Saturday, March 30, 2013

Chapter IV
“Diversity and Relativism”
Ven. But Buntenh
Chapter Outline:
1.  Overview
  1. Chapter Objectives
  2. Diversity and Relativism
  3. Ethical Conventionalism
  4. Ethical Pluralism
  5. Conceptual Relativism
  6. Multiculturalism
  7. Disabilities and Diversity
  8. Discussion Session and Q&A
We first need to aware of moral diversity and relativism. We should understand that members of different cultures often have very different beliefs about right and wrong and often act quite differently on their beliefs.
We are trying to understand the relative truth of multicultural ethics and to study the moral issues about race, ethnicity, nationalism, gender, disability, and economic. It can also refer to the study of all moral issues with attention to their implications within different cultures.
In this chapter we will examine the central notions of Diversity and Ethical Relativism that seem to follow from them.
Chapter Objectives
In this chapter, we aim at studying the variety of cultures and understand their values through different perspectives. By the completion of the chapter we will be able to:
  • Explain and describe the variety from culture to culture;
  • Distinguish between Natural Ethics & Conventional Ethics;
  • Explore more understanding Ethical Pluralism and Conceptual Relativism;
  • Understand multicultural perspectives in Ethics;
  • Discuss Disabilities and Diversity
Diversity and Relativism
      The term “Diversity” originates from Diverse, it means cultural different differences from society to society.  In ethical perspectives, we will focus on cultural diversity.  Cultural diversity has dimensions within and across culture.
      Cultural diversity:  the spectrum of differences that exists among groups of people with definable and unique cultural backgrounds.
Ethical Relativism:
      The claim that there is no objective moral standard of right and wrong, and that moral values are relative to a person’s cultural or individual background, or to a certain situation
      All moral principles are justified by virtue of their acceptance by an individual agent. Ethical relativism is the claim that there is no moral principle which is universally applicable
Ethical Conventionalism
  • Ethical conventionalism reduces moral values to the conventions of groups-to their custom, laws, and socially approved habits.
  • All moral principles are justified by virtue of their cultural acceptance.
Ethical conventionalism was defended by many anthropologists and other social scientists during the twentieth century. Their defense centered around of four primary arguments that appeal to group-authority, sheer-diversity, human survival, and tolerance.
Group-Authority Argument
  • Societies, as well as many sub-group within societies, are structured by authority. One argument for ethical conventionalism is the authority of the group expressed in its customs determines what is right.
  • The argument is this: customs of groups express the authority of groups; authority is what is legitimate within the group; therefore, the customs of a group authoritatively express what is right or justified for members of the group to do.
  • Authority is a form of power legitimated by the group; as an expression of the group’s solidarity and sovereignty. Respect for that autonomy is a cross-cultural value that is not reducible to customs. Of course, authority takes many forms, and some societies are substantially structured by authority relationship.

