Ideas from 'Virtue Ethics: an Introduction' by Richard Taylor [2002], by Theme Structure

[found in 'Virtue Ethics: an Introduction' by Taylor,Richard [Prometheus 2002,1-57392-943-3]].

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22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 2. Happiness / a. Nature of happiness
Pleasure can have a location, and be momentary, and come and go - but happiness can't
                        Full Idea: Pleasures can be located in a particular part of the body, and can be momentary, and come and go, but this is not the case with happiness.
                        From: Richard Taylor (Virtue Ethics: an Introduction [2002], Ch.16)
                        A reaction: Probably no one ever thought that pleasure and happiness were actually identical - merely that pleasure is the only cause and source of happiness. These are good objections to that hypothesis. Pleasure simply isn't 'the good'.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 2. Happiness / b. Eudaimonia
'Eudaimonia' means 'having a good demon', implying supreme good fortune
                        Full Idea: The word 'eudaimonia' means literally 'having a good demon', which is apt, because it suggests some kind of supreme good fortune, of the sort which might be thought of as a bestowal.
                        From: Richard Taylor (Virtue Ethics: an Introduction [2002], Ch.5)
                        A reaction: Beware of etymology. This implies that eudaimonia is almost entirely beyond a person's control, but Aristotle doesn't think that. A combination of education and effort can build on some natural gifts to create a fully successful life.
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 1. Nature of Ethics / d. Ethical theory
Kant and Mill both try to explain right and wrong, without a divine lawgiver
                        Full Idea: Kant and Mill were in total agreement in trying to give content to the distinction between moral right and wrong, without recourse to any divine lawgiver.
                        From: Richard Taylor (Virtue Ethics: an Introduction [2002], Ch.14)
                        A reaction: A nice analysis, in tune with MacIntyre and others, who see such attempts as failures. It is hard, however, to deny the claims of rational principles, or of suffering, in our moral framework. I agree with Taylor's move back to virtue, but it ain't simple.
Morality based on 'forbid', 'permit' and 'require' implies someone who does these things
                        Full Idea: If morality is based on wrong (meaning 'forbidden'), right ('permitted'), and obligatory ('required'), we are led to ask 'Who is it that thus permits, forbids or requires that certain things be done or not done?'
                        From: Richard Taylor (Virtue Ethics: an Introduction [2002], Ch.2)
                        A reaction: Clear reinforcement for Nietzsche's attack on conventional morals, which Taylor sees as a relic of medieval religious attitudes. Taylor says Kant offered a non-religious version of the same authority. I agree. Back to the Greek pursuit of excellence!
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 1. Virtue Theory / b. Basis of virtue
To Greeks it seemed obvious that the virtue of anything is the perfection of its function
                        Full Idea: To the Greeks it seemed obvious that the virtue of anything is the perfection of its function.
                        From: Richard Taylor (Virtue Ethics: an Introduction [2002], Ch.10)
                        A reaction: A problem case might be a work of art, but one might reply that there is no obvious perfection there because there is no clear function. For artefacts and organisms the principle seems very good. But 'Is the Cosmos good?'
23. Ethics / D. Deontological Ethics / 1. Deontology
The modern idea of obligation seems to have lost the idea of an obligation 'to' something
                        Full Idea: In modern moral thinking, obligation is something every responsible person is supposed to have, but it is not an obligation to the state, or society, or humanity, or even to God. It is an obligation standing by itself.
                        From: Richard Taylor (Virtue Ethics: an Introduction [2002], Ch.12)
                        A reaction: This nicely pinpoints how some our moral attitudes are relics of religion. Taylor wants a return to virtue, but one could respond by opting for the social contract (with very clear obligations) or Kantian 'contractualism' (answering to rational beings).
23. Ethics / D. Deontological Ethics / 2. Duty
The ethics of duty requires a religious framework
                        Full Idea: The ethics of duty cannot be sustained independently of a religious framework.
                        From: Richard Taylor (Virtue Ethics: an Introduction [2002], Ch.2)
                        A reaction: This is a big challenge to Kant, echoing Nietzsche's jibe that Kant just wanted to be 'obedient'. The only options are either 'natural duties', or 'duties of reason'. Reason may have a pull (like pleasure), but a 'duty'? Difficult.
If we are made in God's image, pursuit of excellence is replaced by duty to obey God
                        Full Idea: Once people are declared to be images of God, just by virtue of minimal humanity, they have, therefore, no greater individual excellence to aspire to, and their purpose became one of obligation, that is, obedience to God's will.
                        From: Richard Taylor (Virtue Ethics: an Introduction [2002], Ch.2)
                        A reaction: An interesting and plausible historical analysis. There is a second motivation for the change, though, in Grotius's desire to develop a more legalistic morality, focusing on actions rather than character. Taylor's point is more interesting, though.