Being Virtuous is a dead end profession.
It doesn’t have any future,
not only that, it’s got no ‘go-forward’, no ‘oomph’.
It doesn’t exactly reach out and grab you by the kidneys, you know…
Those who argue that virtue is its own reward are already giving the game away. For an ethical system to work, there needs to be something to motivate the average Punter to Be Good – even if it’s just that being good is good.
Ethics is concerned with Subjects and Actions, or more properly put: Ethics is concerned with Subjects in Action. Not only does the Ethical Subject only become the Subject of Ethics when he or she is faced with a decision, the Ethical Subject does not act at all without desires, goals, hopes, and plans. In short, just as the Subject conceives of him or her self along a teleological axis, so Ethics needs a telos.
Of course, Aristotle was aware of this and solved it (to his own satisfaction) by locating the telos in the Subject’s Formal Cause – whether that works through genetics, or some other weird ontological reverse causality. However, the chief problem is that the Formal Cause is attractive in precisely the wrong way.
The Formal Cause attracts Being like a gravitational pull, almost as though we were being sucked into a Virtue-shaped jelly mold.
However, unfortunately for Aristotle and me, the Good doesn’t Suck.
(seems obvious when you say it…)
Our experience of being Ethical subjects is not one in which we are drawn toward the Good in the same way that an Acorn is drawn toward being an Oak.
If Aristotle’s notion of causality is laid aside and Virtue is located instead within patterns of moral excellence enmeshed in particular cultures, then the attractive power of Virtue either becomes virtually inexplicable, or seems to really be an enlightened pragmatics. The first is unacceptable, the second is just a more noble sounding consequentialism.
Precisely how we are drawn to the Good we will leave undefined for now.
As if all that isn’t enough, I’ve got a few more anti-Virtuous remarks to get off my chest.