Practical Intelligence and the Virtues


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This is not to say that every time we act we stop and ask ourselves what one of our exemplars would do in this situations. Our moral concepts become more refined over time as we encounter a wider variety of exemplars and begin to draw systematic connections between them, noting what they have in common, how they differ, and which of these commonalities and differences matter, morally speaking.

Recognizable motivational profiles emerge and come to be labeled as virtues or vices, and these, in turn, shape our understanding of the obligations we have and the ends we should pursue. However, even though the systematising of moral thought can travel a long way from our starting point, according to the exemplarist it never reaches a stage where reference to exemplars is replaced by the recognition of something more fundamental.

At the end of the day, according to the exemplarist, our moral system still rests on our basic propensity to take a liking or disliking to exemplars. The touchstone for eudaimonist virtue ethicists is a flourishing human life. The target-centered view developed by Christine Swanton , by contrast, begins with our existing conceptions of the virtues.

We already have a passable idea of which traits are virtues and what they involve. Of course, this untutored understanding can be clarified and improved, and it is one of the tasks of the virtue ethicist to help us do precisely that. But rather than stripping things back to something as basic as the motivations we want to imitate or building it up to something as elaborate as an entire flourishing life, the target-centered view begins where most ethics students find themselves, namely, with the idea that generosity, courage, self-discipline, compassion, and the like get a tick of approval.

It then examines what these traits involve. A complete account of virtue will map out 1 its field , 2 its mode of responsiveness, 3 its basis of moral acknowledgment, and 4 its target. Different virtues are concerned with different fields.

Courage, for example, is concerned with what might harm us, whereas generosity is concerned with the sharing of time, talent, and property. Courage aims to control fear and handle danger, while generosity aims to share time, talents, or possessions with others in ways that benefit them. A virtuous act is an act that hits the target of a virtue, which is to say that it succeeds in responding to items in its field in the specified way Providing a target-centered definition of a right action requires us to move beyond the analysis of a single virtue and the actions that follow from it.

This is because a single action context may involve a number of different, overlapping fields. Determination might lead me to persist in trying to complete a difficult task even if doing so requires a singleness of purpose.

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But love for my family might make a different use of my time and attention. There are at least three different ways to address this challenge. A minimalist target-centered account would not even require an action to be good in order to be right. For further discussion of target-centered virtue ethics see Van Zyl ; and Smith The fourth form a virtue ethic might adopt takes its inspiration from Plato.

So it is clear that Plato counts as a virtue theorist. But it is a matter of some debate whether he should be read as a virtue ethicist White What is not open to debate is whether Plato has had an important influence on the contemporary revival of interest in virtue ethics. A number of those who have contributed to the revival have done so as Plato scholars e. However, often they have ended up championing a eudaimonist version of virtue ethics see Prior and Annas , rather than a version that would warrant a separate classification.

Nevertheless, there are two variants that call for distinct treatment. Constantly attending to our needs, our desires, our passions, and our thoughts skews our perspective on what the world is actually like and blinds us to the goods around us. Contemplating such goodness with regularity makes room for new habits of thought that focus more readily and more honestly on things other than the self.

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It alters the quality of our consciousness. And good agency is defined by the possession and exercise of such virtues. Goodness, in particular, is not so defined. But the kind of goodness which is possible for creatures like us is defined by virtue, and any answer to the question of what one should do or how one should live will appeal to the virtues. Another Platonistic variant of virtue ethics is exemplified by Robert Merrihew Adams. Unlike Murdoch and Chappell, his starting point is not a set of claims about our consciousness of goodness. Rather, he begins with an account of the metaphysics of goodness.

And like Augustine, Adams takes that perfect good to be God. God is both the exemplification and the source of all goodness. Other things are good, he suggests, to the extent that they resemble God Adams The resemblance requirement identifies a necessary condition for being good, but it does not yet give us a sufficient condition. This is because there are ways in which finite creatures might resemble God that would not be suitable to the type of creature they are. To rule out such cases we need to introduce another factor. That factor is the fitting response to goodness, which Adams suggests is love.

Virtues come into the account as one of the ways in which some things namely, persons could resemble God. This is one of the reasons Adams offers for conceiving of the ideal of perfection as a personal God, rather than an impersonal form of the Good. Many of the excellences of persons of which we are most confident are virtues such as love, wisdom, justice, patience, and generosity. A Platonistic account like the one Adams puts forward in Finite and Infinite Goods clearly does not derive all other normative properties from the virtues for a discussion of the relationship between this view and the one he puts forward in A Theory of Virtue see Pettigrove Goodness provides the normative foundation.

