Deontology vs virtue ethics
#1
It seems to me that the Church seems to tread the waters of both ethical philosophies. The deontology ethics seems to make sense because of divine command theory and things being immoral because God has commanded it but it also seems that the Church draws from Aristotle and his virtue ethics.

Can someone help me understand or synthesis these two philosophical views? How should we go about them?   


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Reply
#2
Something is not immoral merely because God legislates against it, but because there is something that goes against the ordering of the universe : as God is holy (and this is a most fundamental attribute) He loves Himself and orders everything to Him, and so something is wrong when something subverts this ordering. This is the classical notion of sin as one sees, for example, in St. Augustine : to prefer something, even a good, above a higher good—and ultimately above the higher good, the summum bonum, who is, as we say in the act of contrition, worthy of all our love.

I think this helps to put the two views in harmony : virtue ethics is based on the end of each thing, and the end of us is to be holy, as the Father is, so everything that deviates us from that is a vice and the habits that lead us to that are virtues. And again, a mortal sin would be a clear, voluntary and direct (against God) break from this, which is expressed in the forms of (breaking of) laws.
Reply
#3
I don't really think the two views can be harmonized. Both virtue ethics and natural law theory are based upon the idea that entities have an inherent ordering toward a particular end. As Alasdair MacIntyre recognized, this ultimately means that virtue ethics must be rooted in a philosophical biology. Following Schmitt, I would also assert that it cannot be separated from a particular theology and a particular understanding of politics.

In contrast, modern deontological theories of morality seem to me to be based entirely upon an abstract, and I suppose ultimately Cartesian, concept of the person. Back before the Church was an NGO with a bit of spirituality thrown in, it did not accept this concept of personhood, and so it could not accept any theory of morality based upon it. Of course, Christians did still talk about duty, but they were not talking about abstract duties that apply to all persons universally, but rather concrete duties that apply to people embedded in families, political communities, and the Church. Even in cases where something is immoral because it goes against a particular command of God that has been added to the natural law, the immorality of the action is the result of a failure to act properly in our relationship with God, which is itself based upon the kind of entities that we are, rather than the failure to fulfill some sort of universal duty.

Honestly, deontology seems to lead to a pretty distorted and imbalanced view of things, which I think is evident in the way in which a large number of Christians choose to engage with American politics.
Reply
#4
I suspect his question is more along the lines of a particular confluences of two initially separated moral theories (for lack of a better word) that happened in the early Church, to wit, the virtue ethics and the law morality (again, for lack of a better term) expressed in the Old Testament, and which gave meaning to our most useful tool when we go to confession, viz., sin is breaking of a law and not a tendency or temptation (though it is desirous, as many Fathers and mystics attest, to get rid of tendencies). MacIntyre himself tackles this problems in his most famous book.

But then again, I might have understood his question wrongly.
Reply
#5
No, you're probably right, though in that case I think that "deontology" is not quite the right word.
Reply
#6

(02-09-2016, 07:16 PM)Crusading Philologist Wrote: No, you're probably right, though in that case I think that "deontology" is not quite the right word.

What I mean is it seems that the Church uses a deontology code of ethics in its teachings of something's. Meaning it makes codes, laws and duties that we all have to abide by within a morally ethical framework. But because it is not possible to cover every moral dilemma or situation it can plug the holes with virtue ethics. Meaning that if we cultivate and lead a particular life within the parameters of good virtue we will be able to make the moral decision in a situation that may not be clearly defined. 

I for one look to the Church for rules if they have them and follow those rules because they are given out by the True faith. So therefore I am taking a deontology approach by carrying out a duty, but at the same time I seek to become virtuous because there are times when the church isn't clear on a certain action. Therefore it would benefit my decision if I am full of virtue.

Does that make sense?


