You are on page 1of 6

Nature of the Virtues There is no unity of conception of a Virtue.

Homer, Sophocles, Aristotle, New Testament and medieval thinkers differ from each other in many ways. List of virtue is different and can differ much more if we include Japanese or, say, Indian culture. Key features of virtue in old authors and comparison to B. Franklin and Jane Austen 1. Homer- aretai Physical strength is an example for virtue not considered now as such. But even translating aretai as virtue we distort the Homeric notion. Relationship of virtue to the social order has also changed. For Homer the model of human excellence is the warrior; as for Aristotle it is the gentleman. 2. New Testament faith, hope and love / nothing of phronesis Each of these virtues is unknown to Aristotle. New Testament sees the rich as destined for the Hell, so key virtues are unavailable to them, yet they are available to slaves. 3. Jane Austen- constancy ~ phronesis(similar to), because is a prerequisite for the possession of other virtues. Aristotle treats as the virtue of agreeableness; she treats as only the simulacrum of genuine virtue 4. B. Franklin cleanliness, silence and industry.

So what grounds have we for supposing that there is any shared concept at all?
Virtue is a quality which enables someone to do exactly what their social role requires.(Homer) Primary role is of warrior king, so key virtues are those which enable a man to surpass in combat and in the games. / On Aristotles version matters are different. Even though some virtues are available only to certain types of people, nonetheless virtues attach not to men as inhabiting social roles, but to man as such. The telos of man as species which determines what human qualities are virtues. Distinction between internal and external means is not drawn by Aristotle, but is essential. Both Aristotles notion and Christian notion are oriented to telos (end, goal of things)
Jane Austen synthesizes(blends, fuses) Christian notion with Homers. Franklins version like Aristotles is teleological; unlike Aristotles, he is utilitarian.

The end to which the cultivation of the virtues ministers is happiness, but happiness understood as success, prosperity in Philadelphia and ultimately in heaven. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e. waste nothing, Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself It is a striking feature of all moral accounts considered above that all of them implicitly make a claim for universal allegiance: 1. Homer: for Odysseus the Cyclopes stand criticized because they lack agriculture, an agora and themis. 2. Aristotle: the barbarians stand condemned because they lack the polis and are therefore incapable of politics. 3. New Testament Christians: there is no salvation outside the apostolic church. 4. Franklin: the virtues are more at home in Philadelphia than in Paris. 5. Austen: the touchstone of the virtues is a certain kind of marriage and indeed a certain kind of [English] naval officer. Virtues are not only exercised in the course of practices Practice means here any coherent and complex form of socially established cooperative human

activity through which goods internal to that form of activity are realized in the course of trying to achieve those standards of excellence which are appropriate to and partially definitive of, that form of activity, with the result that human powers to achieve excellence and human conceptions of the ends and goods involved are systematically extended. In the ancient and medieval worlds the creation and sustaining of human communities households, cities, nations are practices in this sense. Thus range of practices is wide: arts, sciences, games, politics in the Aristotelian sense, making and sustaining of family life. Internal and external goods are achieved by practice.

The definition of a virtue follows directly from the definition of a practice. A virtue, according to MacIntyre, is: ... an acquired human quality the possession and exercise of which tends to enable us to achieve those goods which are internal to practices and the lack of which effectively prevents us from achieving any such goods (AV, 191).

It is not difficult to show that without them the goods internal to practices are banned to us, banned in particular way. Goods can only be achieved by subordinating ourselves to practice in our relationship to others. Practices never have a goal or goals fixed for all time While every practice requires the exercise of technical skills it is never just a set of technical skills. Practices never have a goal or goals fixed for all time painting has no such goal nor physics Rather, the value placed on internal goods, together with the exercise of technical skills, serves to transform and enrich goals. So each practice has its history which far transcends a mere improvement in technical skills. The power of the liberal individualist standpoint partly derives from the evident fact that the modern state is indeed totally unfitted to act as moral educator According to Macintyre if relationship of virtues to practices and to institutions is correct we shall be unable to write a true history of practices and institutions unless that history is also one of virtues and vices History of practices and institutions ~= history of virtues and vices For the ability of a practice to retain its integrity will depend on the way in which the virtues can be and are exercised in sustaining the institutional forms which are the social bearers of the practice. The integrity of a practice causally requires the exercise of the virtues by at least some of the individuals who embody it in their activities; and conversely the corruption of institutions is always in part at least an effect of the vices. "The virtues are of course themselves in turn fostered by certain types of social institution and endangered by others." For T. Jefferson virtues can exists only in a society of small farmers. For Adam Ferguson modern commercial society is endangering traditional virtues But sociology lays bare empirical, causal connection between virtues, practices and institutions. In a society which recognized only external goods competitiveness would be dominant and even exclusive feature. Hobbess state of nature is an example. There are examples in Professor Turnbull report which confirms Hobbess and Macintyres. Virtues then stand in a different relationship to external and to internal goods. The possession of the virtues-and not only of their semblance and simulacra-is necessary to achieve the latter; yet the possession of the virtues yet the possession of virtues may

