This book is the first to offer a detailed analysis of Aristotelian and Kantian ethics together, in a way that remains faithful to the texts and responsive to debates in contemporary ethics. Recent moral philosophy has seen a revival of interest in the concept of virtue, and with it a reassessment of the role of virtue in the work of Aristotle and Kant. This book brings that re-assessment to a new level of sophistication. Nancy Sherman argues that Kant preserves a (...) notion of virtue in his moral theory that bears recognisable traces of the Aristotelian and Stoic traditions, and that his complex anthropology of morals brings him into surprising alliance with Aristotle. She develops her argument through close readings of major texts by both Aristotle and Kant, illustrating points of congruence and contrast. (shrink)
Most traditional accounts of Aristotle's theory of ethical education neglect its cognitive aspects. This book asserts that, in Aristotle's view, excellence of character comprises both the sentiments and practical reason. Sherman focuses particularly on four aspects of practical reason as they relate to character: moral perception, choicemaking, collaboration, and the development of those capacities in moral education. Throughout the book, she is sensitive to contemporary moral debates, and indicates the extent to which Aristotle's account of practical reason provides an alternative (...) to theories of impartial reason. (shrink)
While few soldiers may have read the works of Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius, it is undoubtedly true that the ancient philosophy known as Stoicism guides the actions of many in the military. Soldiers and seamen learn early in their training "to suck it up," to endure, to put aside their feelings and to get on with the mission. Stoic Warriors is the first book to delve deeply into the ancient legacy of this relationship, exploring what the Stoic philosophy actually is, (...) the role it plays in the character of the military (both ancient and modern), and its powerful value as a philosophy of life. Marshalling anecdotes from military history--ranging from ancient Greek wars to World War II, Vietnam, and Iraq--Nancy Sherman illuminates the military mind and uses it as a window on the virtues of the Stoic philosophy, which are far richer and more interesting than our popularized notions. Sherman--a respected philosopher who taught at the US Naval Academy--explores the deep, lasting value that Stoicism can yield, in issues of military leadership and character; in the Stoic conception of anger and its control (does a warrior need anger to go to battle?); and in Stoic thinking about fear and resilience, grief and mourning, and the value of camaraderie and brotherhood. Sherman concludes by recommending a moderate Stoicism, where the task for the individual, both civilian and military, youth and adult, is to temper control with forgiveness, and warrior drive and achievement with humility and humor. Here then is a perceptive investigation of what makes Stoicism so compelling not only as a guiding principle for the military, but as a philosophy for anyone facing the hardships of life. (shrink)
A deeply informed exploration of what Stoic ideas have to offer us today Stoicism is the ideal philosophy of life for those seeking calm in times of stress and uncertainty. For many, it has become the new Zen, with meditation techniques that help us face whatever life throws our way. Indeed, the Stoics address a key question of our time: how can we be masters of our fate when the outside world threatens to unmoor our well-being? In Stoic Wisdom, Georgetown (...) philosophy professor Nancy Sherman, an expert in ancient and modern ethics, shows what a practical modern Stoicism really looks like. Drawing on the wisdom of Stoic thinkers Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca and others, Sherman paints a portrait that uncovers the true subtlety and power of Stoic ideas. That portrait reveals a truth often ignored: that the Stoics never thought self-sufficiency was only about rugged self-reliance and mental discipline. We are at home in the world, they taught, when we are connected to each other in cooperative efforts. While mastery of one's self is essential, we also must draw on our deepest relationships for true strength and resilience. Bringing these ancient ideas to bear on 21st century environments-from Silicon Valley to first responders in a pandemic, to soldiers on the battlefield-Sherman shows how Stoicism can both prepare us for an uncertain future and help us cope with traumatic events. Stoic Wisdom will appeal to anyone feeling helpless or looking for deeper, meaningful strength and goodness in addressing life's biggest and smallest challenges. (shrink)
