Virtue Ethics (Stanley Hauerwas (Three crucial claims; 1) A narrative…
The Peaceable Kingdom
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.
Perhaps this was to account for lack of emphasis in Aquinas’ work and the general appeal to 'natural law' for a universal ethic
‘Christian ethics reflects a particular people’s history, the appropriation of which requires the recognition that we are sinners’
Idea of a
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’
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.
‘our sin is so fundamental that we must be taught to recognise it’
Reinhold Niebhur commented, ‘The religious dimension of sin is man’s rebellion against God…The moral and social aspect of sin is injustice’
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.
'They need to be a people of virtue, the virtues necessary for remembering and telling the story of a crucified saviour’
'Communitarian' virtue ethics
Lack of instruction? Especially because Hauerwas is insistent on removing the stress from rules and obligations.
Defined virtue as: a virtue is ‘a good quality of mind by which one lives righteously, of which no one can make bad use
Reason trains the passions to desire their objects in appropriate ways. This ‘training’ produces dispositions to desire what reason has discovered.
'Intellectual virtues' and 'moral virtues': [recognising what is good and how to tend to that which is seen as good]
3 things have to be good for an action to be morally good (prudence at work): object, intention, circumstance
Reason is complemented by prudence which adjusts and steers our reason in the right direction.
‘The worth of prudence’, he explains, ‘consists not in thought merely, but in its application to action’
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
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
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.
lack of reference to Biblical sources and the person of Jesus: though he does say that Christ displays the fullness of virtue
How does virtue relate to the Ten Commandments? Or Scripture as a whole if 'virtue' is barely mentioned?
Places all the emphasis on the will of God
‘Instead of asking how one can be good and do good, one must ask what is the will 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.
Rejects the idea that there are two 'realities': one human and one divine. Instead, there is one reality (the reality of God)
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
four ‘divine mandates’ which he argues come from the Scriptures. They are labour, marriage, government and the Church.
‘It is (God’s) will that they all be through Christ, directed toward Christ and in Christ’
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’
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 .
Aristotle, Greek philosopher born in 384BC:
We must examine the virtues through our own understanding of the specifically human form of goodness; practical wisdom (action in accordance with reason)
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.
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.
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 ‘process of systematic, critical reflection on the virtues and related topics’ (Porter). Through such reflection and practice one becomes habituated to act virtuously.
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.
2 main sources: Greek antiquity and Hellenistic Roman Empire
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)