Plotinus' recognises the possibility of conflict between self-referential aims and the good of the kosmos. His solution resembles closely one attributed sometimes to the Stoics. The inner reformation Plotinus proposes will yield a detached understanding of the whole universe. This view is accompanied by a realisation that one's happiness lies in functioning as a part of the whole and in contributing to the perfection of the universe. Other-regard cannot, therefore, be seen as altogether missing from neoplatonic ethics. What gives Plotinus' ethics an agent-centred spin is its emphasis on how this state can be attained. Promoting the self's true well-being by an inward turn is the only means to an understanding of what is good simpliciter.
Hume's account of the virtue of fidelity to promises contains two surprising claims:
1) Any analysis of fidelity that treats it as a natural (nonconventional) virtue is incorrect because it entails that in promising we perform a "peculiar act of the mind," an act of creating obligation by willing oneself to be obligated. No such act is possible.
2) Though the obligation of promises depends upon social convention, not on such a mental act, we nonetheless "feign" that whenever someone promises he performs such an act.
This paper explains both in light of the philosophical questions about promising that lie behind Hume's investigation, his virtue theory, and the general difficulties he believes we face trying to understand virtues that are in fact artificial in terms of our common-sense, natural conception of virtue. It extracts a lesson for contemporary virtue ethics about the motive of duty.
Smith, Adam, 1723-1790. Theory of moral sentiments.
Rule of law.
It is argued that Adam Smith criticizes David Hume's account of the origin of and continuing adherence to the rule of law for being not sufficiently Humean. Hume explained that adherence to the rule of law originated in the self-interest to restrain self-interest. According to Smith, Hume does not pay enough attention to the passions of resentment and admiration, which have their source in the imagination. Smith's offers a more naturalistic and evolutionary account of the psychological pre-conditions of the establishment and morality of justice than Hume had. Yet, Smith's account also makes room for a thin conception of Lockean natural right to property, while rejecting the contractualist and rationalistic elements in Locke. It emerges that Smith severs the intimate connection that Hobbes and Hume made between justice and property.
Adam Smith, David Hume, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Property, Justice
Kant, Immanuel, 1724-1804. Kritik der praktischen Vernunft.
Wolff, Christian, Freiherr von, 1679-1754. Vernünfftige Gedancken von Gott, der Welt und der Seele des Menschen, auch allen Dingen überhaupt.
Kant, Immanuel, 1724-1804. Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten.
Kant, Immanuel, 1724-1804. Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der blossen Vernunft.
Kant, Immanuel, 1724-1804 -- Ethics.
A standard interpretation of Kantian "maxims" sees them as expressing reasons for action, implying that we cannot act without a maxim. But recent challenges to this interpretation claim that Kant viewed acting on maxims as optional. Kant's understanding of maxims derives from Christian Wolff, who regarded maxims as major premises of the practical syllogism. This supports the standard interpretation. Yet Kant also viewed commitments to maxims as essential for virtue and character development, which supports challenges to the standard interpretation, and raises questions about the coherence of Kant's overall conception of the role of maxims in practical philosophy.
The category of despair plays a central role in Kierkegaard's pseudonymous corpus, but its meaning is controversial. This paper offers an interpretation of its use in Either/Or (in particular, in the claim the aesthetic life is despair and the ethical life freedom from despair). After examining and rejecting two recent alternatives, I argue that despair is the conscious or unconscious assumption of a passive or fatalistic attitude toward one's existence, which attitude is informed by a misconstrual of the nature of human agency.
This paper shows how the ethical benefits of Mill's Religion of Humanity—a life imbued with purpose, an improved regard for others, and greater happiness for oneself from the pleasures of fellow-feeling—are to be actualized through the imagination's creation of compelling narratives about humanity. Understanding the ethical importance of the Religion of Humanity therefore implies understanding the central role of imagination in Millian ethical life. This investigation serves to articulate a feature of Mill's utilitarianism that differentiates it from Bentham's, namely his commitment to the importance of a religious sensibility in the moral agent. It also raises the broader philosophical issue of what narratives a psychologically tenable humanist world-view requires.