Virtue Ethics (Stanley Hauerwas (Three crucial claims; 1) A narrative…
Lack of instruction? Especially because Hauerwas is insistent on removing the stress from rules and obligations.
'Communitarian' virtue ethics
'They need to be a people of virtue, the virtues necessary for remembering and telling the story of a crucified saviour’
Freedom, on the other hand, Hauerwas argues is derived from having a well-formed character. Such a well-formed character is part of the narrative of the whole community. The church needs to be rather than to have a social ethic.
Reinhold Niebhur commented, ‘The religious dimension of sin is man’s rebellion against God…The moral and social aspect of sin is injustice’
‘our sin is so fundamental that we must be taught to recognise it’
Three crucial claims; 1) A narrative formally displays our existence as creatures; 2) It makes us aware of ourselves as historical beings; and 3) It exhibits a form of God’s salvation.
The Bible displays a narrative of a people’s journey with God, ‘a biblical ethic will necessarily be one that portrays life as growth and development’
Idea of a
‘Christian ethics reflects a particular people’s history, the appropriation of which requires the recognition that we are sinners’
Perhaps this was to account for lack of emphasis in Aquinas’ work and the general appeal to 'natural law' for a universal ethic
there is no such thing as a universal ethic, but every ethic requires a qualifier. In the case of Christian ethics, the qualifier ‘Christian’ must be stressed.
The Peaceable Kingdom
How does virtue relate to the Ten Commandments? Or Scripture as a whole if 'virtue' is barely mentioned?
lack of reference to Biblical sources and the person of Jesus: though he does say that Christ displays the fullness of virtue
Three ‘theological virtues’ which are not acquired through habituation but instead are ‘infused’ in us entirely from God. These theological virtues are faith, hope and charity.
Aquinas held a theory of natural law alongside his theory of virtues, which is grounded on principles grasped by means of synderesis. Aquinas noted, ‘It is therefore evident that all virtues are in us by nature, according to aptitude and inclination, but not according to perfection, except the theological virtues which are entirely from without
Aquinas identifies four cardinal virtues; prudence in the practical intellect, justice in the rational appetite, fortitude in the irascible appetite and temperance in the concupiscible appetite
‘The worth of prudence’, he explains, ‘consists not in thought merely, but in its application to action’
Reason is complemented by prudence which adjusts and steers our reason in the right direction.
3 things have to be good for an action to be morally good (prudence at work): object, intention, circumstance
'Intellectual virtues' and 'moral virtues': [recognising what is good and how to tend to that which is seen as good]
Reason trains the passions to desire their objects in appropriate ways. This ‘training’ produces dispositions to desire what reason has discovered.
Defined virtue as: a virtue is ‘a good quality of mind by which one lives righteously, of which no one can make bad use
He argues that the will of God, which is the basis of Christian ethics, is ‘nothing other than the becoming real of the reality of Christ with us and in our world’
‘It is (God’s) will that they all be through Christ, directed toward Christ and in Christ’
four ‘divine mandates’ which he argues come from the Scriptures. They are labour, marriage, government and the Church.
first demand of Christian ethics is not that the individuals be something in themselves but instead that they be witnesses to Jesus Christ before the world
Rejects the idea that there are two 'realities': one human and one divine. Instead, there is one reality (the reality of God)
Only through this does the question of what is good become a question of participation in the divine reality which is revealed through Christ. That is because, as Bonhoeffer argued, ‘good’ is true reality which is recognised in God.
‘Instead of asking how one can be good and do good, one must ask what is the will of God’
Places all the emphasis on the will of God
He argued that the virtues included appropriate emotional responses to situations as well as right judgement. In many ways, virtue ethics as it is understood widely today is still very much founded on Aristotelian thinking and terminology .
Does not provide an account of right action in the same way as deontological or teleological ethics do. Though, arguably it can: Hursthouse: An action A is right for person P in circumstances C if and only if a completely virtuous agent would characteristically perform A in C’
A virtue can be understood as a ‘trait of character or intellect that is in some way praiseworthy, admirable or desirable’ (Jean Porter). It is also a stable disposition.
The constant stress, it seems, in the forms of virtue ethics discussed is always on the individual and how the individual relates to themselves, to the community and finally, if at all, to God. (Criticism Luther and O'Donovan, among others, make)
We must examine the virtues through our own understanding of the specifically human form of goodness; practical wisdom (action in accordance with reason)
Aristotle, Greek philosopher born in 384BC:
2 main sources: Greek antiquity and Hellenistic Roman Empire
one only becomes virtuous through performing virtuous actions, so one must be able to identify right and virtuous actions first. This is the role of ‘prudence’ as the governor of all the virtues.
a ‘process of systematic, critical reflection on the virtues and related topics’ (Porter). Through such reflection and practice one becomes habituated to act virtuously.
Emerged as an attempt to move away from legalistic emphasis found in an ethical theory like natural law, as well as recovering a more theological rather than philosophical dominance.