Sheer-Diversity Argument
  • The sheer diversity is so great as to make implausible any search for common values:
  1. Objectively justified values that ought to be accepted in all societies, as well as
  2. Values that as a matter of fact are shared cross-culturally
Here the argument which is not following its conclusion:
  1. Different societies have vastly different moral beliefs.
  2. Therefore, whatever, a society believes to be right is right(for members of that society)
  • .Equally important, some recent anthropology has drawn attention to greater areas of the shared basic values than first appeared. That should not surprise us.
Survival Argument
      Survival argument is an appeal would be more like the view of the ethical egoist, who reduces morality to self-interest, not the ethical relativist who reduces it to social customs.
      To survive, it must become integrated and cohesive. These integrated patterns bind together the group in ways that enable it to survive and prosper.
      In common values, the survival of all societies depends on their embracing at least minimal understanding of three classes of values: 1) mutual support, loyalty, and reciprocity, 2) constraints on violence, deceit, and betrayal, and 3) fairness and procedural justice.
Tolerance Argument
      Ethical conventionalism seems to express tolerance and respect for cultures. Respect for other cultures is vitally important in the increasingly multicultural, global environment in which we live today.
      It is to avoid ethnocentrism: the assumption that one’s own is superior to all others.
      There are two difficulties with this tolerance argument, however. On the one hand, insofar as it appeals to respect for persons, it actually refutes ethical conventionalism.
Ethical Pluralism
      The notion that groups should be allowed and even encouraged to hold on to what gives them their unique identities while maintaining their membership in the larger social framework.
      It does not advocate separatism but promote diversity - not a melting pot but a salad bowl concept-unity with uniqueness.
      Ethical pluralism is the view that alternative and conflicting moral perspectives are sometimes morally justified, but it retains a conviction that many moral values are objectively defensible and that some customs and conduct are unacceptable morally. Ethical pluralism accepts and tolerates multiple conceptions of the good life-within limits- and it acknowledges that those view are morally relevant in deciding how we should act toward others people. The spirit of pluralism is captured in the phrase, “Let a thousand flowers bloom.”
Multiple Goods and Emphases
      There are many virtues, ideals, and principles that it is permissible to emphasize, either in a given culture or an individual life. In addition, there is no systematic way to rank these values and to establish that one of them should always take precedence, although in particular situations it may be clear which should have priority.
      Fundamental values like justice and benevolence (or at least nonmaleficence) are universally applicable, in the sense that they apply in all cultures and virtually all kinds of situations.
      Should see the different interpretations among morally reasonable persons of good will.
      When we are talking about “Multiculturalism”, we refer to the recognition of broad dimensions of individual identity, including “race, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation , gender, age, disability, class status, education, religious/spiritual orientation, and other cultural dimensions.”
      Multiculturalism refers to a cluster of outlooks and movements occurring during the 1980s-1990s and continuing today. Two very different strands in these outlooks need to be distinguished, and they are reflected in the strikingly different definitions of multiculturalism.
      The definition of multiculturalism here refers to an outlook that endorses various forms of subjectivism and relativism.
      On the other hand, multiculturalism is more often defined as a moral ideal, or set of ideals, about embracing diversity.
      Defined in this way, multiculturalism is one of the most important moral movements of our time, whether in education, business, or everyday life.
      Multiculturalism is about understanding ourselves and others who are different from us. It involves a valuing of other cultures, not in the sense of approving of all aspects of those cultures, but of attempting to see how a given culture can express value to its own members.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Chapter III: Theories of Virtue


Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia

Faculty of Arts, Letters, and Humanities

Chapter III

“Theories of Virtue”


Ven. But Buntenh 

Chapter Outline 

        Chapter objectives
     Chapter overview
     Virtues as desirable character traits
     Human nature and virtue theories
     Plato: Moral health
     Aristotle: Rational emotions and desires
     Difficulties with Greek Ethics
     Aquinas: Religious virtues 
     Hume:  Benevolence and sympathy
     From theory to practice 
     MacIntyre: Self-knowledge and social goods.
     Pincoffs:  Choices among persons
     Discussion topics

                                     Chapter Objectives:

       At the end of the chapter, students will be able to:

  •     Discuss and explain different theories of virtue;
  •    Understand the theories and its application in the contemporary societies;
  •     Know the significant of theories;
  •     Reflect theories and practices in our daily life;
  •     Know how to evaluate ethical life and unethical life.

                          Chapter Overview 
   People around the world live and lead the life differently. They developed their virtues through their cultural and moral values and practices in a particular place where they live in. 
  Human character is shaped over time by a combination of natural inclinations and the influence of  factors such as family, culture, education, and  self-reflection. 
  This chapter introduces key ideas of some influential virtue ethicists: Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Hume, MacItyr, and Pincoffs. According to these philosophers, the moral aim of life is to be a good person- to have a virtuous character and to relate to other people in desirable ways. 

  • Virtues as desirable character traits
       What is virtue? There are diversities of definitions that defined by different ancient Greek philosophers and contemporary philosophers. Those definitions enable us to understand the theories ‘Virtue’ from diverse perspectives. 
       Virtue is the knowledge of leading a good life and wealthy life. It is the knowledge of how to do the right things for oneself benefits and the benefits for many others. Virtue is the qualities of character that people need to do well in life. 

         According to the texts, virtue is a trait of character that is desirable because it contribute to the good human.  To be a good man and has good life.

         Trait of character: it is a general feature of a person that is manifested in pattern of actions , intentions, emotions, desires, attitudes, and reasoning.

