Theology is The Science of God

Totus Tuus, inspired by Pope John Paul II, means "Totally Yours". Totus Tuus brings us to live Radically Committed for God and to follow his Commandments and to live Virtuous Lives.

Peter Kreeft, in his book Back to Virtue, has two questions for us:

  1. Is virtue out of date?

  2. Is our civilization at risk-whatever became of virtue?

C.S. Lewis said, "I feel" replaced "I believe".  Peter Kreeft believes, "Ethics without Virtue is Illusion!"

What is the highest purpose of ethics? It is to make people good, that is virtuous. Without a road map of the virtues and vices, how likely is it that we will find our way home, especially if we are lost? And the one thing nearly everyone knows is that modern man is lost. They say, God's word says that "faith without works is dead". The works of virtue are the fruit of faith, that is, of a lived faith.

Character and Virtue
Modern virtue ethics takes its inspiration from the Aristotelian understanding of character and virtue. Aristotelian character is, importantly, about a state of being. It's about having the appropriate inner states, e.g. the virtue of kindness involves the right sort of emotions and inner states with respect to our feelings towards others. Character is also about doing. Aristotelian theory is a theory of action, since having the virtuous inner dispositions will also involve being moved to act in accordance with them. Realizing that kindness is the appropriate response to a situation and feeling appropriately kindly disposed, will also lead to a corresponding attempt to act kindly.

Another distinguishing feature of virtue ethics is that character traits are stable, fixed and reliable dispositions. If an agent possesses the character trait of kindness, we would expect her to act kindly in all sorts of situations, even when it is difficult to do so, towards all kinds of people, and do so reliably over a long period of time. A person with a certain character then, can be relied upon to act consistently over a time.

It is important to recognize that moral character develops over a long period of time. People are born with all sorts of natural tendencies. Some of these natural tendencies will be positive, such as a placid and friendly nature, and some will be negative, such as an irascible and jealous nature. These natural tendencies are encouraged and developed, or equally could be discouraged and thwarted, by the influences one is exposed to when growing up. There are a number of factors which may affect one's character development such as one's parents, teachers, peer group, role-models, the degree of encouragement and attention one receives, exposure to different situations and situations of varying degree of difficulty, etc. Our natural tendencies, the 'raw material' we are born with, are shaped and developed through a long and gradual process of education and habituation.

Moral education and development is a major part of virtue ethics. Moral development, at least in its early stages, relies on the availability of good role models. The virtuous agent acts as a role model for what is good and the student of virtue emulates his example. Initially this is a process of habituating oneself in the right action. Aristotle advises us to perform just acts as this way we become just. The student of virtue must develop the right habits, so that he tends to perform virtuous acts. Thus, he his behavior is, to an extent, reliable. However, virtue is not itself habit. Habituation is an aid to the development of virtue, but true virtue requires choice, understanding and knowledge. The virtuous agent doesn't just act justly out of habit, an unreflective response, but has come to recognize the value of virtue and why it is the appropriate response. Virtue is chosen, chosen knowingly and chosen for its own sake.

This long and gradual process of moral character development may take as long as a whole life-time, but once an agent's character is firmly established and we can depend on her to act consistently and predictably in a variety of situations then that agent is the virtuous agent.
Aristotelian virtue is defined in Book II of the Nicomachean Ethics as a purposive disposition, lying in a mean and being determined by the right reason and by what the virtuous agent would use to determine it. Virtue is a settled disposition because it is a character trait and we have just discussed how character traits are established over a long time, but once developed are stable, persistent and reliable dispositions. However, it is also a purposive disposition. This means that virtue is done knowingly and selected for its own sake. Acting virtuously is not the same as acting habitually, where this might involve an unreflective action, or acting my accident or in ignorance. So virtue is not only a reliable disposition to act in a certain way, but one which the agent needs to choose, choose knowingly and choose for its own sake. It is not enough to act kindly by accident, or unthinkingly or because everyone else is doing so, you must act kindly because you recognize that this is the right way to behave. Note here that although habituation is a tool for character development it is not equivalent to virtue, virtue requires conscious choice and affirmation.

The idea that virtue lies in a mean, relates to the argument that the right act varies in each situation and with respect to each person. Virtue is the appropriate response, a response that can vary in order to take into account different situations and different agents. The virtues are associated with feelings. The most common example is courage; courage has to do with fear, but other examples from the Nicomachean Ethics include the virtue of modesty which is associated with the feeling of shame, the virtue of friendliness associated with feelings about social conduct, etc. The virtue lies in a mean, because it involves displaying the mean amount of emotion, where mean stands for appropriate (This does not imply that the right amount is a modest amount. Sometimes 'quite a lot' may be the appropriate amount of emotion to display as in the case of righteous indignation.) The mean amount, the right amount, is neither too much nor too little and it must be sensitive to the requirements of the person and the situation (more on this in the next section).

Finally, virtue is determined by the right reason. Virtue requires the right desire and the right reason. To act from the wrong reason is to act viciously, the agent has failed to perceive the good. On the other hand, the agent can try to act from the right reason, but fail because she has the wrong desire, in which case she is weak-willed. The virtuous agent acts effortlessly, perceiving the right reason and having the harmonious right desire, his inner state of virtue flows smoothly into action. Crucially, the virtuous agent here can act as an exemplar or an ideal of virtue; someone we can look to in order to observe virtue in action.

It is important to recognize that this is a most perfunctory account of ideas which are developed in great detail in Aristotle, but they are related briefly here as they have been central to virtue ethics' claim to put forward a unique and rival account to other normative theories. Modern virtue ethicists have developed their theories around a central role for character and virtue and claim that this gives them a unique understanding of morality. The emphasis on character development and the role of the emotions allows virtue ethics to have a plausible account of moral psychology, lacking from deontology and consequentialism. Virtue ethics can avoid the problematic concepts of duty and obligation, in favor of the rich concept of virtue. Judgments of virtue are judgments of character, of a whole life, rather than judgments of one isolated action.

Objections to Virtue Ethics is simply Self-Centeredness, Action-Guiding, and Moral Luck!

One Final Point:

  1. Virtue is necessary for the survival of civilization

  2. Religion is necessary for the survival of virtue

  3. Therefore, religion is necessary for the survival of civilization (look at civilizations that went corrupt such as the Greek and Roman eras.)



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