perfectly hinder us in achieving external goods. But external goods are genuinely goods. No one can despise them without hypocrisy. For this reason the virtues might erode while the simulacra abound MacIntyres account is Aristotelian in three respects: 1. It requires a cogent elaboration of the same distinctions and concepts involved in Aristotles account, namely voluntariness, the distinction between the intellectual virtues and the virtues of character, the relationship of both to natural abilities and to the passions and the structure of practical reasoning. 2. It accommodates an Aristotelian view of pleasure and enjoyment, while being incompatible with any version of utilitarianism and especially with Franklins account of the virtues. With respect to internal goods, the Aristotelian view is that the enjoyment of the activity and the enjoyment of achievement are not the ends at which the agent aims, but the enjoyment supervenes upon the successful activity in such a way that the activity achieved and the activity enjoyed are one and the same state (197). But there are certain kinds of pleasure that are external goods along with prestige, status, power and money. So the pleasures are categorized neatly and appropriately by the classification into internal and external goods. As MacIntyre points out against Franklin: It is of the character of a virtue that in order that it be effective in producing the internal goods which are the rewards of the virtues it should be exercised without regard to consequences We cannot be genuinely courageous or truthful and be so only on occasion. Moreover cultivation of the virtues always may and often does hinder the achievement of those external goods which are the mark of worldly success. But: Utilitarianism cannot accommodate the distinction between goods internal and goods external to a practice (198). Since internal goods and external goods are not commensurable with each other it makes no sense to sum all goods in terms of one single formula or conception of utility. 3. Evaluation and explanation are linked in a characteristically Aristotelian way. When certain actions are identified as manifesting or failing to manifest a virtue or virtues this is not merely evaluation, but the first step towards explaining why those actions rather than some others were performed. So attempts by modern social sciences to offer explanations that involve separation of the facts from all evaluation are bound to fail.

The Virtues, the Unity of a Human Life and the Concept of a Tradition

In the contemporary world, social and philosophical developments have made it difficult to envisage(imagine, envision) each human life as a whole, as a unity, whose character provides the

virtues with an adequate telos . On the social plane, modernity partitions each human life into a variety of segment, each with its own norms and modes of behavior, with work divided from leisure, private life from public, corporate from personal, childhood from old age. We are taught to think in terms of the distinctiveness of each of these separations and not the unity of the individual who experiences all of these. Analytical philosophy thinks atomistically about human action and analyzes complex actions and transactions in terms of simple components, with it being alien to see particular actions as deriving their character as parts of larger wholes. That particular actions derive their character as parts of larger wholes is a point of view alien to our approach and yet one which it is necessary at least to consider if we are to begin to understand how a life may be more than a sequence of individual actions and episodes Equally the unity of human life becomes invisible to us when a separation is made either between the individual and the roles that she playsa separation characteristic not only of Sartre's existentialism, but also of sociological theory.

In philosophy we tend to look at episode by episode

A self separated from its roles in the Sartrian way loses the arena of social relationships. Integrity means the smashing of relationships for him. (What integrity is, diminished in Sartre ) At the same time the liquidation of the self into a set of demarcated areas of role-playing allows no scope for the exercise of dispositions which are accounted virtues in Aristotelian sense

For a virtue is not a disposition that makes for success only in some one particular type or situation.
What are spoken of as the virtues of a good administrator and so on are professional skills deployed in those situations, not virtues. Hector shows one and the same courage in his parting from Andromache and on battle with Achiles.

Mythology is at heart of things.