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Virtue 3

    Virtue 3 can best be outlined by showing how the basic concepts of virtue 1 can be reformulated to reflect current research in moral psychology.

  1. Reformulating Happiness (Eudaimonia). Mihaly Csikcszentmihalyi has described flow experiences (see text box below) in which autotelic activities play a central role. For Aristotle, the virtues also are autotelic. They represent faculties whose exercise is key to realizing our fullest potentialities as human beings. Thus, virtues are self-validating activities carried out for themselves as well as for the ends they bring about. Flow experiences are also important in helping us to conceptualize the virtues in a professional context because they represent a well practiced integration of skill, knowledge, and moral sensitivity.
  2. Reformulating Values (Into Arete or Excellence). To carry out the full project set forth by virtue 3, it is necessary to reinterpret as excellence key moral values such as honesty, justice, responsibility, reasonableness, and integrity. For example, moral responsibility has often been described as carrying out basic, minimal moral obligations. As an excellence, responsibility becomes refocused on extending knowledge and power to expand our range of effective, moral action. Responsibility reformulated as an excellence also implies a high level of care that goes well beyond what is minimally required.
  3. De-emphasizing Character. The notion of character drops out to be replaced by more or less enduring and integrated skills sets such as moral imagination, moral creativity, reasonableness, and perseverance. Character emerges from the activities of integrating personality traits, acquired skills, and deepening knowledge around situational demands. The unity character represents is always complex and changing.
  4. Practical Skill Replaces Deliberation. Moral exemplars develop skills which, through practice, become second nature. These skills obviate the need for extensive moral deliberation. Moral exemplars resemble more skillful athletes who quickly develop responses to dynamic situations than Hamlets stepping back from action for prolonged and agonizing deliberation.
  5. Greater Role for Emotions. Nancy Sherman discusses how, for Aristotle, emotion is not treated as an irrational force but as an effective tool for moral action once it has been shaped and cultivated through proper moral education. To step beyond the controvery of what Aristotle did and did not say about the emotions (and where he said it) we place this enhanced role for emotions within virtue 3. Emotions carry out four essential functions: (a) they serve as modes of attention; (b) they also serve as modes of responding to or signaling value; (c) they fulfill a revelatory function; and (d) they provide strong motives to moral action. Nancy Sherman, Making a Necessity of Virtue: Aristotle and Kant on Virtue (1997), U.K.: Cambridge University Press: 39-50.

Flow experiences

  • The psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, has carried out fascinating research on what he terms "flow experiences." Mike Martin in Meaningful Work (2000) U.K.: Oxford,: 24, summarizes these in the following bullets:
  • "clear goals as one proceeds"
  • "immediate feedback about progress"
  • "a balance between challenges and our skills to respond to them"
  • "immersion of awareness in the activity without disruptive distractions"
  • "lack of worry about failure"
  • loss of anxious self-consciousness"
  • time distortions (either time flying or timeslowing pleasurably)"
  • the activity becomes autotelic : an end in itself, enjoyed as such"

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Source:  OpenStax, Modules linking to computing cases. OpenStax CNX. Jul 26, 2007 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col10423/1.2
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