מגזין

Taking Philosophy Seriously: Perfectionism versus Meliorism

על פילוסופיה מעשית ויחסיה עם הפילוסופיה האקדמית.

מאת פרופ' לידיה אמיר. 07-12-2006
Taking Philosophy Seriously: Perfectionism versus Meliorism

Taking Philosophy Seriously: Perfectionism versus Meliorism

In Philosophy and Practice: From Theory to Practice, Jose Barrientos Rastrojo, Jose Ordonez Garcia, Francisco Macera Garfia (eds.), vol. II, (Sevilla: Ediciones, X-XI, 2006), pp. 11-32.

Lydia B. Amir

Ó 2006. All rights reserved Lydia Amir.

Key-note speaker's lecture, Second Iberoamerican Congress and Eighth International Congress of Practical Philosophy, Sevilla 2006.

After almost 30 years of teaching philosophy and 15 years of philosophical practice, having contributed to all international and many national congresses of philosophical practice, I still witness tensions between academic and practical philosophy, between philosophical counseling and counseling in other disciplines, and between different schools of philosophical counseling. I thought it important, therefore, to contribute to this congress by presenting a synthesis that would not be a compromise, yet would do justice with the variety of ways in which one can define and use philosophy. I have, therefore, chosen the following subject: taking philosophy seriously - radical philosophy versus democratized philosophy, or, perfectionism versus meliorism.

I. Taking Philosophy Seriously

There are two main ways of not taking philosophy seriously: one is exemplified by the philosophy professor who believes that philosophical theory is not relevant for life; the other, by the counselor who thinks that philosophical theory is not relevant for life. In workshops on humor at the workplace one learns that there is a difference between taking oneself seriously (unnecessary) and taking one's work seriously (necessary): that is, one should take one's job but not oneself seriously. Relating this to the two main ways of not taking philosophy seriously amounts to the following observations.

            The philosophy professor, who believes that his discipline is not relevant to life, is not taking his profession seriously. Were he to take seriously his profession as a teacher of philosophy, he would thereby participates in one form of practicing philosophy, for good teaching implies an appropriation of the matter ay hand and a capacity of communicating the essential which are already a form of practicing philosophy. Moreover, even if that professor "merely" writes about or teaches, say, aesthetics or ontology, he can, without any special training, be a philosophical counselor for people interested in aesthetics or ontology. All that is required is his being a good professor, that is, one who does not avoid a direct contact with the student or the client (private student), who is enthusiastic about his profession, who goes to the essential, who knows how to listen, to question, to explain and to correct. If this is true, there is no discontinuity between academic philosophy and philosophical counseling. (1)

The philosophical counselor who thinks that philosophical theory is not important is not so different from the professor discussed above. For this counselor does not trust his own discipline, philo-sophy, to display a love of wisdom or be a fruitful reflection on life. He might emulate forms of counseling taken from other disciplines, such as psychology, New Age theories, etc... Not to take philosophy seriously is not to believe in her power as she is, not to use her with all her richness; but rather to sell her short, to misrepresent her, to pass her for what she is not.

Reflecting adequately is the seal that differentiates philosophy from psychology and New Ages theories. The difference with psychology lies in the emphasis on reflection: philosophical reflection is abstract and derives its power from that. The difference between philosophy and New Age thought lies in the emphasis on adequacy: adequacy stems from rigor of thought, from arguments that establish the reliability of conclusions. This locates epistemology and logic at the heart of philosophical practice, although in congresses and papers of practical philosophy those are hardly addressed.    

To take philosophy seriously is to be loyal to her objectives: the forms of teaching may be different, among the consultancy, the groups outside the University and the classes at the University, but the objectives have to be the same, otherwise philosophy it is no more. As I see it, philosophy has three interrelated objectives. First, truth (at least by via negativa - eradicating our errors as in Karl's Popper's critical rationalism [1962]); truth rather than happiness: between happiness and truth we choose truth (2), for truth is the philosopher's happiness. Second, liberation, even partial, from illusions, preconceptions and self-centered intelligence; and third, wisdom, even if negative, in the humble sense of realizing that I do not know, and of finding out what I do not want to know, which results in better understanding or comprehension. The relation that holds among these objectives seems to be the following: liberation from untruth is the path to wisdom.  

