What does it mean to be a morally good person? It can be tempting to think that it is simply a matter of performing certain actions and avoiding others. And yet there is much more to moral character than our outward actions. We expect a good person to not only behave in certain ways but also to experience the world in certain ways within.
The contemporary discussion of modesty has focused on whether or not modest people are accurate about their own good qualities. This essay argues that this way of framing the debate is unhelpful and offers examples to show that neither ignorance nor accuracy about the good qualities related to oneself is necessary for modesty. It then offers an attention-based account, claiming that what is necessary for modesty is to direct one’s attention in certain ways. By analyzing modesty in this way, we (...) can best explain the distinct features of modesty, keep much of what is intuitive in contemporary accounts, and better understand why modesty is a virtue at all. (shrink)
A natural way to think of epistemic virtue is by analogy with an archer. Just as a skilled archer is able to take aim and hit a target, a skilled epistemic agent will aim at truth and, if things go well, get things right. Here we highlight aspects of epistemic virtue that do not fit this model, particularly ways in which epistemic virtues can be non-voluntary and not goal-directed. In doing so, we draw on two important figures in the history (...) of philosophy: the 6th-century Indian Buddhist Buddhaghosa and the 20th-century French philosopher Simone Weil. Despite many differences, both thinkers emphasize the importance of attention in moral and epistemic virtue. Their work highlights ways in which attention that is neither voluntary nor goal-directed can nevertheless play an important role in moral and epistemic life. (shrink)
This article discusses conceptions of modesty and humility and their key features. It gives a brief historical overview of debates about whether or not they’re really virtues at all. It also discusses theories of modesty and humility that root them in the presence or absence of particular beliefs, emotions, desires, and attention. it also discusses related phenomena in epistemology: rational limits on self-ascription of error, attitudes to disagreement, and openness to alternative views.
The picture of moral development defended by followers of Aristotle takes moral cultivation to be like playing a harp; one gets to be good by actually spending time playing a real instrument. On this view, we cultivate a virtue by doing the actions associated with that virtue. I argue that this picture is inadequate and must be supplemented by imaginative techniques. One can, and sometimes must, cultivate virtue without actually performing the associated actions. Drawing on strands in Buddhist philosophy, I (...) explain several methods of moral development that rely on imagination and visualization rather than overt action. These techniques are essential in cases where cultivating virtue the way one practices the harp is impossible. In particular, I focus on single-event virtues, first-time virtuous acts, and morally dangerous situations. (shrink)
It’s natural to think of acts of solidarity as being public acts that aim at good outcomes, particularly at social change. I argue that not all acts of solidarity fit this mold - acts of what I call ‘private solidarity’ are not public and do not aim at producing social change. After describing paradigmatic cases of private solidarity, I defend an account of why such acts are themselves morally virtuous and what role they can have in moral development.
Many of us, even on our happiest days, struggle to quiet the constant buzz of anxiety in the background of our minds. All kinds of worries--worries about losing people and things, worries about how we seem to others--keep us from peace of mind. Distracted or misled by our preoccupations, misconceptions, and, most of all, our obsession with ourselves, we don't see the world clearly--we don't see the world as it really is. In our search for happiness and the good life, (...) this is the main problem. But luckily there is a solution, and on the path to understanding it, we can make use of the rich and varied teachings that have developed over centuries of Buddhist thought. With clarity and compassion, Nicolas Bommarito explores the central elements of centuries of Buddhist philosophy and practice, explaining how they can improve your life and teach you to live without fear. Mining important texts and lessons for practical guidance, he provides a friendly guide to the very practical goals that underpin Buddhist philosophy. After laying out the basic ideas, Bommarito walks readers through a wide range of techniques and practices we can adopt to mend ingrained habits. Rare for its exploration of both the philosophy that motivates Buddhism and its practical applications, this is a compassionate guide to leading a good life that anyone can follow. (shrink)
I offer a Buddhist-inspired account of how patience can count as a moral virtue, arguing that virtuous patience involves having a perspective on the place of our own desires and values among others and a sense of their relative importance.
In his famous text the Bodhicaryāvatāra, the 8th century Buddhist philosopher Śāntideva argues that anger towards people who harm us is never justified. The usual reading of this argument rests on drawing similarities between harms caused by persons and those caused by non-persons. After laying out my own interpretation of Śāntideva's reasoning, I offer some objections to Śāntideva's claim about the similarity between animate and inanimate causes of harm inspired by contemporary philosophical literature in the West. Following this, I argue (...) that by reading Śāntideva's argument as practical advice rather than as a philosophical claim about rational coherence, his argument can still have important insights even for those who reject his philosophical reasoning. (shrink)
Bimal Krishna Matilal (1935-1991) was a Harvard-educated Indian philosopher best known for his contributions to logic, but who also wrote on wide variety of topics, including metaethics. Unfortunately, the latter contributions have been overlooked. Engaging with Anglo-American figures such as Gilbert Harman and Bernard Williams, Matilal defends a view he dubs ‘pluralism.’ In defending this view he draws on a wide range of classical Indian sources: the Bhagavad-Gītā, Buddhist thinkers like Nāgārjuna, and classical Jaina concepts. This pluralist position is somewhere (...) between relativism and absolutist realism. Unlike the relativist, he argues that there is a genuinely universal morality; unlike the absolutist, he argues that there are multiple, but often conflicting and incommensurable, moral frameworks and ideals. This paper will explain his objections to relativism, as well as flesh out his suggestive remarks about his own pluralistic account. (shrink)
Responding to Myisha Cherry's The Case for Rage, I discuss how the book touches on the difficulties of disentangling emotions and their expressions. Then I suggest two ways in which destructive rage might be good, one on Kantian grounds and another via extension from experience. Finally, I raise the issue of whether there might be other Lordean emotions.