On function-centred virtue ethics, character, and becoming Eudaimon
Tseng, Shannon Yu-San
The aim of this thesis is to develop an account of virtue ethics that takes Aristotle’s naturalistic teleology to be central the understanding and reconstruction of the account’s virtue theory. I call this account Function-Centred Virtue Ethics (FCVE). In chapter one, I look at some of the dissatisfactions with the then dominant theories in moral philosophy that led to the revived interest in Aristotle’s ethics that later became virtue ethics. Virtue ethics is recognised today as one of the three major approaches in normative ethics. Chapter two examines some of the familiar contemporary objections to virtue ethics. These include objections against the theoretical distinctiveness of virtue ethics, the difficulty of codifying the virtues and providing action guidance, and the problem of explanatory inadequacies of virtue ethic theories. Chapter three presents a reconstruction of Aristotle’s virtue theory that takes his metaphysical biology to be the entry point to understanding his moral psychology. This chapter examines the distinctly Aristotelian concepts such as arete, ergon, eudaimonia, hexis, boulesis, and telos in the context of FCVE’s virtue theory. Chapter four examines the metaethical thesis that provides the normative justification on which FCVE reconciles a pluralist account of eudaimonia while maintaining its commitment to ethical objectivism about virtue and eudaimonia. I make appeal to Aristotle’s function argument to ground a shared moral ontology, which delimits the range of true beliefs about the good and the correct interpretations of the virtues, without prescribing universal moral rules. Chapter five examines the epistemology and empirical status of FCVE’s developmental account of ethical perception. I present an account that takes both the reason-responsive dispositions (the hexeis) and the intellect’s supposition of the true good as the two mental states involved in the function of ethical perception required for moral knowledge. This account highlights that in our understanding of eudaimonia, we should not overlook Aristotle’s theory on the harmony of the soul, which can be correlated to the concept of congruence of the psychological self in contemporary psychology.