Aristotle v Butler

Aristotle v Butler - Carly Weil PHIL 213: Ethics Prof....

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Carly Weil PHIL 213: Ethics Prof. Jacobs Comparative Analysis of Aristotle and Butler’s Moral Objectivity What is morally right or wrong? How do we tell the difference? These two questions on moral judgment are issues that both Aristotle, in Nichomachean Ethics , and Joseph Butler, in his Sermons , dedicate much of their time and thought to. In fact, moral theorizing on the nature of moral objectivity comprises the vast majority of both pieces of literature. Although they were writing roughly two centuries apart from one another, both Aristotle and Butler interestingly agree on the cognitive, or rational, nature of moral judgment; the process of reason or thought plays a significant role in differentiating between what is right and what is wrong. Moreover, both Aristotle and Butler posit that the moral virtues and values that govern the moral judgments human beings are faced with are grounded in human nature. Every person, in some way, innately has the ability to be and the knowledge of how to be a moral being. However, each writer has a separate way of explaining these broad ideas and of reconciling them with observed human action. Aristotle argues that human beings are born with capacities for moral virtue which must be cultivated and governed by prudence or practical reason, but that this practical reasoning must be a feature of the person’s second nature. Butler alternatively claims that human beings intrinsically have constitutions that are adapted to morally correct behavior and
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that are decided by a hierarchy of principles, the highest of which is one’s conscience. While Aristotle and Butler both thoroughly explain how and why one’s moral theorizing occurs, one vital flaw of their arguments is that both men neglect to discuss what actually classifies as morally right and wrong actions. Both seem to have a firm idea of what is moral, yet neither explains what it entails and instead assume the reader simply knows. Aristotle establishes virtue, or excellence, as the principle that dictates what is morally right. Every human being is born with certain capacities for virtues, and thus certain capacities for knowing morality. While these capacities are a part of every human’s first nature, moral virtue itself is not innate and must be cultivated through experience and habit. Aristotle explains that moral virtue cannot be taught or reasoned out; rather, it must arise organically over time until it becomes a being’s second nature. If moral virtue is
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Aristotle v Butler - Carly Weil PHIL 213: Ethics Prof....

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