Volume 8, Number 1, Spring 2001
Compassion:An Aristotelian Approach
Trudy C. Conway
Department of Philosophy
Mount St. Mary’s College
The following three papers focus on compassion, an issue well worth our consideration in our contemporary age, and most especially during our recent national tragedy. It is hoped that these philosophical discussions of compassion may help us as we, on personal and societal levels, come to grips with immense human suffering. The topic of compassion brings us to an exploration of a cluster of related philosophical issues and is thus a good stepping off point for inquiry. The role of the first paper is that of stage setting, to simply lay out an approach to compassion presented by Aristotle and developed by Martha Nussbaum. This approach served as the introductory consideration in a course on compassion taught by the first two commentators. Initially, we wondered if we could sustain discussion on this narrow topic over fourteen weeks, but found the course left students with numerous questions worth their further consideration. So too in these papers, a number of issues will remain untouched, such as the relation of compassion and public policy and specific approaches to the cultivating of compassion, both of which are explored at length by Martha Nussbaum. This first paper frames our discussion, by presenting in outline form key points addressed in Martha Nussbaum’s Aristotelian discussion of the emotion of compassion, and touches upon issues developed in the next two papers.
A Buddhist Critique of Nussbaum’s Account of Compassion
Department of Philosophy
University of Southern Maine
Portland, ME 04104-9300
This paper examines Martha Nussbaum’s account of compassion from the perspective of Mahayana Buddhism. It focuses on the three criteria of compassion set forth by Nussbaum in a number of her works, and shows why Buddhism would reject each of them. The paper concludes that Nussbaum’s analysis of compassion is more accurately described as an account of pity.
Barriers to Feeling and Actualizing Compassion
Department of Philosophy
Oregon State University
Corvalis, OR 97331-4503
Hume and Rousseau argue that “feeling with and/or for others” is natural and basic to us as human persons, but Royce claims that merely feeling the fleeting impulse of sympathy is not the moral insight itself. Compassion must be both felt and acted upon for it to play the role in morality ascribed by Hume and Rousseau. Why is it so often the case that we fail to feel compassion for others and, even when we do, why do we often fail to act on this basis? There are multiple socially constructed barriers to feeling and acting on compassion, three of which are discussed:null curriculum, stereotyping, and privileges. Finally, the Dalai Lama maintains that it is in every person’s own self-interest to develop compassion for others because it is the source of both inner and external peace.
Is Coerced Fertility Reduction to Preserve Nature Justifiable?
Frank W. Derringh
Department of Social Science (Philosophy)
New York City Technical College
300 Jay Street, N611
City University of New York
Brooklyn, New York 11201
Human population growth must end, and the sooner the better, for both nature and a humanity that pursues boundlessly increasing affluence. Poisoning of organisms and massive extinctions result, exacerbated by population momentum. Infliction of pain and death largely for trivial reasons constitutes the ignoble dénouement of our history. Reducing human numbers would be only one fitting response to recognition of this situation. Reliance on voluntary socio-economic reforms, including even the empowerment of women, appears unlikely to lead to below-replacement-level fertility, since families on average still elect to have more than two children. Discussed are three reasons for thinking that coercive measures could help us to engender a decreasing human population without negating preferable voluntary efforts to the same end. Hence some coercion to reduce fertility is justifiable.
Virtuality and Morality:On (not) Being Disturbed by the Other
Lucas D. Introna
Centre for the Study of Technology and Organisation
University of Lancaster Management School
Lancaster, United Kingdom
This paper critically describes the mediation of social relations by information technology, drawing on the work of Emmanuel Levinas. In the first of three movements, I discuss ethical relations as primordial sociality based in proximity. In the second movement I discuss how the self encounters the Other, the ethical contact. How can the self make contact with the Other without turning the Other into a theme, a concept, or a category? In the third movement, I discuss the electronic mediation of the social as simulation. I argue that simulation shatters proximity, since it transforms expression, the trace, into presentation, an image. I argue that the distance produced by the mediation increases the potential for the Other to become appropriated by the self-certain ego as a theme, according to its categories. In simulation, proximity is shattered and the ego can no longer be disturbed—no longer become a hostage. In a final section, I explore alternative arguments for the possibility of electronic mediation that preserves the trace, that possibility of being disturbed.