If one wishes to further elucidate these concepts, it might prove beneficial to differentiate between two traditions within philosophy: one tradition might be called perfectionism or radical philosophy, the other, meliorism or democratized philosophy. Both traditions live or relive today in academic philosophy, and are practiced in the variety of forms of philosophical counseling. Both are valid and important, yet ignorance of the differences between them results in tension among counselors and between counselors and academics. Those who are familiar with Oriental philosophy will recognize the Western analogue to Buddhist schools, the Hinayana school or small vehicle leading to liberation, on the one hand, the Mahayana school or large vehicle, on the other. Other descriptive terms could be radical versus peace-meal philosophy, elitist versus democratic, philosophy oriented more towards liberty than towards equality.

2. Radical Philosophy: Perfectionism

"Unless one is a genius, philosophy is a mug's game." Iris Murdoch, The Philosopher's Pupil, (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984), pp. 132-3.

Anyone who teaches the history of philosophy, whether Western or Eastern, to non-philosophy students cannot but be amazed at the radical enterprise which is philosophy. If the lecturer himself does not notice it, his students won't fail to do so. One cannot avoid the conclusion that Philosophy is really revolutionary, time and again, in the following ways. It presents itself as an alternative to established religion, and to any other establishments. It is highly critical of society's values - it dismisses the common-sense, non-critical views of people, urging them to question their lives and not to take appearances at their face value; it presents itself as an alternative to the common views of happiness: riches, pleasure, and power or fame. It requires a conversion to forms of thought and allegiances foreign to most men. It assumes that radical change is possible through sole understanding and practice. It is total, keeping touch with other disciplines but in a supervising and critical stance, perfectionist and ambitious in answering all worthy needs, including spiritual ones. It prescribes the highest ideals, in morality and in ethics: it aims at nothing less than liberty, happiness or peace of mind, and even at philosophical redemption. It is for the few. Rare are those who live according to its requirements and even fewer dare claim that they do.

Consider, for example, Schopenhauer's description of the requirements of "mere" philosophizing: "The two main requirements for philosophizing are: firstly, to have the courage not to keep any question back; and secondly, to attain a clear consciousness of anything that goes without saying so as to comprehend it as a problem. Finally, the mind must, if it is really to philosophize, also to be truly disengaged: it must prosecute no particular goal or aim, and thus be free from the enticement of will, but devote itself undividedly to the instruction which the perceptible world and its own consciousness impart to it." (Essays and Aphorisms, "On Philosophy and the Intellect", section 3.)

This philosophical tradition is immensely rich, and as perennial philosophy it redefines itself time and again, being the sole enterprise whose definition and role are subject solely to an internal criticism (meta-philosophy is part of philosophy, while meat-psychology, for example, is part of philosophy of science). Time and again, it was dying or declared dead, loosing its best minds to the sciences which it created or to established religions, but as the phoenix it has time and again been reborn out of its ashes.

If you think that this philosophical spirit has been lost in Antiquity, when say, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the Cynics, the Stoics, the Cyrenaics, the Epicureans, the Pyrrhonians, disappeared as a fashionable schools, take a second glimpse at Spinoza, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, the existentialists, and the movement called Philosophical Practice.

Those who offer perfectionist teaching have to be themselves on this path otherwise they do not understand the content of their teaching. Usually, they avoid presenting themselves as sages, and the path they are pointing at could be reached by a mutual or common search. Moreover, contrarily to common opinion, they can be pluralists, for various philosophical schools gave different definitions of liberty, happiness, peace of mind and even philosophical redemption. In this tradition, truth is lived more than known, and the appropriate model is that of the sage (Cf. Neville, 1978, pp. 47-70).

Perfectionism is for a minority and the majority of philosophical schools are of this type (even existentialism, which is seemingly a democratization of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, posits as an ideal authenticity, which contradicts common views of happiness, and is, therefore, a rare achievement). Today, there is a revival of interest in perfectionism in the Academe (Cf. Hurka [1994]; Cavell [1993]). When writing of philosophy's dangers in promising change and frustrating its students (Amir, 2004b), I have been referring to this tradition of philosophy.

3. Democratized Philosophy: Meliorism

By meliorism I refer to those philosophies which are less ambitious, more in conformity with common sense, with regular persons' psychological needs and social goals, more skeptical of perfectionist ends and means. For example, Aristotle's Nichomachean ethics might qualify as meliorist, if we exclude its tenth chapter; other philosophers in this tradition, to mention a few, would be Hume, Locke, Russell, and Popper.

