PHI 208 Week 4 Discussion Prompts
1. 1. An important aspect of Aristotle’s virtue ethics is the idea that virtues are “habits” that we acquire over time, and like any habit, virtues affect not just what we do, but our desires and emotions as well. Focusing on either Hill’s article or Robinson’s article, how might this be important when discussing environmental ethics or military ethics (focus your discussion on just one of those, but feel free to discuss the other in reply to other people’s posts)? How would a virtue ethicist reply to someone who says that they wish they could do more to express concern for the environment or be more courageous, but are too “weak willed” to do that? Use examples from the assigned media when appropriate.
2. 2.Aristotle says that the virtues are necessary for humans to attain happiness, but he means this in terms of something we might call “flourishing” or “living well”, which he considers quite different than simply feeling good. Thus, according to Aristotle some people might feel that they are happy, but because they lack the virtues they are not truly flourishing. However, imagine someone that is deceitful, selfish, greedy, self-indulgent, and yet enjoys great pleasure and appears to be quite happy. Is someone like this “flourishing” or not? Explain your answer this by referring to this week’s readings and media, and if possible provide examples from real life and/or from literature, film, TV, etc.
3. 3. Aristotle claims that if you are suffering terrible misfortune, you cannot truly be considered happy or flourishing. However, there are many examples from current and past history, religious traditions, and fiction of people that might seem to contradict this claim (for example, in the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12, Luke 6:20-23) Jesus describes people that seem to be suffering in various ways and calls them “blessed”; some translations say “happy”). Leaving aside any religious assumptions and considering this from a strictly philosophical perspective, do you think that it’s possible for people to be happy or flourishing even if they are suffering terrible misfortune? Provide at least one example to illustrate your answer, and refer to the readings and media to support your view.
4. 4.What are 2 virtues that you believe are important to living a flourishing or successful life in either Aristotle’s sense? Explain what goods in human life these virtues enable their possessor to fulfill. Provide examples of characteristic behavior that manifests these virtues, and contrast that with behavior that displays a lack of virtue. Do your examples confirm Aristotle’s view that a virtue is a mean between extremes of excess and defect? If so, explain what those extremes are; if not, explain why. Refer to this week’s readings and media to illustrate and support your claims.
5. 5. Describe an area in your own life that you believe requires certain virtues in order to do well. This might be an occupation, an activity or hobby, a role you play (mother, friend, husband, mentor, etc.), and so on. Explain what this is, and what the “telos” of this kind of thing is; in other words, what is the purpose of this area of life, and would it mean to flourish and do well in it? Are there things people pursue in this area that are not part of the true telos? Finally, what are the virtues that one must have in order to flourish and do well in this area of life? What are some vices that get in the way? Your answers to these questions should include evidence from this week’s readings and media.