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Virtue based ethics

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libertygrl
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Posted 03/10/11 - 8:03 PM:
Subject: Virtue based ethics
Good? Bad? Ugly?

What are your thoughts?
libertygrl
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Posted 03/10/11 - 8:03 PM:

Actually, first: What are they?
Zenoplata
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Posted 03/10/11 - 8:17 PM:

Rather than citing individual actions as inherently good or bad, virtue ethics appeals to abstract concept to validate itself.

It's a nice alternative to consequentialism if you're forced to pick one, but I think the whole thing is phony.

1st. Only particular things exist. Abstract things do not exist independent of particular things, universals do not exist. There are no abstract entities upon which to draw validity.

2ndly. Even if there were, it still does not answer the question of why. Why choose to embody the concept of justice over the concept of laziness? In order to pick and choose which virtues to embody we would need to fall back on another argument.

As someone that does not believe in the validity of ethics, I find myself even more inclined to dismiss this one as it not only opposes those viewpoints but also opposes my position of physicalism/materialism/nominalism/whatever you'd like to label it.
libertygrl
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Posted 03/10/11 - 8:20 PM:

Does science exist?
Zenoplata
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Posted 03/10/11 - 8:22 PM:

A way I might describe virtue ethics would be to say, they don't necessarily say murder is wrong but how does that action affect a person's standings in regards to how just they are, proud, empathetic, etc.

I believe Aristotle made a claim such as, to be the best flute player one must strive for all of the qualities of a great flute player, so in order to be a great man one must strive for all of the qualities of the best man. And what traits does a good man possess? He is just, he is brave, he is proud etc. etc.

And I think Aristotle had some vices to go along with those virtues, in order to warn men of falling too far astray from each one. For instance, if one is too brave he is fool-hearty while if he is not brave enough he is cowardly.

Zenoplata
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Posted 03/10/11 - 8:23 PM:

libertygrl wrote:
Does science exist?


In what sense?

Does it exist independent of scientists, beakers, schools, textbooks, experiments, etc. etc.? No.
libertygrl
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Posted 03/10/11 - 8:28 PM:

In what sense does it exist?
Zenoplata
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Posted 03/10/11 - 8:31 PM:

Science is a word we use for communication. It is an attempt to describe a similarity in laboratories, schools and other institutions of academia which construct their experiments in a process which is referred to as the scientific method.

It exists only as vocabulary.
Thinker13
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Posted 03/11/11 - 1:52 AM:

There can be many definitions based on various subjects, whereas, objective definitions, like objective universes or objective reality, are most likely to be concepts, imaginary things. Science according to me is the name given to the organized knowledge on any particular subject and it involves theories, experimentations, inferences, which are, never absolute but always in a state of evolution and are subject to change.


What I want to know is: lib's intention behind asking about Science. If I may ask, what made your mind run towards science, from Ethics? smiling face
libertygrl
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Posted 03/11/11 - 2:26 AM:

Thinker wrote:
What I want to know is: lib's intention behind asking about Science. If I may ask, what made your mind run towards science, from Ethics? smiling face

just looking for parallels...

Z wrote:
It exists only as vocabulary.

it appears we have differing ideas on what it means to exist.

to support my own use of the word "exist", i will cite one of the definitions from merriam webster: to have being in a specified place or with respect to understood limitations or conditions.

science is a condition. justice is a condition. these are conditions which do actually exist. not only do they exist, but they exist consistently and can be reproduced using behaviors and methods which produce the desired condition. an example of a condition which does not actually exist (to our knowledge), is immortal human life. presumably you can see the distinction between conditions which do exist and conditions which don't. it's an important distinction to make.

by saying that things like science and justice don't really exist anywhere except in vocabulary, you are limiting your ability to distinguish those conditions that really don't exist from those that actually do. more importantly, you are limiting your ability to distinguish those conditions which are achievable from those which aren't.
Zenoplata
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Posted 03/11/11 - 9:26 AM:

"They" are not being produced consistently, actions which you interpret as having similar characteristics to other actions which you denote using the "condition" "justice" or "science" exist.

For purpose of everyday communication, yes it is important to talk abstractly and differentiate between items which we claim have certain conditions which do exist, and items which we claim have certain conditions which do not exist.

I'm not limiting anything, because I'm discussing the problem of universals, not trying to find directions to the mall or figuring out if Dracula really exists.

Again, I'm simply trying to talk about the existence of universal entities independent of particular objects.