Virtues are not built on that foundation; rather, as one of the varieties of goodness of whose value we are most confident, virtues form part of the foundation. Obligations, by contrast, come into the account at a different level.

Other things being equal, the more virtuous the parties to the relationship, the more binding the obligation. However, once good relationships have given rise to obligations, those obligations take on a life of their own.

Practical Intelligence and the Virtues

Their bindingness is not traced directly to considerations of goodness. Rather, they are determined by the expectations of the parties and the demands of the relationship. A number of objections have been raised against virtue ethics, some of which bear more directly on one form of virtue ethics than on others. In this section we consider eight objections, namely, the a application, b adequacy, c relativism, d conflict, e self-effacement, f justification, g egoism, and h situationist problems. At the time, utilitarians and deontologists commonly though not universally held that the task of ethical theory was to come up with a code consisting of universal rules or principles possibly only one, as in the case of act-utilitarianism which would have two significant features: i the rule s would amount to a decision procedure for determining what the right action was in any particular case; ii the rule s would be stated in such terms that any non-virtuous person could understand and apply it them correctly.

Virtue ethicists maintained, contrary to these two claims, that it was quite unrealistic to imagine that there could be such a code see, in particular, McDowell More and more utilitarians and deontologists found themselves agreed on their general rules but on opposite sides of the controversial moral issues in contemporary discussion. It came to be recognised that moral sensitivity, perception, imagination, and judgement informed by experience— phronesis in short—is needed to apply rules or principles correctly.

Hence many though by no means all utilitarians and deontologists have explicitly abandoned ii and much less emphasis is placed on i. Nevertheless, the complaint that virtue ethics does not produce codifiable principles is still a commonly voiced criticism of the approach, expressed as the objection that it is, in principle, unable to provide action-guidance.

Practical Intelligence and the Virtues by Daniel C. Russell

Initially, the objection was based on a misunderstanding. It is a noteworthy feature of our virtue and vice vocabulary that, although our list of generally recognised virtue terms is comparatively short, our list of vice terms is remarkably, and usefully, long, far exceeding anything that anyone who thinks in terms of standard deontological rules has ever come up with.

Much invaluable action guidance comes from avoiding courses of action that would be irresponsible, feckless, lazy, inconsiderate, uncooperative, harsh, intolerant, selfish, mercenary, indiscreet, tactless, arrogant, unsympathetic, cold, incautious, unenterprising, pusillanimous, feeble, presumptuous, rude, hypocritical, self-indulgent, materialistic, grasping, short-sighted, vindictive, calculating, ungrateful, grudging, brutal, profligate, disloyal, and on and on. This worry can take two forms.

It is possible to perform a right action without being virtuous and a virtuous person can occasionally perform the wrong action without that calling her virtue into question. Some virtue ethicists respond to the adequacy objection by rejecting the assumption that virtue ethics ought to be in the business of providing an account of right action in the first place. Following in the footsteps of Anscombe and MacIntyre , Talbot Brewer argues that to work with the categories of rightness and wrongness is already to get off on the wrong foot.

Contemporary conceptions of right and wrong action, built as they are around a notion of moral duty that presupposes a framework of divine or moral law or around a conception of obligation that is defined in contrast to self-interest, carry baggage the virtue ethicist is better off without. Other virtue ethicists wish to retain the concept of right action but note that in the current philosophical discussion a number of distinct qualities march under that banner.

In others, it designates an action that is commendable even if not the best possible. In still others, it picks out actions that are not blameworthy even if not commendable. A virtue ethicist might choose to define one of these—for example, the best action—in terms of virtues and vices, but appeal to other normative concepts—such as legitimate expectations—when defining other conceptions of right action. As we observed in section 2, a virtue ethical account need not attempt to reduce all other normative concepts to virtues and vices.

Practical Intelligence and the Virtues Practical Intelligence and the Virtues
Practical Intelligence and the Virtues Practical Intelligence and the Virtues
Practical Intelligence and the Virtues Practical Intelligence and the Virtues
Practical Intelligence and the Virtues Practical Intelligence and the Virtues
Practical Intelligence and the Virtues Practical Intelligence and the Virtues
Practical Intelligence and the Virtues Practical Intelligence and the Virtues

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