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Lecture 3

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Wilfrid Laurier University
Hugh R Alcock

 Psychological Egoism: o Some major claim that the right thing to do is ultimately determined by self-interest o Pursuing one's own happiness largely coincide with the happiness of other o My happiness depends on the cooperation of others and thereby taking their interests into account  Here the egoist could argue that in fact, nature drives us to think of ourselves first, but the world inhabited by others requires us to accept that others too have the same drive; hence ethics amounts to a compromise between one's own interests and those of others  Psychological egoism suggests a basis for the way we should behave  This view is discussed by Plato (in Republic, book II) where Socrates is presented with a defence of it by Glaucon and Adeimantus (Bailey, pg 24 - 31); there Glaucon presents the story of Gyge's ring…. o We do things out of self-interest (we do things out of our own happiness)  The notion that we are naturally inclined to be unethical is denied by Aristotle  Virtue Ethics: o Originally advanced by Aristotle (384 - 322 BC) o Tries to answer the question: "How can I be a good person?" o Virtue ethics pertains to the performer of the actions o Being a good (i.e. virtuous) person entails being disposed to do good things  A disposition is a tendency to act in a certain way rather than having to do so o Ex. I'm not disposed to drink coffee in the morning; that is to say I'm not bound to drink coffee in the morning. This action cannot be predicted with certainty  Another way to understand a virtuous person's disposition to do the right thing is terms of knowledge o Virtuous person doesn't so much know that they're doing the right thing, they know how to do the right thing  Knowing that concerns theoretical knowledge (Gr: episteme)  Knowing how concerns practical knowledge (Gr: phronesis)  Aristotle identifies ethical knowledge with "phronesis"  Knowing the right thing to do is like knowing what step to take in a dance  If being ethical requires being virtuous, we might reasonably ask: "how does a person become virtuous?"  For Aristotle, virtue (Gr: arete) is the state of being good for something (i.e. fulfilling a function well) o Ex. A virtuous knife is one that cuts well  Nihilism --> total rejection of established laws and institutions  A virtuous cat? o Being a good cat involves qualities that define the nature of cat-hood (i.e. good hunter, etc.)  According to Aristotle, for x to be virtuous is for x to have the capacity to fulfill its purpose o A virtuous (good) acorn is one that is disposed to fulfill its purpose, i.e. become an oak tree  Aristotle held that everything has a purpose  Consequently, everything, quite generally, happens in agreement with some end (tel
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