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Virtues of People Essay

Q2. Mill mentions those who object to utilitarianism on the grounds that it holds humanity to an excessively high moral standard. Why might someone make this argument? How does Mill respond to it? What is your view: Are the requirements of utilitarianism excessively demanding? Why or why not? Utilitarianism does not take into account the flaws of human nature and by doing so, holds them to a standard that can never be attained by an entire society. People grow and develop over time and environmental influences create their views of happiness.

In a perfect world, everyone would be working for the happiness of all, but the world is not perfect and until we reach a point of pure harmony among all people, it will remain imperfect. Although some have found it in their hearts to live within the guidelines of utilitarianism, the fact that most of the world is based on a capitalistic free market ultimately overshadows, the “greater good” mentality. “It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be a Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.

” (Cahn 95) This statement shows a complete misunderstanding of the differences in human perception. Humans do not view the world in exactly the same way and one idea of what is important can never be made universal. Take, for example, a young woman brought up in an abusive home. She has been raped by her father most of her life, forced into drugs, and is poor. As she grows up, she cannot read because she never went to school and cannot get a job because she is an illiterate drug addict. She turns to prostitution just to make money, and contracts AIDS.

Her life has been completely dissatisfying and she dreams of being released from everything around her. One day a scientist approaches her and tells her he has developed a way to transfer human consciousness into a bird. He tells her that she will forget everything about being human and can live her life as that bird. What choice do you think she would make? Would she choose to be a dissatisfied human or a satisfied bird? Misery in life can make people view happiness in many different ways and you can never say what choice you would make in the above example until you have lived that life.

This simple fact makes it impossible to understand the greater good. We can only assume what the greater good is. Many people living in the same society have a different assumption of the greater good. So how do we determine the best choice? One person should not have to take care of the world; they should only have to take care of their world. “The agent should aim at maximizing his or her own happiness as well as other people’s happiness. ”(Cahn 108) This is a part of the response to the “No-Rest Objection” (Cahn 107), and it sounds perfectly reasonable.

The problem is how to maximize happiness when everyone has a different scale of judgment. “The utilitarian would remind us, we can surely do a lot more for suffering humanity than we now are doing – especially if we join together and act cooperatively. ” (Cahn 108) This statement is again reaching back to the perfect world scenario and shows a lack of understanding to that of which humans are now. Most of the world’s population feels that happiness is attained by having a successful life, not by how much money they have donated to charity.

The question is what creates a successful life? Since the majority of the world is based on some type of financial system, and the only way to attain anything legally is to buy it, the greater good must be based on the distribution of money. Money allows a person to have a home, raise a family, and pay for necessities and comforts. The legal way to gain money is to provide a service that produces an income, either by owning a business or by working for someone else. Because there are only a limited amount of jobs and money, competition between people is necessary.

This competition for survival is why people put more value on self-preservation than that of that greater population. Survival of the fittest is what creates a natural balance in our world and the failure to respect that could ultimately be the downfall of our planet. Propping up everyone that cannot take care of themselves could eventually lead to overcrowding and a complete lack of resources needed for survival.

Teleological ethics says that we need to look at the consequences of our actions, and I believe that by trying to make everyone happy, we are ultimately creating a place that will be unhappy for all in the long-run. Utilitarianism is a generous belief system, but I do not think it looks at the world in the proper light and it does not take into account the ramifications of helping the greater good. I also do not think that the greater good mentality will ever be a norm.. Q3. Do you have to be a virtuous person to perform a virtuous action? If you do, does this present a problem for Aristotle’s account of how virtue is acquired?

If you do not, explain how it is possible for someone who lacks a particular virtue-courage, for example-to do something courageous. Life is not static. People grow, learn, and change constantly. Every person is capable of acts that are virtuous even though they may not have displayed those behaviors in the past. A virtuous person is classified by their continuous actions, but that does not mean they are not capable of doing something that is non-virtuous. The essential trait of humanity that makes us capable of change has caused our species to become dominate.

If we are capable of change then we will always be capable of acting in a way that would not be classified as normal for our everyday behavior. “Neither by nature, then, nor contrary to nature do the virtues arise in use; rather we are adapted by nature to receive them, and are made perfect by habit. ”(Cahn 115) Aristotle made the comparison of gravities effect on a rock to the presence of virtue within a human being. (Cahn 115) This comparison makes no sense because a virtuous lifestyle is learned and practiced over time.

Although some are born with a natural disposition for virtuous behavior, this does not mean it is an inaccessible trait to all others. To prove that virtue is learned, we can look at a baby. Babies are selfish by nature and over time become more generous in their behavior. Although generosity may be easier to teach to some, it is still teachable to most if the parents do it correctly. Many people have grown to be virtuous; it has been proven time and time again.

The fact that virtuous behavior can be seen and observed allows humans to understand the concept without actually carrying out a virtuous act. Therefore, a person may understand what to do to be virtuous but makes a choice to do otherwise. The ability to make a choice is what challenges the thought that a person can only be virtuous if they are born with a natural trait. The truth is that all humans have the natural trait for virtuous behavior because all fully capable and mentally stable humans have the ability to make choices. Although humans have the natural ability to be virtuous, the confusion comes when we try to say that virtue is a constant.

A person is classified as virtuous if their lifestyle reflects the constant decision to follow a virtuous path, but a virtuous lifestyle is different from a virtuous decision. Soldiers are the perfect example. In many cases, a soldier may display fear and a lack of courage when faced with an issue in their civilian life, for example running from a fight or not speaking up when they see something wrong. However, when a grenade is thrown into a room full of their fellow soldiers, they would sacrifice their own body without thought.

This is an excess and might be viewed as not fitting the definition of virtue, but in order for that soldier to become so caring and devoted to his follow soldiers you would have to understand that life inside the Army is different from life inside the civilian world. They are two separate lifestyles and therefore may lead to two different decision making processes. Most people reflect a varying combination of virtuous and non-virtuous behavior during their life. I think it would be hard to find a person on this planet that has never committed a virtuous act during their lifetime.

Understanding this makes it clear that all people are capable of virtuous acts, but they may choose not to follow a virtuous path as a constant. Rules and boundaries in society actually create an environment where virtuous acts may be carried out daily. By law, it is fine to drink in moderation but drinking to the point that a person becomes a disturbance to their society can cause them to be taken to jail. This is just one example of the law forcing a person to recognize that virtuous behavior has a higher reward than lack of control.

“So much, then, is plain, that the intermediate state is in all things to be praised, but that we must incline sometimes towards the excess, sometimes towards the deficiency; for so shall we most easily hit the mean and what is right. ”(Cahn 119) This statement reflects and proves that no man can be completely virtuous all the time. This is because unless a man knows what is wrong, then they cannot do what is right. It also proves that every man is capable of committing a virtuous act regardless of his lifestyle.

My thoughts and beliefs come from a virtue ethical point of view. I believe that there are few people in this world who, if faced with the right situation, would not make a virtuous choice. The right situation may be different, but our human character will usually shine through. At some point, even the most evil and gluttonous man will make a virtuous choice. Works Cited Cahn, Steven M. Exploring Ethics An Introductory Anthology Second Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc. , 2011.


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