Bernardo Atxaga

Aristotle thought that no rules or appeal to consequences could possibly give a person correct guidelines in which to respond to all situations. His ethical viewpoint was largely disregarded in the medieval period where it was assumed that ethics had their basis in the will of God, and in the early-modern period more materialistic views of ethics began to compete with religious concepts. After debates in the 19th and 20th centuries could not resolve the conflicts between Immanuel Kant’s Deontological ethics and John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarian viewpoint, many philosophers began to go back to Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics as a good alternative.

Aristotle thought that the goal of human beings in their search for happiness was to reach Eudemonia, Aristotle thought that the goal of human beings in their search for happiness was to reach Eudemonia. There are a number of objections to Virtue Ethics, like there are to any ethical theory. One comes from St. Thomas Aquinas, who while an adherent to Aristotle disregarded Virtue Ethics in favor of Natural Law Ethics. Aquinas considered chastity to be an absolute virtue, and while he acknowledged that it was not achievable by everyone, and that it was necessary for some to fail to be chaste in order to continue the human species, he still thought that absolute chastity was the goal that everyone should shoot for.

A more common objection that modern philosophers use is that what may be considered a virtue in one society may not be considered a virtue in another. In this way they accuse Virtue Ethics as being nothing more than moral relativism. While Deontological and Utilitarian theories have their flaws, these philosophers argue that Virtue Ethics is merely a side-stepping of the ethical problem and is simply an endorsement of the moral norms of a given society rather than a normative ethical theory based on reason. Proponents of Virtue Ethics argue that since ethical theories proceed from shared moral intuitions in the first place, universal rules or criteria are not only ineffective but unnecessary to the person who wishes to achieve a morally virtuous life.

Aquinas delineated the basic human drives into “the will” and “desires.” Desires are all sensual appetites that derive from the senses. The will however, is a faculty that is always seeking the good. Aquinas believed that the good for all people was God but that the conscious mind did not need to perceive this to be seeking God. All acts that human beings chose are in service of what is perceived to be good. When a person commits an immoral act they are still seeking the good they are merely mistaken.

When it came to morality, Aquinas argued that we should judge goodness in how fully something exists. His example is that it is good for a blind man to exist but his lack of sight is bad. Aquinas believed that reason was the faculty to determine moral action. If the object of an action was agreeable to reason (such as giving to the poor) then it was good but if it was offensive to reason (such as stealing) then it was bad. Some actions, like picking up sticks off the ground, are completely neutral and have no good or bad distinction. Ultimately, the will should act in accordance with reason and it is the goal from which the will is engaged that determines ultimately whether an action is moral or immoral.

Aquinas extended his idea of virtue and goodness that had been derived from Aristotle into an ethical theory called “Natural Law” ethics. The basis of this idea was that what was good for man was what benefitted his nature. This is how Aquinas further argued that chastity was not suitable for all human beings. It was the nature of man to want to propagate the species but it was not the obligation of every man to do so. Aquinas thought that natural law was founded on the same elemental law that dictated the truths of the sciences. Four values were established to be key in natural law: life, procreation, knowledge and sociability. Aquinas also established “the doctrine of double effect” which states that an act can be committed if it has two effects, one good and one bad,

5- Kant

The political philosophy of Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) favoured a classical republican approach.[1] In Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch (1795), Kant listed several conditions that he thought necessary for ending wars and creating a lasting peace. They included a world of constitutional republics by establishment of political community.[2] His classical republican theory was extended in Doctrine of Right (1797), the first part of Metaphysics of Morals.[3] At the end of the 20th century Kant’s political philosophy had been enjoying a remarkable renaissance in English-speaking countries with more major studies in a few years than had appeared in the preceding many decades.

Kant’s most significant contribution to political philosophy and the philosophy of law is the doctrine of Rechtsstaat. According to this doctrine, the power of the state is limited in order to protect citizens from the arbitrary exercise of authority. The Rechtsstaat (German: Rechtsstaat) is a concept in continental European legal thinking, originally borrowed from German jurisprudence, which can be translated as “the Legal state” or “state of rights”. It is a “constitutional state” in which the exercise of governmental power is constrained by the law,[5] and is often tied to the Anglo-American concept of the rule of law. Kant’s political philosophy has been described as liberal for its presumption of limits on the state based on the social contract as a regulative matter.[6]

In a Rechtsstaat, the citizens share legally based civil liberties and they can use the courts. A country cannot be a liberal democracy without first being a Rechtsstaat. German writers usually place Immanuel Kant‘s theories at the beginning of their accounts of the movement toward the Rechtsstaat.[7] The Rechtsstaat in the meaning of “constitutional state” was introduced in the latest works of Immanuel Kant after US and French constitutions were adopted in the late 18th century. Kant’s approach is based on the supremacy of a country’s written constitution. This supremacy must create guarantees for implementation of his central idea: a permanent peaceful life as a basic condition for the happiness of its people and their prosperity. Kant was basing his doctrine on none other but constitutionalism and constitutional government.] Kant’s idea is the foundation for the constitutional theory of the twenty-first century.

Right and wrong is determined by rationality, giving universal duties.
Kantianism is a Non-consequentialist moral theory.Basic ideas: That there is “the supreme principle of morality”.Ý Good and Evil are defined in terms of Law / Duty / Obligation.Ý Rationality and Freedom are also central.Ý Kant thought that acting morally was quite simple.Ý That is: – you ought to do your duty (simply because it is your duty). – Reason guides you to this conclusion.

Good Will (i.e., having the right intentions) is the only thing that is good without qualification.Ý So, actions are truly moral only if they have the right intention, i.e., based on Good Will.

What establishes Good Will?

– only can be a law of “universal conformity” — “I should never act except in such a way that I can also will that my maxim should become a universal law”.

This is called the Categorical Imperative = Principle of Universalizability. The basic idea is that we should adopt as action guiding rules (i.e., maxims) only those that can be universally accepted.Ý Consider someone wondering if they could break a promise if keeping it became inconvenient.Ý We might formulate the following maxim governing promises: I can break promises when keeping them becomes inconvenient.Can this be universalized?Ý Kant says no because making promises then becomes, in essence, contradictory.Ý The thinking is that a promise is, by definition, something you keep.Ý The above maxim would lead to a contradiction of will, i.e., “I’ll make a promise (something I keep), but I’ll break it if I choose”.In other words, people should only do things that they would be happy to see everyone do.. Kant had another way of formulating the Categorical Imperative that is worth noting. Never treat anyone merely as a means to an end.Ý Rather, treat everyone as an end in themselves.We can understand this by noting an example, i.e., the slave society.Ý What is wrong with the slave society, following the above principle, is that a slave is treated as a means to the slave owner’s ends, i.e., as an instrument or tool, not as a person.Ý The upshot is that no person’s interests (or rights) can be overridden by another’s, or the majority. Many think that this way of formulating the Categorical Imperative shows that Kantianism is clearly anti-Utilitarian