Tuesday, October 17, 2017
--- Notes on moral virtue ---
It has now been sufficiently shown that moral virtue is a mean state, and in what sense it is a mean state; it is a mean state lying between two vices, a vice of excess on the one side and a vice of deficiency on the other.... That is the reason why it is hard to be virtuous; for it is always hard work to find the mean in anything....
I do hold, with Aristotle that moral virtue is a median state. Even philanthropy can be an evil if carried to an extreme. Perhaps you have heard of the case of a parent who loved their family so much that they became a nag. And, of course, if a parent doesn't care at all for a child, the child will have a poor experience of growing up.
But, of course, it isn't that simple. An average murderer can't be considered morally virtuous. Aristotle's position was popular in his day but, since then, philosophers have taken his opinions apart and put them back together again in various permutations and, of course, many other schools of thought have developed. For instance, during Aristotle's time, the idea that might makes right was also popular and that philosophy reappeared in modern times in the philosophy of Nietzsche.
I also agree with C. S. Lewis in his assessment of lostness. A person can become so wrapped up in any idea to the point that they lose their humanity. They become an embodiment of that idea. He says that, in a way, they become a demon themselves. That can apply to anything including religious devotion.
I have been involved with several "special" groups such as people with specific disabilities, animal rights groups, and civil rights groups and I usually include the appeal that they maintain connection to other groups. For instance a person with multiple sclerosis can easily become so involved with a support group that all they thing about is multiple sclerosis and rights for people with multiple sclerosis. In effect, they can stop being "a person with multiple sclerosis" and become a "multiple sclerotic."
We live in a universe of relationship and those relationships are at the center of moral virtue. Responsibility and purpose, far from being the enemies of individuality and personal freedom, are what keeps us from drifting aimlessly in the world.
Jesus boiled the Christian virtues down to two points - love God completely, and, equally, love your neighbor as you (should) love yourself.