Monday, August 16, 2010

Ethicist Less Ethical

Over on, two philosophers navel gaze to consider whether thinking about morality make you a more moral person? Or just someone more effective at using morality to justify whatever they want to do. Eric Schwitzgebel finds the latter, for example documenting that ethics books in philosophy are more often overdue than books in other fields. Ethical philosophers are not more ethical than other people, merely especially talented at finding justification for doing what they want to do. Such convenient confabulation is no stranger to economics and finance, in than an economist can justify his preference for any reasonably popular economic policy via some published economics. It is is not as if the big questions in economics have become less disputed over the past century via theory, merely the failure of the Soviet Union, and other datapoints make certain arguments less compelling.


Charles said...

Virtue is mostly a matter of habits and dispositions. We respond to situations unthinkingly and then we may or may not reflect on what we did. Aristotle asserted that a prerequisite for the study of ethics is a sound education, and he was not talking about schooling but more about how a person is reared. So an intellectual, unethical person will use his knowledge of theoretical ethics to justify his actions to himself or to others.

Caveat B said...

This reminds me of the ethics professor at a noted seminary who took it upon himself to chainsaw some branches obstructing his office views, after his requests to do this were repeatedly denied by the administration.

Dave Schuler said...

Charles above got it right on the first try. Virtue is a habit. Habits are acquired by practice. You become brave by doing brave things. You become charitable by treating people kindly.