(Originally written December 3, 2006)
Virtues of the Mind
3. Intellectual and Moral Virtues
3.1 Aristotle's distinction between intellectual and moral virtues
The human cognitive and feeling processes are regarded as distinct and relatively autonomous by Western Philosophers.
Many Western Philosophers have aimed for what Michael Stocker calls a "purified view of the intellect" despite Philosophers like Hume and James showing the connection between feelings/emotions and cognition.
Few philosophers have openly denied Aristotle's division of feelings and cognition.
Spinoza was an exception, he connected the passions and virtue via the ideas of God. No one have unified intellectual and moral virtue like Spinoza.
David Hume insisted that the difference between moral and intellectual virtues was merely verbal. But, Hume's notion of virtue was broader than most other philosophers.
Zagzebski holds that Aristotle's distinction between virtues and other capacities is an important one; but, his division of moral and intellectual virtue is not an important one.
Aristotle divides intellectual virtues into two classes:
1) Art (techne) - theoretical knowledge
2) Practical wisdom (phronesis) - practical knowledge
Aristotle links the two different types of virtues to the two parts of the soul.
The thinking part of the soul commands and the feelings part obeys.
Pascal saw being full of faults as being an evil, but it was worse to be full of faults and unwilling to recognize it.
Self-love weakens the love of truth and leads to self-deception, hypocrisy and other intellectual vices.
"Feelings are involved in intellectual virtues, and intellectual virtues are involved in handling feelings" (Zagzebski, 148).
In addition to distinguishing intellectual virtues from moral ones on the ground that intellectual virtues regulate feelings (an inadequate argument), Aristotle distinguishes them on the basis of how they are acquired.
He holds that intellectual virtues can be taught, whereas moral virtues can only be acquired by practice and training.
Zagzebski holds that both intellectual and moral virtues are learned in stages.
Young people do not possess virtues or vices. We do not start with vice and work up to a virtue.
William James held that it is bad to be too doubtful and too uncritical in holding a belief. He held that the virtue lies in the mean between the two.
Intellectual akrasia (weakness) is higher than a vice. It exists when one knows the good, but does not intellectually actualize it.
Above akrasia is intellectual self-control. This is not a virtue, but it is knowing the bad and not doing it.
Intellectual and moral states (higher to lower)
Zagzebski hold that the distinction between moral and intellectual virtues is a real one. She argues that because a person can possess intellectual virtues but no moral virtues (and vice-versa) the distinction is real and not linguistic as Hume and Spinoza held.
Both intellectual and moral virtues are acquired in the same fashion. They both require training and imitation.
Both involve feelings and require one to act virtuously. Both have the states virtue, self-control, akrasia and vice.
3.2 Some connections between intellectual and moral virtues
Zagzebski argues that no-one has offered adequate reason to think moral and intellectual virtues differ any more than one moral virtue differs from another.
The two types of virtue are similar in their natures, similarly acquired and are intimately connected in their operation.
There are logical and causal connections between moral and intellectual virtues.
Moral virtues logically entail some intellectual virtues.
Moral vices can causally inhibit the acquisition of intellectual virtues.
Intellectual failures can be caused by moral failures.
Some virtues have both an intellectual and moral form (i.e. trust and autonomy)
Francis Bacon and John Locke associate intellectual failings with the passions and moral vices.
Francis Bacon states that human understanding is infused by desire and emotion.
Bacon states that there are four types of error in belief formation (he calls the errors 'idols')
1) Idols of the tribe: "The human understanding is like an uneven mirror that cannot truly reflect the rays from objects, but distorts and corrupts the nature of things by mingling its own nature with it (aphorism 41)" (Zagzebski, 164).
2) Idols of the cave: these come from every individual's particularisms, from education, habits and chance
3) Idols of the marketplace: language dictates reason, when reason ought to dictate language. Sometimes language can make philosophy sophistical and inactive.
4) Idols of the theater: errors of this sort come from the fashions of the day. These trends in theology and philosophy can be used to make theory better than truth
Locke's explanation of error comes from his classification of types of men:
1) Those who do not think independently
2) Those who use passion instead of reason as a substitute
3) Those who follow reason, but only seek one source for information and tat source corroborates their opinions