This is the tradition which requires further development, especially when our concern is philosophical practice. To deserve the title "philosophical", and thereby, differentiate itself from psychology and New Age theories and practices, a melioristic philosophical practice should be faithful to philosophy's objectives and methods. The objectives I proposed above, truth, liberation, and wisdom, should be reached through adequate reflection, which is ensured through the use of philosophical methods, such as abstract thought, logic and epistemology.

First, I shall emphasize the importance of abstract thought, second, propose an epistemological model suitable to the practice of philosophy, to wit, an agent-based intellectual virtues epistemology instead than a belief-based one, and finally, given that intellectual and moral virtues are closely interconnected, defend the view that philosophical practice has an important moral role to play in democratic and liberal societies. To begin, let me sum it up in a nutshell.

Philosophy is an abstract discipline. To remain faithful to philosophy's methods is to develop abstract thinking, by the movement from the concrete to the abstract and back. By appropriating the insights gained in the abstract, I am faithful to philosophy's means (abstract thought) as well as to practical philosophy's goals (the concrete). Rather than being a hindrance, the abstract seems to be the therapeutic tool of philosophy.

Epistemology is at the heart of philosophy. Its value lies in developing one's autonomous thought. An epistemology of virtues would help philosophical practitioners develop intellectual virtues, which is, to my mind, what philosophy is about. This argument is closely related to my questions and alternative answers method (see my "More Philosophy, Less Counseling", in vol. I) by the following information: knowledge, as "intelligent development" is linked to the capacity of adopting additional or different points of view in Jean Piaget's psychology (when he describes the development of thought) and in the history of sciences (Cf. Holmes, 1976). Adopting different points of view helps developing epistemic virtues such as impartiality or openness to the ideas of others, assessing critically different answers further intellectual sobriety or the virtue of the careful inquirer who accepts only what is warranted by evidence, and the whole process of philosophical practice which is faithful to philosophy furthers the virtue of intellectual courage, which include perseverance and determination.

An aretaic ethics which develops moral virtues seems to be the moral theory which appeals more easily to persons and professionals of all creeds (Cf. Oakley & Cocking, 2001; Amir, 2007b). Its value lies in developing one's solidarity with one's fellow human beings. Following Bertrand Russell's Spinozistic ethic (Cf. Blackwell, 1985), who said that "one could stretch the comprehensiveness that constitutes wisdom to include not only intellect but also feeling" (1956, p. 174), I believe that developing better feelings is a worthy philosophical goal (Amir 2002; 2004), best attained through virtue ethics.

Indeed, promoting moral virtues is not a separate endeavor from promoting intellectual virtues; for feelings are involved in intellectual virtues, and intellectual virtues are involved in handling feelings, but their operation shows how blurry the distinction between intellectual and moral virtue really is. Spinoza made understanding, which is an intellectual virtue, the key to all the virtues (Ethics, pt. IV, prop. 26), and understanding different points of view brings forth pluralism, tolerance, acceptance, which further solidarity with our fellow human beings.

John Benson sums my main goal by defining autonomy in a way that makes it both a moral and an intellectual virtue: "The virtue of autonomy is a mean state of character with regard to reliance on one's own powers in acting, choosing, and forming opinions" (1987, p. 205). He argues that "autonomous moral thinking is closely parallel to autonomous theoretical thinking, the one being concerned with what should be done, the other with what is the case..." (p. 208). The virtue of autonomy is closely allied to courage, as well as to humility, and it shows the connection between cognitive and volitional processes, for, as Benson argues, "to be autonomous in one's thinking calls for intellectual skills, including the ability to judge when someone else knows better than yourself. But it calls also for the ability to control the emotions that prevent those skills from being properly exercised" (p. 213). 

These three tools of meliorist philosophical practice (furthering abstract thought and its appropriation, furthering intellectual virtues as well as moral ones), will hopefully further the counselees' autonomy. Minimizing the tension between freedom and equality, which plagues every democratic and liberal society, could be considered the ultimate objective of a democratized philosophical practice. Let me elaborate on what has been succinctly stated above.

A. The Abstract

At the end of the Concept of Irony, Kierkegaard writes: "If our generation has any task at all, it must be to translate the achievement of scientific scholarship into personal life, to appropriate it personally." (Kierkegaard, 1965, p. 328) But scientific scholarship Kierkegaard means Hegel's philosophy, which was the dominant philosophy of his time. These words designate his task as it deviates from Hegel and also the link which exists between him and Hegel (Stewart, 2003, p. 647). The notion of appropriation is clearly at least a part of what lies behind his famous concepts of repetition and reduplication.

