Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Four Thoughts

I have been thinking recently about what might be four ethical ideas that I wish were taken more seriously, or taken seriously among a wider group of people, and these are the four I came up with:

(1) Some things that are morally permissible are nonetheless morally risky.
(2) Enduring difficulty is itself a human excellence.
(3) We should restrain ourselves even when dealing with good and innocent pleasures.
(4) Exchanges should be done in such a way that all parties to the exchange benefit in some way.

The sharp eye might note the connection to the cardinal virtues. What are some ethical ideas that you think should be taken more seriously?


  1. I like your first one. It's a head-scratcher to me that Pieper skips over Caution and Circumspection in his book on the cardinal virtues. Also a nice connection to your third.

    Since I'm still hip-deep in Pieper at this point of the semester, I'll add:

    How giving what is not strictly due makes us more just (affability, liberality).
    Anger as both pre-rational and as good.

  2. Enbrethiliel4:13 PM


    #1 is definitely courage and #3 is surely temperance; and it's easy to see how #4 falls into the province of justice. But how is #2 prudence? Or am I making the connection too rigid?

  3. Chris5:35 PM

    Are you sure #1 and #2 shouldn't be switched?

    I would think #1 falls more in the category of prudence. In other words, even though we are engaging in something morally permissible, we should be prudent due to the risk that a moral wrong could be committed.

    #2 seems like courage to me, in that courage is necessary to endure difficulty.

    I could be wrong - I can't say I have more than cursory knowledge of Virtue Ethics.

  4. MrsDarwin7:52 PM

    1. Prudence
    2. Fortitude
    3. Temperance
    4. Justice


  5. branemrys8:41 PM

    As Chris notes, #1 is prudence, #2 is courage, although I can entirely see how 'risky' might be interpreted in the sense of courage-risky rather than judgment-risky.

  6. branemrys9:31 PM

    That's a good one; I don't remember if I've come across that Calvin & Hobbes before.

  7. Enbrethiliel1:19 PM


    Well, now that you've mentioned it, #1 is clearly a prudence issue.

    The overlap reminds me of a friend saying that the four cardinal virtues are so closely related that if you lack one, you lack all four.

  8. branemrys10:09 PM

    Yes, that comes up when I discuss cardinal virtues in my Ethics class -- the idea that you need all four cardinal virtues to have any of them was overwhelmingly the most common view before the modern era. Both Plato and Thomas Aquinas argue for it, for instance.


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