Friday, 27 April 2012
Virtue ethics begins with the sensibility that we ought to do as human beings is, first of all, to become excellent human beings. Becoming excellent human being, more precisely, means to develop and fulfill our most important capacities as human beings.
If our goal as human beings is to achieve happiness, then it is equally important that we develop what Aristotle (and, subsequently, Kant) identified as practical reason.
Such practical reason involves first of all our ability – given our best knowledge of reality and thus of our possible choices and actions – to make the sorts of analyses and ethical judgments required for us to do “The right thing” both for ourselves as individuals (the ethical Aristotle) and for our larger communities (for Aristotle, the political)
As we have seen, these sorts of ethical decision-making further require what Socrates and Aristotle term Phronesis, a practical judgment that is able to discern that right choice (or, some-times, choices) among the possibilities before us.
And learning from mistakes means, as Aristotle emphasized, that our developing these capacities of ethical judgment and analyse, and of reason more broadly, is an on-going task: just as the ethlet or physician must constantly practice if s/he is to maintain, much less improve, his or her abilities, so we as human beings must likewise cultivate in a conscious and on-going way our rational abilities, including our use of Phronesis.