over your lifetime
Pursuit of ethical excellence, be the best you can be
o Virtue (excellence of character, strength of character)
KEY FIGURE: Aristotle EUDAIMONIA (ethical excellence)
“Happiness/Flourishing Excellence”
o Flourishing, “best kind”, of human life has 3 parts:
o 1) Pleasure humans are hard wired for individuals to
pursue pleasure
However, we can train ourselves to pursue
different kinds of pleasure
What changes, and is plastic, is what gives
individuals pleasures
Train yourself to get pleasure out of morally good
If you get pleasure out of lying to someone’s face,
that is a defective character
o Birth to P/A “Moral Luck” – out of our control. We
don’t choose what society we are born into. Social
institutions are there to tell us what is right or wrong,
rewarding us for good behaviour. Parents taught us well
o After that is “Personal Control”
2) Internal Goods the virtues
o Traits of character
o Not natural, development overtime
“Correct natural deficiencies”
he thinks that a lot of people are naturally
inclined to be lazy
(being hardworking corrects this
natural deficiency)
he thinks that most of us are liars and are
naturally disposed to lies (a lot of
psychological evidence that most people lie
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to give them some sort of pleasure under
(being honest corrects this natural
he thinks that most people are cowards as
(courage corrects this natural
o Require constant practice & exercise
Virutes are like muslces, you have to constantly
use them
If you are not using your virtues, you are not a
virtuous person
o Benefit self & others
3) External Goods
o born into a good society
o born to good parents
o need a certain level of health and wealth
health (if you are extremely sick, you’re going to
be collapsed in on yourself and your problems and
struggles and you’re going to lack the spirit to be
morally involved with other people)
wealth (unless you are somewhat wealthy, you wil
not be morally good. If you are so poor and you
keep thinking about where your next meal is
going to come from, you will lack the experience
of being a morally giving person you need
friends & beauty
o ancient greeks had a firm belief that being physically
attractive shows a lot of your character (weak point)
o having good friends is important to be better people
who you normally are, is how you habitually
ex. Anyone can be nice in a situation by holding
the door for someone else. Doesn’t work if you do
small good deeds
you socially spend more time with your friends,
therefore how you treat your friends show how
you are morally
if you lie and are manipulative, you are not
friends offer you continual moral practice
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