    Six Pillars of Virtue Ethics:

    Examples of Virtues include:

    Tolerance                          Loyalty

    Generosity                         Prudence

    Integrity                             Justice

    Honesty                             Temperance

    Kindness                            Responsibility

    Courage/Fortitude            Respectfulness

    Wisdom                    Contingency/ Self-control

    Cleverness                         Chastity 

    Courtesy                               Compassion/Caring   

    Human nature and virtue theories

  • Traditional theories of virtue are grounded in theories about human nature, that is, theories about what it means to be a human being.  Human nature is described in terms of capacities, possibilities, limitations, and aspirations of people. Virtues are the character traits that enable people to achieve the good that is possible for them. Virtues are also the excellence of character, specified by human nature, that one must develop in order to attain happiness. 
    Virtue theories seek to do three things:
    1. Provide a theory of human nature that identifies morally relevant facts about human possibilities;
    2. Use that theory of human nature to define those character traits, or virtue , that enable people to achieve the good made possible by their nature; and  3. Present a schema for understanding the relationships among the virtue.

    Aristotle thinks human nature is what all humans have in common and what all humans have in common is the desire to seek happiness.
    The  good life for humans is one  in which rational capacities are developed and exercised to their fullest and in so doing humans achieve the best sort of happiness possible for them.
    Human Nature for Aristotle: 
    Humans are rational animal
    Humans are unique animal because of their reason Humans are social and political animal 
    Humans flourish in groups
    Humans have social origins
    Humans succeed in social pursuit
    Human’s nature is the ‘pursuing for happiness’

    Plato: Moral Health
    According to Plato, the function of something is the task that it is best or uniquely suited to perform. With this context Plato sees human beings have a natural function such as: that parts of the body have functions to which they are especially well suited: eyes for seeing, ears for hearing, and lungs for breathing.
    Plato developed this Thesis by distinguishing three main parts of the mind (or soul):
         The spirited Element, and
         The appetites
    Plato also applied the idea of virtue as inner harmony in defending another controversial doctrine: that the life of virtue is the happy life. Today we don’t think of virtue and happiness as necessarily connected, a good person might be unhappy, and a very bad person might be happy.
    Plato’s Main Argument
    To be happy = to live well.
    To live well = to perform one’s natural function well.
    To perform one’s natural function well = to have virtue and to exercise it.
    To have virtue and to exercise it = to live justly.

    Aristotle: Rational Emotions and Desires
       There is an argument that was argued by Aristotle regarding to human nature, in particular human rational emotions and desires. 

      Aristotle asserted that, it would have no relevance to morality. Morality is concerned with practical understanding within this world of experience.

     Aristotle agreed that the distinctive function of humans is to exercise reason. Good character entails reasoning in accord with wisdom.
     In Aristotle’s thinking, every human being has a rational soul:

    The rational soul (reason) can help us to control our feelings.

    If feelings are well-controlled, virtues develop; if the yarenot well-controlled, vices develop. 
     There are two kinds of virtues:
         Intellectual Virtue

         Moral Virtue

    Intellectual virtues represent excellences in reason skills that can be taught through inquiry and study.
    Moral virtues are product of habits that begin in childhood and are strengthened in adult life.
    Moral virtue is a mean between two vices, one of excess and the other of deficiency, and it aims at hitting the mean point in feelings actions.
    Each moral virtue is directed toward a specific range or spectrum of emotions, desires, and actions.
    Virtue consists in “hitting the mean” of emotions and desires as well as of the actions they motivate.

    Difficulties with Greek Ethics
     There is relevancy between classical and contemporary ethical concepts. Some ethicists agreed with classical Greek ethicists and some contemporary ethicists disagreed.  Most of classical Greek ethics has contemporary relevance, such as Plato’s idea of virtue as moral health and Aristotle’s insights into practical reasoning. Yet Greek ethics rests on three questionable claims: 1) Human beings have one distinctive function; 2) that function is reasoning; and 3) because this function is distinctively human, it defines human good. Many contemporary ethicists would reject all these claims.

    Aquinas: Religious Virtues
    There are two dimensions to understand virtue theories:

    1.Classical virtue ethics (ancient Greek ethicists)
    2.Religious ethics (focus on Christian ethics; Aquinas)
         Is virtue ethics inherently from religious ethics?
    No, this perspective dates from Aristotle, who is not considered today to be a religious figure. Contemporary ethicists believe virtue ethics is grounded in religions. 
    • Aquinas once again made Aristotle’s view popular. Most of his adult life he was a professor.  He developed ethical perspectives into classical ethics:
      Everything has a specific purpose or end
      The highest good and the fountain of all goodness is God
      Our ultimate goal—the good life– is not something that we can access only with reason.

      Aquinas’s ethical concepts were grounded in Christian virtues:
      For him, the natural purpose in living by reason became a supernatural purpose: supreme happiness through communion with god, a happiness imperfectly realizable in this world and perfected only in life after death.