Many prominent philosophers determined concepts about moral and political issues in terms of their unique philosophical doctrines.
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Aristotle’s theory of virtue ethics
According to Aristotle, humans, unlike animals can reason. Hence, reasoning together with pleasure can bring happiness. And by Aristotle “happiness is naturally our highest objective”, meaning “our highest good” (Moore & Bruder, 2011, p. 264). Therefore, the virtue by Aristotle is using our capability to reason and restraining our desires (Moore & Bruder, 2011, p. 265). Thus, we obtain intellectual” virtue, for example, by learning; we gain “moral” virtue, for instance, by going on a diet (Moore & Bruder, 2011, p. 265).
For people of keen intellect, it might be true. However, for a carpenter or a musician, for example, it is not. If our highest goal is to be happy, even if it is not necessarily connected with pleasure, it cannot only be in intellectual activity and moderation of our wants.
Augustine’s notion of evil
Augustine offered a solution to a debatable Christian question about the presence of evil in “a world created by a perfectly good God” (Moore & Bruder, 2011, p. 270). Firstly, he claimed that evil was not created by God. Furthermore, following Plato’s ideas, Augustine also debated the reality of evil. Therefore, ignorance of the right and “misdirected love” can lead to the wrong deeds of a human (Moore & Bruder, 2011, p. 271). The highest, virtuous good is God because God is good virtually, of the essence. Consequently, a human must be guided by a love of God, this is Augustine’s moral imperative.
It can be true for Christianity, but there are other religions as well: Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam, Hinduism, and finally atheism. And all these doctrines understand seeking for the highest good and virtue differently.
Bentham’s and Mill’s utilitarianism
Being utilitarians, Bentham and Mill explained virtuous actions as opposition to Kant and support of Hume. Bentham and Mill stated that “the rightness of an action is identical with the happiness it produces as its consequence” (Moore & Bruder, 2011, p. 284). Unlike Aristotle and Augustine, this is about individual virtue and private happiness. What makes you happy, is your idea of morality.
So, there is a lack of a core idea about the essence of such virtue as it is subjunctive. It can be true for happiness, but not for morality.
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David Hume’s ethical view is known as sentimentalism
For moral virtue, David Hume put emotions, not reasoning first. Reasoning cannot explain the value of art and the immorality of killing people (Moore & Bruder, 2011). When you feel disgusted, the action is wrong; when you feel joy and happiness, the action is virtuous.
However, some people feel happy by killing people, so nowadays it is a law that distinguishes a murder for your protection from crime for your pleasure.
Kant’s ethical theory, the categorical imperative
By Kant, there must be “supreme prescription of morality… The supreme categorical imperative” (Moore & Bruder, 2011, p. 283). Therefore, he speaks of universal, objective morality. Your action is virtuous if you want this action to become a universal moral law. Still, people are all different by nature.
Nietzsche’s master and slave moralities
Nietzsche differentiates “slave morality” and “master morality” (Moore & Bruder, 2011, p. 289). The first one is soft-hearted and, therefore, weak; and the second one is selfish and, in contrast, strong (Moore & Bruder, 2011, p. 289). Consequently, an evolution of the world and society is performed by masters, not slaves (Moore & Bruder, 2011, p. 289).
Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s notion of the natural man and civil man
By Rousseau, when a human was close to nature, a person was “innocent”, “free” and, therefore, “happy” (Moore & Bruder, 2011, p. 323). On the contrary, civilization, meaning private property, destroyed this natural freedom.
Locke’s labor theory of property and Marx’s labor theory of value
According to Locke, “your property is what you mix your labor with”; and the state should protect the right to ownership (Moore & Bruder, 2011, p. 321). By Marx, “the value of a commodity is determined by the amount of labor required for its production” (Moore & Bruder, 2011, p. 337). Hence, a socialist state should be created to protect workers who are exploited by private property owners (Moore & Bruder, 2011, p. 337).
Thomas Hobbes and John Locke about the state of nature and natural rights
Thomas Hobbes understood “natural laws” as “rational principles” that can defend a human (Moore & Bruder, 2011, p. 314). Besides, there is a “social contract” when people freely give up their powers and rights to a state in return for protection (Moore & Bruder, 2011, p. 317). However, people have “natural rights” to use all means for their protection once the state fails to maintain peace (Moore & Bruder, 2011, p. 317). In contrast, Locke says that people cannot kill others or damage their property because every human has “God-given natural rights” (Moore & Bruder, 2011, p. 320). Thus, this is an opposition of God ruling the society or people themselves.
John Rawls’ notion of the veil of ignorance and the original position
To select the principle of justice, John Rawls offers a “veil of ignorance” that guarantees “that nobody is advantaged or disadvantaged” when choosing the policies (Moore & Bruder, 2011, p. 366). The veil can give us an “original position” meaning “initial situation” (Moore & Bruder, 2011, p. 366). Hence, we can avoid bias when creating a justified social contract.
Robert Nozick’s notion of the night-watchman state and entitlement concept of social justice
According to Robert Nozick, a state should be “the minimal night-watchman” for the protection of the citizens from any danger (Moore & Bruder, 2011, p. 370). Thus, the “entitlement concept of social justice” by Nozick is based on the fact that any redistribution of a person’s possession or any other belonging is wrong and unjust (Moore & Bruder, 2011, p. 370). Nevertheless, redistribution is possible once it does not violate a human’s freedom and serves to enlarge the good (Moore & Bruder, 2011, p. 370).
Depending on the core ideas of each philosophical doctrine, the subject of morality and political conception is presented differently. Nevertheless, it is either related or opposed to the views of other philosophers.
Moore, B., & Bruder, K. (2011). Philosophy: The power of ideas (8th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.