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Ideas of Daniel Statman, by Text

[Israeli, fl. 1997, Professor at Bar-Ilan University, Israel.]

1997 Introduction to Virtue Ethics
1 p.7 Behaviour may be disgusting or inhumane, but violate no duty
     Full Idea: It is surely possible, and indeed often the case, that people who violate no duty nevertheless behave in an inhumane and a disgusting manner.
     From: Daniel Statman (Introduction to Virtue Ethics [1997], 1)
     A reaction: This seems right, though it is easier to be disgusting than to be inhumane if no duty is to be violated. Social duties may not require a high degree of humanity, pure Kantian duties might.
3 p.11 Friends express friendship even when no utility is involved
     Full Idea: Being a good friend means acting in ways that express the friendship even when those ways do not promote overall utility.
     From: Daniel Statman (Introduction to Virtue Ethics [1997], 3)
     A reaction: This implies that friendship is a true virtue of character, rather than having friends just being an 'external' good. Having friends is good; being friends is a virtue. There are duties of friendship.
3 p.13 Moral education is better by concrete example than abstract principle
     Full Idea: According to virtue theory, education through moral exemplars is more effective than education focused on principles and obligations, because it is far more concrete.
     From: Daniel Statman (Introduction to Virtue Ethics [1997], 3)
     A reaction: Aristotle's view is that virtues must be developed from childhood, when principles don't mean much. The problem is that young people may witness highly virtuous behaviour in their exemplars, but totally fail to appreciate it without mention of principles.
3 p.14 We may still admire a person's character even if the traits are involuntary
     Full Idea: If we focus on the evaluation of character traits, voluntariness becomes less important. We would not withdraw our admiration for a person only because we found out that his or her being such a person was not a result of voluntary choice.
     From: Daniel Statman (Introduction to Virtue Ethics [1997], 3)
     A reaction: The need for voluntariness does not disappear. I would not admire the only generous deed you had ever performed if it was the result of hypnotism. I might admire the hypnotist. Nevertheless, I regard this idea as a crucial truth in moral theory.
4 p.16 There is a new sort of moral scepticism, about the possibility of moral theories
     Full Idea: Since the 1980s, ethics has witnessed a new sort of moral scepticism, this time about the possibility of moral theories.
     From: Daniel Statman (Introduction to Virtue Ethics [1997], 4)
     A reaction: He cites McDowell, Williams, Nussbaum and Baier as the culprits. 'Particularism' (every situation is different, so there can't be rules) seems an essential part of virtue theory, but total absence of principles sounds to me like moral drift.
5 p.19 With a broad concept of flourishing, it might be possible without the virtues
     Full Idea: In a rich conception of human flourishing, both individuals and societies seem to be able to flourish without the virtues.
     From: Daniel Statman (Introduction to Virtue Ethics [1997], 5)
     A reaction: I can see Aristotle clutching his head in despair at this thought. It might look like flourishing, but it couldn't be the real thing. It is Aristotle's fault, though, for including external goods. Money and pleasure offer a kind of flourishing.
5 p.20 Virtue theory isn't a genuine ethical theory, because it doesn't have universal application
     Full Idea: It can be claimed that universality is a necessary property of any ethical theory and therefore virtue theory, which fails in this respect, is not a theory, and hence poses no alternative to genuine ethical theories.
     From: Daniel Statman (Introduction to Virtue Ethics [1997], 5)
     A reaction: Replies: a) totally universal morality is an idle dream (part of the 'Enlightenment Project' to prove everything) and we must settle for something more relative; b) virtues aren't totally universal, but they are truths about humanity. I prefer b).
5 p.22 Promises create moral duties that have nothing to do with character
     Full Idea: That duties are created irrespective of facts about character is obvious from the case of promises, which bind their makers irrespective of their motives or personality.
     From: Daniel Statman (Introduction to Virtue Ethics [1997], 5)
     A reaction: Just occasionally a promise can be broken, by a sensitive and wise person. I promise to give your son some money; I then discover he is a drug dealer. Promises arise out of character, and cannot be made by robots.
6 p.24 Abortion issues focus on the mother's right over her body, and the status of the foetus
     Full Idea: Most of the debate on abortion focuses on two issues, the mother's assumed right over her body, and the status of the foetus.
     From: Daniel Statman (Introduction to Virtue Ethics [1997], 6)
     A reaction: Personally I think society as a whole might have a say (if, perhaps, we are over- or under-populated, or we have a widely accepted state religion, or we are just very shocked). Mother's have virtues and duties as well as rights.
7 p.27 The ancients recognised imperfect duties, but we have added perfect duties like justice
     Full Idea: The advantage of modern thinkers over the ancient virtue ethicists is that in addition to imperfect duties (i.e. virtues) they also recognise the existence of perfect duties, or duties of justice, which are essential for the existence of society.
     From: Daniel Statman (Introduction to Virtue Ethics [1997], 7)
     A reaction: Even the Greeks had laws (e.g. Idea 422), so they understood that a society needs rules, but many laws don't seem to be moral rules (e.g. car parking), and the Greeks thought morality was about human excellence, not avoiding traffic jams.