For example the virtue of assertiveness or of being assertive stands between

For example the virtue of assertiveness or of being

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acting in accordance with a middle path (the ‘Golden Mean’) between excess and deficiency. For example, the virtue of ‘assertiveness’ or of ‘being assertive’ stands between the extremes of ‘laxness’ or ‘spinelessness’ (deficiency) and ‘bluntness’ or ‘aggressiveness’ (excess). That said, Aristotle thought that there is no Golden Mean for actions like murder, theft, and adultery, which, for him, are inherently wrong. In the latter half of the twentieth century, since Utilitarianism and Kantian ethics were deemed to have become ‘bankrupt,’ virtue ethics underwent quite a philosophical renaissance, as can be seen in the philosophical works of Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foote, and Alasdair McIntyre. Aquinas and Christian Ethics: Saint Thomas Aquinas’ (1225-1274) writings largely provide the basis of the doctrines of the Catholic Church. Aquinas’ chief aim was to bring together reason and faith, merging the philosophies of the Ancient Greeks with Christian theology, in order to arrive at a
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PHILOSOPHY 2202: Ethics in Medicine and the Law Fall 2012, University of Winnipeg comprehensive Christian world-view. He also came up with several arguments for the existence of God. Aquinas agreed with Aristotle’s claim that Nature is an orderly, purposeful, rational system (a standpoint that is called ‘Natural Law’) and that we should not do what thwarts the teleological movement of human beings from potentiality to actuality . Christian ethicists typically employ this moral principle when they present arguments for why abortion, euthanasia, cloning, and stem cell research are immoral. That said, Aquinas amended Aristotle’s theoretical framework, adding that the fundamental aims of human beings reflect the Christian God’s (i.e. the ‘Prime Mover’) intentions for people in creation, i.e. His Divine Plan. In place of an ‘Unmoved Mover’ being behind this process, as Aristotle had speculated, for Aquinas, it is the Prime Mover, namely, the Christian God who is responsible for the organism’s teleological process. From this perspective, God’s Eternal Law is the ultimate authority for ethics, and that if one thwarts the actualization of potentiality in another human being, then one is thwarting God’s Divine Plan for His creation and opening oneself up to Divine Retribution. While human beings do not have complete access to the Mind of God so as to be able to determine exactly what is right and wrong, the sources of Christian ethical principles are scripture (the Bible – the Divine Law), the Ten Commandments, the teachings of the church, prayer, faith, the natural sciences which uncover the laws of Nature / Creation, and especially, the ‘Holy Spirit’. In the absence of access to God’s Divine Mind, Human Law, involving the norms and laws of society, is, for Aquinas, an attempt to mirror God’s perfect Eternal Law, is only a finite perspective on It. Like Aristotle, Aquinas also emphasized the virtues. Departing from Aristotle, in Christianity, however, the virtues are not necessarily part and parcel of finding
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