SIX QUESTIONS

SIX QUESTIONS (SIX CENTRAL ISSUES THAT SEPARATE VARIOUS SCHOOLS OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY):

Agent: Who primarily decides in moral matters—the community or the individual?

Standard: What is the universal standard of right action?

Motive: Why should I follow the rules?

Freedom: What is freedom?

Good life: What is the purpose, meaning, or goal of life?

Virtues: What are the qualities of a good person?

 

 

AQUINAS:            MODERATE COMMUNITARIAN

Agent                     The human community

The constitutional monarchy possesses rights.

Standard                Self-realization

Motive                   To attain one’s highest potentials

Freedom                 The exercise of the capacity to realize the potential given by

heredity, environment, and self-awareness

Good Life               A life in which one’s potential is achieved

Virtues                   Temperance, Courage, Wisdom, Justice, Faith, Hope, Charity

 

ARISTOTLE: MODERATE COMMUNITARIAN

Agent                     The human community

The city-state possesses rights

Standard                Self-realization

Motive                   To attain one’s highest potentials

Freedom                 The exercise of the capacity to achieve the potential given by heredity and environment

Good Life               A life of moderation

Virtues   Primary

The golden mean:  (the middle column is the virtue,  the other columns  contain the vices)

Self-indulgence         Temperance                              Insensibility

Rashness                    Courage                                      Timidity/cowardice

Extreme partiality   Wisdom (fair-mindedness)     Strict impartiality

 

AUGUSTINE: STRICT COMMUNITARIAN

Agent                     The Church, the conscience of the state

Rule by divine right

Standard                Will of God

Motive                   Love of God

Freedom                 Turning to God (conversion to God)

Good Life               A life in union with God

Virtues                   Primary; temperance, courage, wisdom, justice, faith, hope,

and charity

 

BAIER: MODERATE COMMUNITARIAN

Agent                     The individual who feels compassion with others

Standard                An action that reflects care and sympathy for others

Motive                   To establish caring relationships with others

Freedom                 Realizing oneself through relationships

Good Life               A life in relationship with others

Virtues                   Primary: trust, sympathy

 

BEAUVOIR: EXISTENTIALIST

Agent                     The individual conscious of death

Standard                Authentic human existence

Motive                   One has created the rules in each situation.

Freedom                 The human being

Good Life               An authentic life

Virtues                    Secondary: authenticity is the only virtue

 

BENTHAM: ACT UTILITARIAN

Agent                     The pleasure-seeking individual who sympathizes with other sentient beings

Standard                The greatest pleasure of the greatest number

Motive                   Out of sympathy for sentient beings

Freedom                 The exercise of the capacity to satisfy one’s needs and desires

Good Life               A life in which the greatest number attain pleasure

Virtues   Secondary: altruism, benevolence

 

EPICURUS: SUBJECTIVE RELATIVIST

Agent                     The pleasure-seeking individual

Standard                Long-lasting pleasure

Motive                   To attain long-term satisfaction

Freedom                 Our desires are fixed; we can choose only how to fulfill them.

Good Life               A life in which desires are satisfied

Virtues   All virtues are instrumental, ultimately a form of prudence

 

EPICTETUS: MODERATE COMMUNITARIAN

Agent                     The rational individual in a community of rational individuals

Standard                The rational, detached action

Motive                   To attain one’s true nature as a rational being

Freedom                 Everything is predetermined; persons are free only to a limited extent

Good Life               A life of resignation to one’s fate

Virtues   Primary: ataxia or indifference to one’s fate, as an actor is

Indifferent; truthfulness, loyalty, performance of duty

 

 

HOBBES: SUBJECTIVE RELATIVIST
Agent                     the self-interested individual

Standard                short-term self-interest

Motive                   self-interest

Freedom                 the satisfaction of one’s desires

Good Life               a life in which one’s desires are satisfied

Virtues   secondary: cunning, force, fraud

 

HOBBES: CULTURAL RELATIVIST
Agent                     the Leviathan

Standard                long-term (enlightened) self-interest

Motive                   self-interest

Freedom                 a secure state

Good Life               a life in which one’s survival is protected

Virtues   secondary: obedience to the laws of the Leviathan

 

 

HUME: COMMUNAL RELATIVIST

Agent                     the individual as a member of a particular society

Standard                varies from community to community

Motive                   to express sympathy for the self-interest of others

Freedom                 the satisfaction of one’s preferences and desires

Good Life               varies from community to community

Virtues   primary: generosity, liberality, zeal, and gratitude

 

 

KANT: AUTONOMY CONTRACTARIAN

 

Agent                     The rule-creating individual

Standard                The categorical imperative or generalizable rule; unanimous consent of the governed

Motive                   If one freely chooses the rules, he or she is bound by the rules.