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Reply
#7
Sure, but I think it's the other way around. We follow the Church's rules, or in another context the laws of our country, because it is virtuous to obey the commands of a legitimate authority (though these rules or laws are not an end in themselves, but should rather be aimed, whether passively or actively, at enabling those subject to them to lead virtuous and holy lives). I don't think the concept of virtue can serve merely to "fill in the gaps" because it only makes sense if we assume that virtue is an essential aspect of human nature. That is, we must understand the Church's rules within the framework of virtue, not the other way around.

By the way, Brad Gregory has a book, The Unintended Reformation, in which he discusses the rise of casuistry and the relative decline of a robust understanding of the virtue of prudence. This strikes me as relevant here, as I would suggest that the aim of moral education is not simply to memorize the rules written down in theology manuals while also developing the virtue of prudence in order to be able to handle situations that the manualists have yet to address. After all, any given situation is too complex to be fully addressed in all its elements by a casuist, and so the virtue of prudence must always be at the fore, even in cases that have to one degree or another been handled by a moral theologian. Here's Gregory on the history of some of these issues:
Quote:More weight placed on obedience meant that Catholic leaders also stressed laws, obligations, and rule-following more than their medieval predecessors had, which was related to the transformation of post-Tridentine Catholic moral theology into a discrete expertise. Focused more on the natural moral law and the Ten Commandments than on the exercise of the virtues, it emphasized the fulfillment of obligations in particular human acts according to legal requirements consonant with the dictates of the informed individual conscience conceived in juridical terms, an emphasis that largely displaced the traditional virtue of prudence. This transformation fueled the boom in Catholic moral casuistry from the late sixteenth century, especially among the Jesuits, and essentially created what would become known as the "manualist" tradition in Catholic moral theology.

Of course, this move was a response to a particular historical situation and, as RF would point out, is closely linked to the sacrament of confession, so we should not simply condemn it, but it does seem to me that we might consider whether it has resulted in an imbalanced approach to morality.
Reply
#8
Where does the Church use deontology? Simply having laws, rules, and commands doesn't require any deontology at all. Such notions existed in moral philosophy long, long before Kant.
Reply
#9

(02-10-2016, 01:18 AM)richgr Wrote: Where does the Church use deontology? Simply having laws, rules, and commands doesn't require any deontology at all. Such notions existed in moral philosophy long, long before Kant.

Key word would be "seems". I don't know a whole lot of information regarding ethical philosophy that's what I asked the question for clarification....





Anyway thanks for the help CP and RF. I understand it much better now.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Reply
#10
(02-10-2016, 01:30 AM)DeoDuce Wrote:
(02-10-2016, 01:18 AM)richgr Wrote: Where does the Church use deontology? Simply having laws, rules, and commands doesn't require any deontology at all. Such notions existed in moral philosophy long, long before Kant.

Key word would be "seems". I don't know a whole lot of information regarding ethical philosophy that's what I asked the question for clarification....





Anyway thanks for the help CP and RF. I understand it much better now.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
I didn't mean what I said in a combative tone. Sorry if it came across that way. The question was simply for clarification.

The main thing to understand about deontology is that its laws flow from the a priori constructions of the mind that Kant said were innate to us. Morality flows purely from the subject as though creating a language to which we are bound. The tradition of virtue ethics, rooted in realism, is robust and sophisticated enough to account for the constructions of the mind as they might legitimately touch on moral matters and duties; for example, if I mistakenly believe, with invincible ignorance, something to be true or good, such a belief is a construction of my mind strictly speaking, and I am not culpable for committing an "objective" sin. It's also important to remember that Aquinas repeats that truth and all judgments of the intellect, formally speaking, reside in the intellect, but they correspond intentionally to extra-mental reality, a reality that as the others noted is teleological. It is from the teleological orientation of reality that morality flows as our minds are formed by the demands of reality.

In simplified form, the difference gets down to deontology being what morality becomes when the subject exists in solipsism, in isolation from the rest of reality, and virtue ethics is what morality becomes when the subject exists as one among many in real interaction and development. This interaction makes real, persisting demands on persons, which can then be articulated and enforced as laws, rules, commands, etc.
Reply




Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)