But, particular objects which are said to possess the trait of being scientific do exist. Particular objects which are said to possess the trait of being immortal and also possessing the trait of being human are generally thought not to exist. This does nothing to validate the existence of any of those characters as independent entities.
libertygrl
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Posted 03/11/11 - 10:36 AM:

a condition needs matter in relation to which it exists. i do agree with that. the idea of a condition existing independently of matter is certainly nonsensical. it doesn't mean that conditions don't exist, or that they only exist "in vocabulary".

to me, what you're saying is, for example, "cancer doesn't really exist by itself, it needs an object in order to exist. it's not some free-floating thing that is independent from objects." to which i would say, "who thought otherwise?"

and if you made a leap from that to saying something like, "cancer doesn't exist anywhere. it only exists in vocabulary," i would say that you're wrong about that. likewise about science, and justice.
Zenoplata
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Posted 03/11/11 - 11:13 AM:

No abstract thing exists anywhere. Only particular, concrete, phhysical things exist. (not necessarily just matters of mass, but light particles, spatial and temporal dimensions, etc.)

What I'm getting at is that only particular things exist which we lump together using labels for communication. "Cancer" does not exist, cancerous cells which exhibit a similar behavior which we would communicate to each other as being cancerous exist.

If you're using cancer to say, all of those particular cells which exhibit this trait, then sure, I agree and understand the relevance of that to communication.

libertygrl
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Posted 03/11/11 - 12:16 PM:

a condition describes a pattern in behavior. the pattern exists.

or as you put it, "actions which you interpret as having similar characteristics to other actions which you denote using the "condition" "justice" or "science" exist."

note your own usage of the word "exist" in that sentence, and the subject to which it refers.
Monk2400
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Posted 03/11/11 - 1:50 PM:

A helpful article:

Vitue Ethics (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

"Since its revival in the twentieth century, virtue ethics has been developed in three main directions: Eudaimonism, agent-based theories, and the ethics of care.

"Eudaimonism bases virtues in human flourishing, where flourishing is equated with performing one’s distinctive function well. In the case of humans, Aristotle argued that our distinctive function is reasoning, and so the life “worth living” is one which we reason well.

"An agent-based theory emphasizes that virtues are determined by common-sense intuitions that we as observers judge to be admirable traits in other people.

"The third branch of virtue ethics, the ethics of care, was proposed predominately by feminist thinkers. It challenges the idea that ethics should focus solely on justice and autonomy; it argues that more feminine traits, such as caring and nurturing, should also be considered."


I find it interesting that a common complaint against virtue ethics is that it seems 'self-centered'. This, I think, betrays a misunderstanding of what virtue ethics are about. But one can imagine how a virtue ethicist might become highly selfish--if they pursue their 'virtue' to the exclusion of all else, whether or not it causes harm to others. We might see this sort of thing happening in societies where a great deal of value is placed on honour.

8)
libertygrl
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Posted 03/11/11 - 1:56 PM:

Monk wrote:
But one can imagine how a virtue ethicist might become highly selfish--if they pursue their 'virtue' to the exclusion of all else, whether or not it causes harm to others. We might see this sort of thing happening in societies where a great deal of value is placed on honour.

ah yes, that makes sense. thanks for breaking it down to something i can more readily grasp. i can see how someone would come back with the argument "but honor doesn't even exist!" i would say that it does, though. i would suggest that attempts to prove otherwise can only hope to diminish its value to an individual. however, what it describes as a pattern of behavior is nonetheless valid.
Monk2400
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Posted 03/11/11 - 2:05 PM:

I never cared much for virtue ethics and I don't have a single book on it in my library, lol. However, the concept of virtue is an important part of morality.

We look at the traditional 10 commandments as negatives, instructions not to do this or that. But one need only ask why would any moral authority demand agents not to do certain things to find a way towards a different view--that the commandments are meant to be used to cultivate a certain type of person. In short, to produce a man of certain virtue.

Indeed, I always made the distinction in my moral philosophising between personal ethics and social ethics. Both follow the same structure viz. value creation, but their scope is quite different.

The scope of personal ethics is the character of the individual ('me)'. It focusses on how to act so as to become a certain type of person. What that type is depends on the person--it could be a 'good' person or it could be a 'ruthless' person (that's the relativity of morals/values at play). The personal ethics defines the lines over which we dare not step. 'I may go along with a lot, but I won't do that! It'd betray my innermost values!' The personal ethic is usually the trump to social ethics, because a person must live with themselves first and foremost and reconcile their own decisions.

The scope of social ethics is the interaction between moral agents. This is really the sphere of politics. It defines what is expected or required of people in the context of society. The range may be limited to kith and kin or extend to all sentient beings in the whole universe. Each degree within this reflects a different version of social ethics, even, some would say, different stages in the development of social ethics.

Even in social ethics, however, we can take a virtue view and plan our ethics according to what kind of society we want to be. In fact, this type of thinking is very useful in social debates by pointing out the ultimate consequences of social policies. 'If we want to be a nation of free-men we cannot let the government tell us what to do in our own homes!' etc.