The Case Against Reparations
Department of Philosophy
Fredonia, NY 14063
George Schedler raises interesting issues with regard to the amount of reparations owed for slavery, the parties who are owed reparations, and the standard for these reparations. His arguments, however, do not hold up upon analysis. His analysis of the case for the descendants of slaves being owed compensation seriously overestimates the case for such reparations. He does not identify the grounds for such compensation, i.e., either stolen inheritance or the descendents’ trustee-like control over the slave’s estate, and this results in his not identifying the metaphysical and epistemic problems that accompany the descendant’s claim to reparations. In analyzing whether the U.S. government owes compensation, Schedler provides arguments on its small role in bringing about slavery and the break in national identity that followed the Civil War. Such arguments fail but his conclusion can be supported by other arguments, specifically the nature of the federal government’s relation to slavery and the limited nature of its powers. Thus, the case against reparations is overwhelming but nor for the reasons Schedler thinks.
The Logical Mistake of Racism
Joseph W. Long
1360 Liberal Arts and Education Building
West Lafayette, IN 47907-1360
In this paper, I will explore and attempt to define one very important type of egregious discrimination of persons, racism. I will argue that racism involves a kind of logical mistake; specifically, I hope to show that racists commit the naturalistic fallacy. Finally, I will defend my account of racism against two challenges, the most important of which argues that of racism is merely a logical error, then racists are not morally culpable.
Concessions to Moral Particularism
Susan M. Purviance
The University of Toledo
Toledo, OH 43606-3390
In this paper, I examine the particularist attack on deductive use of moral principles, reviewing the critiques of the uniformity of moral reasons and impartiality in ethics, looking principally at arguments from Larry Blum, Jonathan Dancy, and Margaret Walker. I defend the action-guiding-ness of moral principles themselves, but consider various ways to accommodate the objections coming from particularism. I conclude that one objection to the impartialist theory of value must be conceded without qualification: generalism is unable to account for the unique and irreplaceable value of individual persons. I present an example which supports my view and shows that, in the context of lived experience, replaceability is contradicted. Indeed there may be few constants of value in the narrative of one’s life, as experiences overlay supposed constants with continual new shading, and create even deeper sorts of transformation in valuing. In the end, both particularized moral judgment and the articulation of fact with principle contribute to moral discernment.
Curing Iranian Occidentosis: Jalal Al-e Ahmad’s Poly-Methodic Prescription
Karen G. Ruffle
Department of Religious Studies
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC
In this paper, I shall argue that during the period from the end of World War II until just before the Islamic revolution of 1979, a body of literature emerged critiqueing the petro-colonialism of the United States and select European countries, which infected Iran with a severe case of “occidentosis.” This set the stage for the revolution, and a presentation of the principle author of occidentosis, Jalal Al-e Ahmad, will facilitate understanding of the Iranian intellectual tradition.
Values and Science:Dewey and Pragmatist Inquiry
School of Public Policy
685 Cherry Street
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, GA 30332-1345
This essay argues for a pragmatist notion of inquiry which ties together science and morality into a seamless whole, pace David Hume, Gilbert Harman, and others who would separate science and morality as different kinds of inquiry.
Volume 8, Number 2, Fall-Winter 2001
What is Environmental Virtue Ethics that We Should Be Mindful of It?
Geoffrey B. Frasz
Philosophical and Regional Studies Department
Community College of Southern Nevada
6375 W. Charleston,
Las Vegas, NV 89146.
There has been increased interest in developing what I call environmental virtue ethics (EVE). This paper presents some of the central features of this project. The first part is a general description of EVE, showing why there is a need for it. The second part spells out the central features of EVE including an account of the good life as flourishing in an expanded or mixed biotic community, and provides a tentative list of important environmental virtues. The third part examines one virtue: friendship, showing how an understanding of it provides insight into current issues in environmental ethics. The final section addresses a challenge to the project of EVE.