IN THIS PAPER I CONSIDER THE VALUE OF FRIENDSHIP FROM AN ARISTOTELIAN POINT OF VIEW. THE ISSUE IS OF CURRENT INTEREST GIVEN RECENT CHALLENGES TO IMPARTIALIST ETHICS TO TAKE MORE SERIOUSLY THE COMMITMENTS AND ATTACHMENTS OF A PERSON. HOWEVER, I ENTER THAT DEBATE IN ONLY A RESTRICTED WAY BY STRENGTHENING THE CHALLENGE ARTICULATED IN ARISTOTLE'S SYSTEMATIC DEFENSE OF FRIENDSHIP AND THE SHARED LIFE. AFTER SOME INTRODUCTORY REMARKS, I BEGIN BY CONSIDERING ARISTOTLE'S NOTION THAT GOOD LIVING OR HAPPINESS ("EUDAIMONIA") FOR AN (...) INDIVIDUAL NECESSARILY INCLUDES THE HAPPINESS OF OTHERS. SHARED HAPPINESS ENTAILS THE RATIONAL CAPACITY FOR JOINTLY PROMOTING COMMON ENDS AS WELL AS THE CAPACITY TO IDENTIFY WITH AND COORDINATE SEPARATE ENDS. THIS EXTENDED NOTION OF HAPPINESS PRESUPPOSES THE EXTENSION OF SELF THROUGH ATTACHMENTS, AND I NEXT CONSIDER CERTAIN MINIMAL CONDITIONS NECESSARY FOR ATTACHMENT. FINALLY, I DISCUSS HOW ARISTOTLE'S NOTION OF A FRIEND AS "ANOTHER SELF" IS COMPATIBLE BOTH WITH A CONCEPTION OF THE SEPARATENESS OF THE INDIVIDUALS AND OF THE DISTINCTIVE WAYS IN WHICH EACH INDIVIDUAL REALIZES VIRTUE WITHIN A SHARED LIFE. (shrink)
Drawing on in-depth interviews with service women and men, Nancy Sherman weaves narrative with a philosophical and psychological analysis of the moral and emotional attitudes at the heart of the afterwars. Afterwar offers no easy answers for reintegration. It insists that we widen the scope of veteran outreach to engaged, one-on-one relationships with veterans.
We often hold people morally responsible for their emotions. We praise individuals for their compassion, think less of them for their ingratitude or hatred, reproach self-righteousness and unjust anger. In the cases I have in mind, the ascriptions of responsibility are not simply for offensive behaviors or actions which may accompany the emotions, but for the emotions themselves as motives or states of mind. We praise and blame people for what they feel and not just for how they act. In (...) cases where people may subtly mask their hatred or ingratitude through more kindly actions, we still may find fault with the attitude we see leaking through the disguise. (shrink)
In this paper I explore the role of manners and morals. In particular, what is the connection between emotional demeanor and the inner stuff of virtue? Does the fact that we can pose faces and hide our inner sentiments, i.e., 'fake it,' detract from or add to our capacity for virtue? I argue, following a line from the Stoics, that it can add to our virtue and that, as a result, moral education needs to take seriously both a commitment to (...) good character and a commitment to the 'aesthetic' of character. (shrink)
When we think about Kantian virtue, what often comes to mind is the notion of respect. Respect is due to all persons merely in virtue of their status as rational agents. Indeed, on the Kantian view, specific virtues, such as duties of beneficence, gratitude, or self-perfection, are so many ways of respecting persons as free rational agents. To preserve and promote rational agency, to protect individuals from threats against rational agency, i.e., to respect persons, is at the core of virtue. (...) No doubt, part of the appeal of the Kantian notion of respect is that it offers an intuitive way of talking about the wrongness of manipulation and coercion, and in general, the wrongness of unfairly taking advantage of another. For to respect persons is to take seriously their status as persons, and to forswear, at some level, actions and attitudes that would compromise their dignity. Talking about respect has become shorthand for signaling deontological concerns. More formally, within recent Kantian exegesis, respect is viewed as yielding a more accessible and less contrived account of the Categorical Imperative than the more traditional criterion of universalizability and the contradictions tests applied to it. Within the Kantianinspired political theory of John Rawls, respect is also a core notion, representing a pervasive good, the bases of which, just states have an obligation to distribute to their members. Yet, for all its appeal, respect is an odd feature of Kantian ethics. For it is an emotion in a theory that prides itself in grounding morality in principles of reason alone. In this essay, I draw attention to the importance of respect in Kant's account in order to show just how he makes room for the emotions. Indeed, I shall argue that on Kant's account of full moral agency, we are emotional as well as rational creatures. Although Kant often portrays respect as an abstract emotional attitude mysteriously connected to our rationality, I argue that on a suitable revision, respect can be transformed into a more concrete attitude, cultivated and expressed alongside other emotions requisite for full virtue. (shrink)
One of the reasons often cited for the renewed interest in Aristotelian virtue theory is its alleged sensitivity to the particular case. In addition to rules and procedures is attention to the variety of individual cases, and a reminder of the shortfalls of misplaced rigour. Often quoted are the passages from the Nicomachean Ethics in which Aristotle warns that we must seek only so much precision as is appropriate for the subject matter. Repeated, too, is the well-known phrase of the (...) Ethics, that “judgment rests in perception”. The spirit of these remarks, in essence, that “practical wisdom is not scientific understanding”, is contrasted with modern views which stress the sufficiency of algorithms for fully determining right action and deliberation based on deduction from rules. (shrink)
Sherman presents a slightly revised definition of empathy, in which empathy is the cognitive ability to place oneself in the world of another, imagining all of the realities, feelings, and circumstances of that person in the context of their world.
