10: On Popularity & Balance


Plato and Aristotle

Key Terms

Virtue Ethics
Golden Mean
Divine Command Theory
Theory of Natural Law

  • Read and analyze philosophical texts and descriptions of philosophical thought
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the arguments in favor of and opposing classical ethical theories.
  • Demonstrate an ability to discuss and reflect upon the application of the course material to various aspects of life.
  • Evaluate the personal and social responsibilities of living in a diverse world.

I. Plato’s Crito

  • A. Socrates' last days
    • Imprisoned and sentenced to death
    • Crito argues he should escape
    • Socrates disagrees
  • B. Crito’s Argument
    • Your friends will gladly safeguard you
    • Everyone will think your friends abandoned you and it will make us look bad if you stay
    • Your sons need you
    • The situation is unjust so by staying, you are committing an injustice too
  • C. Socrates' Rebuttal
    • I’d be breaking the law
    • Ad Populum Fallacy: just because it’s a popular opinion doesn’t make it the correct opinion
    • One must perform right actions. Wrong actions damage the soul, and the soul is the most valuable part of the self
    • It is never right to do wrong, even if one has been wronged
    • Not violating the state’s laws is more important than other agreements
    • The laws are just, even though the application of the law due to human flaws may be wrong
    • Therefore, it would be wrong to break the laws

II. Virtue Ethics

  • A. Understanding Virtue Ethics
    • Virtue ethics is concerned with what kind of a person you are
    • A virtuous person has to 
      • have good judgment
      • be able to contemplate and debate all sides of a moral issue
      • have the strength to act on knowledge of the right thing
    • A virtuous person has prudence, the ability to choose wisely
    • A person discovers virtue in childhood and develops virtue through a lifetime of training, experience and practice
    • One becomes virtuous by first seeing virtue and then becoming virtuous
    • A person's purpose, teleology, is to pursue knowledge and virtue, which will lead to Eudemonia (happiness/human flourishing)
Golden Mean
  • B. The Golden Mean
    • Aristotle defines Virtue as the Golden Middle State between two moral extremes
    • Greek emphasis on balance and proportion
    • The virtuous person is one who has found balance
    • The Golden Mean represents the highest quality of life and human flourishing
    • Decoding what is virtuous is prudence
  • C. Advantages of Virtue Ethics
    • Virtue Ethics provides moral motivation and doubts ideal impartiality
  • D. Objections to Virtue Ethics
    • Founded on a tautology
    • Difficult to define virtuous traits (Franklin’s Autobiography)
    • Difficult to choose between opposing virtues
    • Does not consider overall consequences

Logic Week 10: Meaningless Jargon and Weasel Words