Environmental Virtue Ethics: An Aristotelian Approach
Purdue University Calumet
Hammond, IN 46323
This paper articulates a framework, “E,” for developing ethical claims about environmental issues. E is a general framework for constructing arguments and working out disputes, rather than a particular theory. It may be deployed in various ways by writers with quite different views to generate diverse arguments applying to a broad panoply of issues. E can serve as a common language between those who adopt anthropocentric and non-anthropocentric standpoints. E is anthropocentric in the sense that it begins with ideas about human excellence and human interests. Arguments employing E suggest that we, as human beings, have certain duties regarding the environment. Since it may also be true that various duties attach to being an organism of any stripe, that nature has intrinsic value, and so forth, arguments employing E can be seen as supplementing, rather than replacing, non-anthropocentric moral arguments. Moreover, E is anthropocentric in its methodology but not necessarily in its results. Some accounts of human excellence yield the sorts of obligations that biocentrists advocate. As a result, arguments employing E can have force with both those who adopt and those who reject non-anthropocentric standpoints.
Inner Diversity: An Alternative Ecological Virtue Ethics
Department of Philosophy and Religion
232 Holt Hall
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Chattanooga, TN 37403
I propose a modified virtue ethics, grounded in an analogy between ecosystems and human personalities. I suggest that we understand ourselves as possessing changing systems of inter-related subpersonalities with different virtues, and view our characters as flexible and evolving.
Neo-Confucian Cosmology, Virtue Ethics, and Environmental Philosophy
Donald N. Blakeley
Department of Philosophy
California State University, Fresno
Fresno, CA 93726
This paper explores the extent to which the Confucian concept of ren (humaneness) has application in ways that are comparable to contemporary versions of environmental virtue ethics. I argue that the accounts of self-cultivation that are developed in major texts of the Confucian tradition have important direct implications for environmental thinking that even the Neo-Confucians do not seriously entertain.
Environmental Virtue Ethics With Martha Stewart
William J. Ehmann
Director, Center for Earth and Environmental Science
Plattsburgh State University-SUNY
101 Broad Street
Plattsburgh, NY 12901
Renewed philosophical discourse about virtue ethics motivates the search for examples to inform and extend our thinking. In the case of environmental virtue ethics, I have decided to consult “America’s Lifestyle Expert,” Martha Stewart. Oft dismissed as a pop icon or model of domesticity, Martha’s business success is arguably a result of her claimed authority on what the good life entails and how we get it. Reviewing over 60 signed “Letters From Martha” from her monthly magazine Martha Stewart Living, (MSL) I explored her presentations of current environmental topics including biodiversity, obligations to animals, gardening, global warming, and reliance on technology. I find that her work ultimately makes managing a household interesting, and encourages her public to take personal pride in everyday tasks done well. These are trademark Martha Stewart “good things.” Moreover, by connecting with a large audience few philosophers or scientists ever court, she is poised to help us manage our larger planetary household (sensu Gr. “oikos”) and frame a quality of life for future generations.
Comments on Frasz and Cafaro on Environmental Virtue Ethics
Thomas Hill, Jr.
3158 Chicken Bridge Road
Pittsboro, NC 27312
Professor Hill delivered these comments as part of the International Society for Environmental Ethics panels on Environmental Virtue Ethics, held at the annual meeting of the Pacific Division ofthe American Philosophical Association, April 2000, in Albuquerque, NM. Philip Cafaro’s paper “Thoreau, Leopold and Carson: Toward an Environmental Virtue Ethics” appears in Environmental Ethics 23 (2001), 3-17. Geoffrey Frasz’s paper “What is Environmental Virtue Ethics That We Should Be Mindful of It?” is published as part of this special issue of Philosophy in the Contemporary World.
A Morally Defensible Aristotelian Environmental Ethics: Comments on Gerber, O’Neill, Frasz and Cafaro on Environmental Virtue Ethics
Department of Philosophy
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, IN 46556
Professor Sterba delivered these comments at the International Society for Environmental Ethics panels on Environmental Virtue Ethics, at the annual meeting of the Pacific Division of the American Philosophical Association, April 2000, in Albuquerque, NM. The papers by L. Gerber, J. O’Neill and G. Frasz are published in Philosophy in the Contemporary World 8:3. P. Cafaro’s paper “Thoreau, Leopold and Carson: Toward an Environmental Virtue Ethics” was published in Environmental Ethics 23 (2001): 3-17.
Attunement: An Ecological Spin on the Virtue of Temperance
Louke van Wensveen
Department of Theological Studies
Loyola Marymount University
Los Angeles, CA
Within an environmental virtue ethic belongs moderation for the sake of ecojustice. Named attunement, this virtue both resembles and differs from Aristotelian and Thomistic articulations of temperance. Principally expressed as frugality and moderation in diet, it includes: sensitivity to limits, acceptance of limits, joyous contentment, creativity, and readiness to sacrifice.
