The Role of the Emotions in Moral Decision Making in Aristotle’s Ethics (900 words)

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Question

According to virtue ethics (a la Aristotle), what is the proper role of emotions or sentiments in our moral deliberations? Do you agree or disagree with Aristotle? Consider an objection to your view and provide a rejoinder.

After spelling out your thesis statement clearly at the outset of your essay (e.g., “In this essay, I will argue that… I will do this by appealing to the following premises…”), describe what is Aristotelian virtue ethics and how it is different from act-centered theories like utilitarianism and deontology. Give an example that highlights this difference (make sure it is original). Your thesis paragraph should contain the premises you seek to defend.

In your answer, be sure to consider how thinkers like Hume, Bennett, and Lindemann would respond to your answer, and if they would make distinctions between different kinds of emotions, sentiments, and passions.

Consider concerns related to the prominence given to emotions or sentiments in guiding our ethical conduct and provide your reply that corresponds to your thesis statement. Provide examples to support your argument.

Your argumentative essay should NOT exceed three double-spaced pages. A two-page response is likely too brief. Begin by clearly stating your thesis and then delineating the argument you will defend. Cite your sources in the body of the text and add a Reference Page (not included as part of the three content pages). Please use credible peer-reviewed or academic sources (scrutinize your Internet sources (e.g., stay away from Wikipedia and online dictionary definitions and external “lecture” notes from the Web)). Save your documents in either Word or .rtf formats and use either 12-point Arial or Times Roman fonts. Please let me know if you have questions. Include your name in the upper left-hand corner of your essay.

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The Role of the Emotions in Moral Decision Making in Aristotle’s Ethics

In this paper, I agree with Aristotle that virtue is indeed a moral state and how the proper role of the emotions lead a person on a particular path between excess and deficiency (Gould and Mulvaney, p. 174). One objection I will present is the deontological view which Kant argues that duty alone is a moral barometer of morals based on a universal categorical imperative which states I can only act in such a way while at the same willing it as a universal law for everyone (Kant, p. 30). I will end with a rejoinder that reclaims virtue as a better ethical system for human beings over against critics like Bennett and others who are suspicious of the use of objective moral truths in moral deliberation.
Making the right decisions, under the right conditions, is what constitutes for Aristotle’s vision of happiness (Aristotle, 1094a). However, the emotions do play an important role.

Aristotle contends that emotions are regulated by our passions, not by the human capacity for reason. For example, if a man desires to have sexual intercourse with a woman, the feeling of lust he has is a passion that is either satisfied by sexual activity or suppressed by abstinence - the negation of sexual appetite. The proper role of the emotions is that which is guided by the light of reason in this case. Even if we take a paraphrase of the feminist view that power and gender dynamics should be taken into consideration, we do not run afoul of Aristotle’s views for we do have to take into consideration the relationship of the man, in this case, to the woman (See Lindemann). For Aristotle argues that for an act to be virtuous, the person needs to know what he is doing, and he should deliberately seek it out (Gould and Mulvaney, p. 172). Moral deliberating must take into consideration all factors, including power struggles, and roles people play -- which is why if the man with a sexual appetite desires his co-worker this is a different moral deliberation compared to two equals mutually consenting to sex.

Thirdly, since virtue is an action based on reasonable deliberation, emotions dilute our reasoning; but emotions are not necessarily bad actors. For example, for Aristotle friendliness is an emotion....

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