Freedom                 The exercise of the capacity to choose the rules by which humans govern themselves

Good Life               A life in accord with the rules chosen by rational humans

Virtues   Secondary: good will, autonomy

 

  1. L. KING: MODERATE COMMUNITARIAN

Agent                     The conscientious individual

Standard                The just action

Motive                   To attain justice

Freedom                 Liberation from oppression

Good Life               A life in which one is released from oppression

Virtues   Primary: Justice, autonomy

 

LOCKE AND JEFFERSON: LIBERTARIANS

Agent                     the enlightened individual

Standard                consent of the governed

Motive                   self-interest

Freedom                 democratic rule

Good Life               a life with minimal governmental constraints

Virtues                  Secondary: industriousness; independence

 

MACINTYRE: MODERATE COMMUNITARIAN

Agent                     The pursuer of internal goods

Standard                Self-realization

Motive                   To manage conflict (conflict is basic): “The purpose of the quest is to discover the purpose of the quest.”

Freedom                 The exercise of the capacity given by heredity and environment

Good Life               A life of pursuit of goods internal to practices, communal goods

Virtues   Primary: qualities that enable one to pursue goods internal to a practice

 

MAIMONIDES: MODERATE COMMUNITARIAN

Agent                     the human community

Standard                rational revealed truths

Motive                   long-term self-interest

Freedom                 governance by freely chosen rules

Good Life               life in accordance with reasonable rules

Virtues   practical wisdom; fair-mindedness

 

MARX: EXTREME UTILITARIAN

Agent                     The benevolent participant in actions that seek the equal treatment for all humans

Standard                The equal distribution of the social goods

Motive                   Sympathy for humanity

Freedom                 The exercise of the capacity to satisfy basic needs

Good Life               A life in which the wealth and power in human society are equally distributed

Virtues   Secondary: altruism, benevolence

 

 

MILL AND TAYLOR: RULE UTILITARIANS

Agent                     The impartial benevolent spectator

Standard                The greatest happiness of the greatest number

Motive                   Sympathy for humanity

Freedom                 The exercise of the capacity to satisfy one’s needs and desires

Good Life               A life in which the greatest number attain happiness

Virtues   Secondary: altruism, benevolence

 

MUSSOLINI: STRICT COMMUNITARIAN

Agent                     The nation-state; the government as conscience of the state;

The state is absolute, the individual relative.

Standard                Survival of the fittest, both individual and collective

Motive                   Spiritual development: struggle against death

Freedom                 The state is free when it directs the economic, moral, and spiritual life of the people. Only then are the people themselves free.

Good Life               Rule by the few

Virtues   Courage; strength; desire to survive

Rejects materialism.

Rejects socialist and democratic forms of government. Socialist governments seek a permanent state of peace, but conflict is basic. Democratic governments are a pretense of power by the people: the hidden hand in the market-place and hidden wielders of power actually do the governing.

 

PLATO: STRICT COMMUNITARIAN

Agent                     The city-state

Standard                The form of the good

Motive                   Love of the community

Freedom                 Liberation from slavery

Good life                Acceptance of one’s assigned role

Virtues                   Temperance, Courage, Wisdom, Justice

 

RAWLS: AUTONOMY CONTRACTARIAN

Agent                     The impartial rational spectator

Standard                Basic principles chosen by unanimous consent from behind a veil of ignorance

Motive                   If one freely chooses the basic principles, he or she is bound by the principles

Freedom                 The exercise of the capacity to choose the basic principles by which humans govern themselves

Good Life               An autonomous life

Virtues   Secondary: fidelity, trust, integrity, truthfulness, and justice

 

RUDDICK: MODERATE COMMUNITARIAN

Agent                     The caring individual who is connected to others

Standard                Care for particular others

Motive                   The choice of life

Freedom                 Remaining in a “holding tension”

Good Life               A life in relationship with others

Virtues   Primary: humility, clear-sighted cheerfulness

 

STRAUSS:LIBERTARIAN  (esoteric version)

Agent                     the wise philosopher who teaches his generation

Standard                consent of the governing class; dominance of the fittest

Motive                   fear of violent death

Freedom                 creation of the rules and life’s meaning

Good Life               contemplation, leisure, learning

Virtues                    foresight, wisdom

 

STRAUSS: STRICT COMMUNITARIAN (exoteric version)

Agent                     God or the state

Standard                revealed (divine) or positive (civil) law

Motive                   fear of violent death

Freedom                 conformity to the leader’s will

Good Life               stable and peaceful life

Virtues   courage, temperance, obedience and trust in leaders

 

 

 

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