Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Virtue, deliberation and contemplation

Is it better to be virtuous or simply to deliberate about each case as one comes to it, making the right decision?

I worry about this: the virtuous person often acts from an internalized habit, without deliberating about the reasons, as these reasons have been internalized. She skillfully comforts a friend without consciously deliberating whether to do it. But by not deliberating, she misses out on things of moral worth. For in deliberating, we consciously contemplate the goods that provide reasons for action. Deliberating about what to do in light of a friend’s needs is a crucial instance of contemplating the worth of one’s friend. The more the virtuous person has internalized the reasons that arise from this worth, the more she misses out on these instances.

Of course, there are other occasions for conscious contemplation of the worth of one’s friend. But it seems to me that when the contemplation is tied to action via deliberation, it is particularly valuable.

And the same applies to other virtuous and other goods.

1 comment:

Dan K. said...

A.O. Rorty has an interesting argument in her “The Place of Contemplation in Aristotle’s ‘Nicomachean Ethics’” that exercises of the moral virtues are partly constituted by contemplation. As it applies to your case, the virtuous friend would contemplate the goods involved in her act, as well as the goods her act is a response to, as she performs it. She may even do so better than the one who thinks about goods for deliberative purposes, since it would be relatively unimpeded.