Environmental Virtues and Public Policy
Centre for Philosophy
Institute for Environment, Philosophy and Public Policy
Lancaster, LA1 4YG,
The Aristotelian view that public institutions should aim at the good life is criticized on the grounds that it makes for an authoritarian politics that is incompatible with the pluralism of modern society. The criticism seems to have particular power against modern environmentalism, that it offers a local vision of the good life which fails to appreciate the variety of possible human relationships to the natural environment, and so, as a guide to public policy, it leads to green authoritarianism. This paper argues to the contrary that an Aristotelian position which defends environmental goods as constitutive of the good life is consistent with recognition of the plurality of ways our relations to the natural world can be lived. It is compatible with the recognition of distinct cultural expressions of such relations and of the special place particular histories of individuals and social groups have in constraining environmental policy.
The Art of Intimacy
University Honors Program
University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87110
This paper is an exploration of intimacy with non-human nature. I show that intimacy is like friendship in that it is a close and familiar relationships that develops over time and is marked by care and concern. Just as we have good reasons to value and promote friendships, we also have good reasons to value and promote intimacy with non-human nature.
The Virtues of Hunting
Green Mountain College
Poultney, VT 05764
Sport Hunting, Eudaimonia, and Tragic Wisdom
James A. Tantillo
Department of Natural Resources
8 Fernow Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
Anti-hunters frequently overlook or underestimate the positive values associated with reflective sport hunting. In this essay I characterize the value of hunting in the context of an Aristotelian virtue ethic. Sport hunting done for the purpose of recreation contributes heavily to the eudaimonia (flourishing) of hunters. I employ Aristotelian insights about tragedy to defend hunting as an activity especially well- suited for promoting a range of crucial intellectual and emotional virtues. Reflective sport hunters develop a “realistic awareness of death” and experience what may be called “tragic” pleasure, which yields the important intellectual virtue of tragic wisdom.
Virtue Ethics and the Material Values of Nature
Academy of Finland
Department of History
University of Oulu
P.O. Box 1000
90014 Oulu, Finland
For Aristotle, man is part of nature, a “political animal” with the faculty of reason. In this sense, Aristotelian virtue ethics can be said to relate virtues to nature. On the one hand, virtues lean on the natural dispositions of man as a social animal. On the other hand, virtues are connected to praxis, that is, with man’s active realization of his inherent biological, social and cultural potential. Recently, the material value ethics of Max Scheler and Nicolai Hartmann developed the Aristotelian tradition in a naturalistic direction, posing the problem of the value of life and connecting this question to the question of virtue. Virtues sensitize us to values and are, therefore, especially important for ethical praxis. I claim that precisely because of its historical and cultural concreteness, virtue ethics can be successfully applied to environmental issues. In critical connection with common mentalities, naturalistic virtue ethics can be a politically effective way of ethical thinking. Furthermore, we can avoid the trap of relativism by suggesting strong environmental values and virtues. An example would be the health of ecosystems and of humans.
Analogical Extension and Analogical Implication in Environmental Moral Philosophy
University of Chicago
1010 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
Two common claims in environmental moral philosophy are that nature is worthy of respect and that we respect ourselves in respecting nature. In this paper, I articulate two modes of practical reasoning that help make sense of these claims. The first is analogical extension, which understands the respect due human life as the source of a like respect for nature. The second is analogical implication, which involves nature in human life to show us what we are like. These forms of reasoning are relevant to environmental virtue ethics in that both help us conceptualize how respect for nature can be part of our sense of humanity, and not opposed to our sense of humanity.
The Naturalist’s Virtues
Department of Philosophy
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80521
This paper argues that studying natural history helps make us more virtuous; that is, better and happier people. After sketching a broad conception of virtue, I discuss how naturalizing may improve our moral character and help develop our intellectual, aesthetic and physical abilities. I next assert essential connections between non-anthropocentrism and wisdom, and between natural history study and the achievement of a non-anthropocentric stance toward the world. Finally, I argue that the great naturalists suggest a noble, inspiring alternative to the gross consumption and trivial pleasures offered by our destructive modern economy: the exploration, understanding and appreciation of nature. I conclude that a better understanding of our enlightened self-interest would do as much to further environmental protection as the acknowledgment of nature’s intrinsic value.