In either case the form of the ethic follows the ultimate values that define the system. For a person it might be 'kindness'; for a society it might be 'liberty'. To the degree that these values are virtues, then all moral systems are virtue systems. In the practical and necessary relationships that these values create between possible actions, these systems become consequential.

8)

Zenoplata
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Posted 03/11/11 - 2:10 PM:

libertygrl wrote:
a condition describes a pattern in behavior. the pattern exists.

or as you put it, "actions which you interpret as having similar characteristics to other actions which you denote using the "condition" "justice" or "science" exist."

note your own usage of the word "exist" in that sentence, and the subject to which it refers.


You're just dancing around rhetoric. If you want to define any sort of particular thing as justice, or science, go ahead.

Nothing exists besides particular objects, if you want to call them justice, science or dilly-do-skadoodle, I don't care.

For the purpose of debating virtue ethics, universals do not exist. If you want to pretend justice is not a universal, go ahead, doesn't really matter because it's still descriptive, not prescriptive.
Monk2400
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Posted 03/11/11 - 2:15 PM:

There's existence and existence. We might end all discussion by saying 'nothing really exists except empty space' or 'nothing exists except energy', meaning that all the various forms real or imagined are equally illusory or insubstantial.

"Particular, concrete, physical things" don't really exist. All particles reduce to forces and forces aren't even understood. Moreover, it is impossible to have any knowledge of the existence of external things. We know nothing of the falling tree in the empty forest and we know nothing of the electron in Alpha Centari. Nor can we prove these 'exist' anywhere except as ideas in our mind.

As such, only ideas really exist for conscious agents. And in that sphere they are all equal. We can split hairs and say, 'well there's ideas and ideas; I have ideas about purple monsters and ideas about rocks and trees and these refer to different classes of things.' And so they are. The former are always inaccessible to 'others' while in the latter we might find some intersubjective agreement. That is the only real difference.

In that sense, ideas like 'honour' and 'justice' are more real than many rocks and trees because they have a high degree of social agreement, because they are defined by the acts and values of societies. People agree when someone says 'it was his just deserts' just as if you said 'there's a tree over there'.

The point is that a thing doesn't need to be a 'thing' to have existence. And many things that are only 'ideas' have more reality to them than ideas that refer to 'things'.

8)
libertygrl
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Posted 03/11/11 - 2:16 PM:

Zenoplata wrote:
You're just dancing around rhetoric.

you're the one saying actions exist, and then turning around and saying they don't. seems rather inconsistent.

Z wrote:
If you want to define any sort of particular thing as justice, or science, go ahead.

indeed, i have, and will continue to do so.

Z wrote:
For the purpose of debating virtue ethics, universals do not exist. If you want to pretend justice is not a universal, go ahead, doesn't really matter because it's still descriptive, not prescriptive.

justice can be both descriptive and prescriptive, in the sense that it is possible to strive toward a condition of justice.
libertygrl
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Posted 03/11/11 - 2:17 PM:

Monk wrote:
The point is that a thing doesn't need to be a 'thing' to have existence.

agreed
Zenoplata
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Posted 03/11/11 - 2:21 PM:

Yes, we can reduce all physical matter to energy.

Words do not do justice to describe a particular things actuality.

A particular concrete thing is a state of energy, it exists but can be reduced. "Justice" is not a state of energy.

As far as what we know at any given moment and what actually is, are two different matters. We could reduce this debate down to one over solipsism, I suppose.

And no, I do not think society agrees that the concept of "just desserts" is as clear as the concept of "tree."

I do not agree with your last couple points whatsoever.
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Posted 03/11/11 - 2:27 PM:

libertygrl wrote:

you're the one saying actions exist, and then turning around and saying they don't. seems rather inconsistent.


indeed, i have, and will continue to do so.


justice can be both descriptive and prescriptive, in the sense that it is possible to strive toward a condition of justice.


I made it very clear that temporal reality exists.

If we want to get into whether an action exists or not, and how to define an action, and whether it is different than a particular concrete thing, this is a matter for another discussion.

An action is not a universal.

You're the one that seems to think universals are particular objects. Seems rather inconsistent.
Zenoplata
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Posted 03/11/11 - 2:28 PM:

It is possible we can strive towards a condition of justice.

Still descriptive, my dear.
libertygrl
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Posted 03/11/11 - 2:34 PM:

Z wrote:
Only particular, concrete, phhysical things exist.

Z wrote:
I made it very clear that temporal reality exists.

and what is temporal reality, by your definition? some particular, concrete, physical thing?

Z wrote:
You're the one that seems to think universals are particular objects.

i never said anything of the sort, nor did i think it.

Z wrote:
It is possible we can strive towards a condition of justice.

Still descriptive, my dear.

and what is prescriptive, by your definition?
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