Ethics MW 1:00-2:15
November 26, 2012
How Good of Character Are You?
How Good of Character Can You Be?
Webster’s dictionary defines character as “One of the attributes or features that make up and distinguish an individual”. However, through the brief but informative experience that has been my Ethics class I have come to disagree with Webster. I do not believe that character is merely ONE of the features that distinguish an individual. I believe that character is the ONLY feature that distinguishes an individual. Over the past four months we have the learned the philosophies of some of history’s most brilliant thinkers, but the four that influenced me the most are David Hume, Annette Baier, Jean Paul Sartre, and Immanuel Kant. David Hume was born April 26, 1711 in Berwikshire Scotland, a suburb outside of Edinburgh. Hume’s background in politics was said to be Whiggish, while religiously he practiced Calvinism, also known as the Reformed Faith. Although he published many writings, arguably his most significant was ‘Philosophical Essays Concerning Human Understanding and An Inquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals’. The manuscript stated that moral assertions are rooted within human feelings and nature. For Hume, the study of individuals moral assessments reveals that socially useful acts are approved, whereas socially Casselman 2
detrimental acts are disapproved. He believed that nothing is present to the mind except its perceptions, which are either sense impressions or ideas based on sense impressions. Furthermore, that factual knowledge is solely from the data supplied by the senses, which extended in usefulness of reference based on a belief in cause-effect relationships. One of his values that spoke the loudest to me was his thoughts on affectionate sentiments. Hume’s idea was that there are no qualities more entitled to the general goodwill and approbation of mankind than beneficence and humanity, friendship and gratitude. Ultimately, he supposed that a person’s morality was determined by sentiment. For this time period, David Hume’s philosophies were a radical departure from those of previous philosophers.
Annette Baier was born on November 2, 1929 in Dunedin, New Zealand. It is said that Baier concentrated in particular on David Hume’s moral psychology and theories. Until Annette Baier, the history of philosophy had been predominately a man’s game. Her feminist ideas focused on the moral insights to which women are more open than men. Women’s insights connect their ethics on love, whereas the men theorists rely on obligation. A topic that is highly fixated on is trust, and maintaining versus destroying it. “Trust is letting other persons take care of something the truster cares about, where such “caring for” involves some exercise of discretionary powers.” Baier thought that the supreme trust was that between a mother and an infant based on the single fact that infants depend entirely on their nurture. Our awareness of trust in relationships is a basic source of moral concepts. Additionally, some degree of instinctive trust, though delicate, seems to be a necessary element in any living creature whose first nourishment is provided solely by another. One principle that affected me the most with me was that trust is much easier to maintain than it is to get started, but is never easy to destroy. I believe that many people in the world we live in today consider the emotions of those around them to be disposable. Though, the philosophies that I Casselman 3
have absorbed from Annette Baier give me a glimmer of hope. Sadly, Baier died on November 2, 2012.
Jean Paul Sartre was born on June 20, 1905 in Paris France. By the time of his death in 1980, Sartre was one of the most renowned French philosophers of the 20th century. His extensive resume included philosopher, playwright, novelist, biographer, political activist, and...
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