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In this paper, I am concerned to show that a wide and interesting range of phenomena commonly described as ‘weakness of will’ should be understood as manifesting a defect of what I shall call ‘executive cowardice’ rather than a strong kind of irrationality. More specifically, I claim that such cases should not be understood as an irrational bypassing of an all-things-considered judgment about the thing to do—a view succinctly described by Peacocke thus:
The akrates is irrational because although he intentionally does something for which he has some reason, there is a wider set of reasons he has relative to which he does not judge what he does to be rational.
This chapter discusses social and political philosophy of Nietzsche within the communitarian tradition. Hegel refers share agreement as the Volksgeist, the 'spirit of the people', and says that it consists in the Sittlichkeit, the ethos or 'ethical substance' of a community. Hegel views education as essential to community because it is through it that we acquire a second nature, become habituated to the Sittlichkeit of the community. The younger Wagner's revolutionary social and political ideas were expressed in a number of theoretical works written between 1848 and 1852. Wagner's essential move is to abolish the Hegelian distinction between religion and art. Wagner's modified Hegelianism appears virtually word for word in The Birth of Tragedy. Nietzsche's descent into madness and Heidegger's birth both occurred in 1889. Nietzsche is committed to the idea that a truly enlightened society will respect Hegel's kinds of rights: freedom of speech, religion, morals, and political dissent.
For many, to speak of Nietzsche's virtue ethics is an oxymoron. Even now, Nietzsche is seen as an egoist in the worst sense, indeed an immoralist. Furthermore, even if he can be understood as having some sort of ethics it cannot be understood as an ethics within an objectivist tradition, where virtue ethics is characteristically seen as belonging. Yet not only are Nietzsche's texts replete with virtue and vice concepts, but he seems to be a moral reformer, arguing that traditional conceptions of virtue legitimized by the “slave revolt” in morals should be overturned. In that (Christian) revolt not only, for example, is cowardly fear transformed into the virtue of humility, the understanding of humility as a virtue is itself skewed. It is now a form of self-abasement as opposed to a sense of one's place in the world that is not tainted by forms of overweening pride.1 For Nietzsche there should be a “revaluation of values” where genuine virtue expresses life affirmation and strength as opposed to weakness and life denial.
There are two ways of reconciling this apparent tension. The first is to say that the “revaluation of values” is indeed a revaluation, but one that constitutes a deeply unattractive immoralist egoism. The second is to argue that Nietzsche's new way of thinking about ethics should be taken seriously, because his self-styled “egoism” is a virtuous form of egoism.
A major obstacle to reading Nietzsche as a philosopher who has something to offer substantive moral theory is his self-ascriptions as both an immoralist and an egoist. This chapter focuses the discussion on the virtues of mature egoism as portrayed in GM, but Nietzsche's conception of the mature egoist underlies all his central works in ethics. The argument of the chapter has the following general structure. What is needed is a proper understanding of the kind of egoism endorsed by Nietzsche. In particular, the chapter claims, his kind of egoism is what he calls a "mature" egoism, to be contrasted with a number of forms of immaturity: the immature egoism of instant gratification, an unsocialized egoism, and the kind of altruism in which the self "wilts away". Several virtues of the mature egoist and their correlative vices are considered in the chapter. In GM, Nietzsche contrasts two forms of happiness.
This chapter argues that the proper recognition of love as a moral force in Immanuel Kant undermines virtue-theoretic criticism of Kant's ethics in a variety of ways. To regard love as having impartial, and indeed universal and unconditional aspects, which underlie the duties of beneficience and forgiveness, presents special difficulties. Although the impartiality and universality of Kant's ethics is generally associated with the moral force of respect, the moral force of love for Kant also has a fundamental impartial universal aspect which is also foundational. The combination of universality, particularity, and unconditionality has not been thought problematic for universal respect, but it has rendered the ideal of universal love suspect. The chapter also looks at the idea of adopting benevolence as a maxim, and focuses on the objection as applicable to certain themes implicit and explicit in Kant's treatment of love, namely self-love and pride, and forgiveness.
The method of Wide Reflective Equilibrium (WRE) has been defended by Kai Nielsen as an exciting new development in the search for a device for increasing our ability to choose between competing moral conceptions. Nonetheless, this confidence will be seen as misplaced unless serious issues are resolved. Lack of clarity surrounds the questions: (1) What is the claimed epistemological role for WRE? (2) What version of WRE is to be employed? In this paper I resolve these ambiguities in a way which supports Kai Nielsen's claim. First, however, I should specify in broad terms the method of WRE.
Many forms of virtue ethics, like certain forms of utilitarianism, suffer from the problem of indirection. In those forms, the criterion for status of a trait as a virtue is not the same as the criterion for the status of an act as right. Furthermore, if the virtues for example are meant to promote the nourishing of the agent, the virtuous agent is not standardly supposed to be motivated by concern for her own flourishing in her activity. In this paper, I propose a virtue ethics which does not suffer from the problem. Traits are not virtues because their cultivation and manifestation promote a value such as agent flourishing. They are virtues in so far as they are habits of appropriate response (which may be of various types) to various relevant values (valuable things, etc.). This means that there is a direct connection between the rationale of a virtue and what makes an action virtuous or right.
This paper argues against two major features of consequentialist conceptions of virtue: Value-centredness and the Hegemony of Promotion as a mode of moral acknowledgement or responsiveness. In relation to the first feature, I argue against two ideas: (a) Value should be understood entirely independently of virtue; and (b) The only right-making respects which serve to make an action better than another is degree of value. I argue that what I call the bases of moral response are several, including also status, the good for, and bonds. Against the Hegemony of Promotion thesis I argue for several modes of moral responsiveness constitutive of virtue.
I understand the problem of satisficing to be that of whether it is morally permitted (at least sometimes) for agents to choose an action that is less than the best when better actions are in their power and known by them to be so. The primary motivation for accepting the moral permissibility of satisficing is to reduce the demandingness of ethics. The “demandingness objection” has traditionally been directed at consequentialism, but I shall relate the discussion to the demandingness of virtue ethics.
The demandingness objection to certain moral theories is the objection that these theories contain requirements that are too demanding on agents. There are a number of possible strategies for overcoming the objection. A vulnerable theory may allow that it is morally permitted to satisfice, or given that it is not morally permitted to satisfice, it may propose a criterion of best action that is not itself too demanding. A weaker reading of the demandingness objection suggests a third strategy: It is possible that a theory may possess a demanding criterion of rightness or requirement in that sense, but a less demanding conception of conditions under which agents can be blamed for failing to perform right acts, even when those acts are in their power and known by them to be so. Let me briefly elaborate on those three strategies.
The first strategy replaces maximizing or optimizing criteria of rightness with satisficing criteria.
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