Friday, February 5, 2016

Distinguishing Psychology from Ideology

I used to think that virtue ethics was a type of Consequentialism.  Now I'm not so sure.  I still think that virtue ethics (or anything) is consequentialist to the extent it makes sense; and that there are consequentialist elements to it (particularly in Aristotle saying people are virtuous in order to be happy, and that happiness alone is the primary motive for people - a tad simplistic but the point is he's saying virtue isn't for its own sake), but ultimately I do think it is something different.  Virtue Ethics is the focus on possessing the traits of virtue, and then living a good life for one's self or others is just kind of a happy coincidence that the V. E.s fall into because on some level for most any non-consequentialist ethics does sound kind of wonky.  Socrates, Plato and Aristotle for example are famous for saying that virtue is necessary and sufficient for happiness.  So the virtuous man is by default and him alone is by default happy - at-least in the long-run.  Just the fact that they stress this means they care about enjoying life, which means they care about virtues consequences, or the aspects of what we (and others) get out of virtue.  Once again, you could say something very similar about Deontology.

Ultimately though, despite my love of virtue ethics, I think I may be slipping away from it and focusing on Negative Utilitarianism.  I still think that the Cynics are a good example of a combination of the two, but when push comes to shove they may be more "negative virtue ethicists" that simply hold one of the main virtues is lacking desire - and therefore being closer to the gods.  Rather than being Consequentialists like the Epicureans, they would say virtue is the "good" in itself, and part of that good is a lacking in desire and things which do not accord with "nature."  The Epicureans are far less convoluted and more practical in their thinking to my estimation.

A problem with this though is I wrote a paper comparing Aristotle to Bakunin.  Does this mean that Bakunin is still a V. Ethicist or that he was a Consequentialist all along?  He does seem more Consequentialist, but perhaps I'm saying that due-to my fondness of Bakunin.

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