This chapter draws upon ancient sources to develop a cognitivist account of emotions and indicate the sense in which they are candidates for the attribution of moral responsibility. Aristotle and the Stoics provide rich resources here, even if the Stoics themselves ultimately deny a place for ordinary emotions in the best moral life. In a selective engagement with the ancients, Kant aligns himself with the Stoic disparagement of the emotions while rejecting their cognitivist account. According to him, emotions are inclinations (...) distinct from the exercise of practical reason. But in his later moral writings, Kant urges a place for emotions in the fine and virtuous character. The chapter begins by reviewing considered intuitions about the moral significance of emotions. (shrink)
The ethics of Aristotle, and virtue ethics in general, have enjoyed a resurgence of interest over the past few decades. Aristotelian themes, with such issues as the importance of friendship and emotions in a good life, the role of moral perception in wise choice, the nature of happiness and its constitution, moral education and habituation, are finding an important place in contemporary moral debates. Taken together, the essays in this volume provide a close analysis of central arguments in Aristotle's Nicomachean (...) Ethics and show the enduring interest of the questions Aristotle raises. (shrink)
Upheavals of Thought is Martha Nussbaum’s most recent, sweeping and masterful study of the human life lived through the emotions. The book’s scope is expansive by any measurement, covering in the first part an historical and contemporary analysis of emotions, their sociality, developmental features, and cultivation; and in the second and third parts an in depth analysis of the specific emotions of compassion and love respectively, with chapter length discussions on love that take up Augustine, Dante, Mahler, Brontë, Whitman, Joyce (...) among others, and discussions on compassion that move through ancient philosophical and literary authors to contemporary discussions of justice and the construction of adequate measurements of the quality of life. (shrink)
Jonathan Lear in Radical Hope tackles the idea of cultural devastation, in the specific case of the Crow Indians. What do we mean by “annihilation” of a culture? The moral point of view that he imagines as he reconstructs the eve and aftermath of this annihilation is not second personal, of obligation, but first personal, in the collective and singular, as told by the Crows, with Lear as “analyst.” Radical Hope is a study of representative character of a people—of virtue, (...) courage, resilience, and hope in the face of cultural collapse. The leading questions are shaped by ancient Greek ethics, but with a twist: On the brink of cultural death , what counts for us as good living and what is the nature of the virtues or excellences that constitute it? How might a leader, a phronimos , exemplify it? This puts it too narrowly. The questions, also, are Wittgensteinian: How does a nation go on, when the concepts and way of life it has lived by for centuries are no more? What does it mean to go on? What does it mean to stop when the marks of going on are no longer? (shrink)
Jonathan Lear in "Radical Hope" tackles the idea of cultural devastation, in the specific case of the Crow Indians. What do we mean by "annihilation" of a culture? The moral point of view that he imagines as he reconstructs the eve and aftermath of this annihilation is not second personal, of obligation, but first personal, in the collective and singular, as told by the Crows, with Lear as "analyst." "Radical Hope" is a study of representative character of a people—of virtue, (...) courage, resilience, and hope in the face of cultural collapse. The leading questions are shaped by ancient Greek ethics, but with a twist: On the brink of cultural death, what counts for us as good living and what is the nature of the virtues or excellences that constitute it? How might a leader, a phronimos, exemplify it? This puts it too narrowly. The questions, also, are Wittgensteinian: How does a nation go on, when the concepts and way of life it has lived by for centuries are no more? What does it mean to go on? What does it mean to stop when the marks of going on are no longer? (shrink)