Kierkegaard was critical of the accepted notion of philosophy in the 19th century. He thus sought alternatives models from Greek Philosophy or from religious literature to juxtapose to the then contemporary praxis of philosophy.  He echoes in these words Epictetus, who is reported to have said: "If what charms you is nothing but abstract principles, sit down and turn them over quietly in your mind: but never dub yourself a Philosopher, nor suffer others to call you so. Say rather: He is in error; for my desires, my impulses are unaltered. I give my adhesion to what I did before; nor has my mode of dealing with the things of sense undergone unchanged." (Epictetus, 1937, CIX, p. 157)

Yet, for Kierkegaard, abstract thought is important if one uses it rightly in order to clarify intellectual confusion and to serve the passion of desiring a better way of life. For existential dialectics is concerned also with bringing about reconciliation between thought and being. It does this, however, within existence and the strictures which existence places upon the human being. Kierkegaard describes the means by which this is carried out as "subjective reflection". Subjective reflection, unlike its objective counterpart, proceeds not away from but towards existence, namely the existence of the individual human being. It is called "subjective" because it turns towards the "subjectivity", that is, the innermost personal being, of the single individual. It is concerned not with establishing a speculative system but with applying the categories of abstract thought to the concrete existence of the individual human being. In Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Kierkegaard writes,

While abstract thought seeks to understand the concrete abstractly, the subjective thinker has conversely to understand the abstract concretely. Abstract thought turns from concrete men to consider man in general; the subjective thinker seeks to understand the abstract determination of being human in terms of this particular human being. (Kierkegaard, 1941, 315)

Thus, whereas objective reflection only moves in one direction, namely away from existence to the abstract and essential, subjective thought moves in two directions. First, it makes the movement of objective reflection. That is, abstract thought is employed to obtain a conception of existence and of the categories that make it up. Secondly, it bends objective reflection back on itself and applies it to existence. A circular movement is created in which thought first moves away from existence but is then turned back and applied to its point of origin. A dialectical movement is thus established between existence, the abstract conception of existence, and the existential application of this conception. A similar movement can be found in ascending Spinoza's three kinds of knowledge and their related emotional states, the first kind being existential and concrete, the second - abstract and scientific, while the third is an implementation in particular practical cases of what has been understood only abstractly in the second stage (Cf. Spinoza, 1985; Amir, 2007b).    

            In Kierkegaard's thought, the significance of this is twofold. First, subjective reflection provides the existential individual with the means with which to understand his personal existence. By means of the first movement, namely that of abstract thought, the individual acquires the concepts with which to understand himself. Thus, in the case of the passage quoted above, abstract thought provides the existing individual with a concept of humanity. This concept can then be employed by the individual to interpret and comprehend his own individual humanity. By making the second movement of subjective reflection, that is, by applying the abstract concept of humanity to himself, the individual achieves an understanding of his own humanity. In this sense, then, subjective reflection is a reformulation of the Socratic dictum "know thyself". It is the process by which the individual comes to achieve a greater understanding of himself (Kierkegaard, 1941, 314-16).

            Secondly, subjective reflection has an ethical function. That is, it not only provides the human being with the wherewithal with which to interpret his existence, but also provides him with the means with which to develop and improve this existence. For Kierkegaard the categories of objective reflection are not only forms of thought but are also possibilities. Kierkegaard holds that the process of abstraction employed by abstract thought results in an object or aspect of reality being transferred ab esse ad posse (see Law, 1993, chap. 3). This is necessary in order to transform an external reality into a thinkable form. But these conceptual possibilities form not only the basis for thought, but are also possibilities for action. If the individual discovers that his existence does not correspond to his abstract conception of what existence ideally is, he is compelled to "act" to restructure his existence so that it corresponds to this conception.

            The question now arises as to how this dialectical process of subjective reflection results in the overcoming of the contradiction between thought and being that existence brings about, and to which Kierkegaard was particularly sensitive. This division is overcome by the existing individual positing an identity between them in his own personal existence. That is, through his application of the categories of objective reflection (thought) to his own existence (being), an identity can be created. By attempting to live according to his conception of what existence truly is, the existing individual brings about an identity between thought and being. This identity is short-lived, for living is characterized by striving and not by reaching a "result". Nonetheless, the identity between thought and being which is reached in moments of passion is worth striving for.

            Kierkegaard's concept of subjective reflection might be considered as a paradigm for philosophical practice. I have argued elsewhere how the movement from the individual and concrete to the general and abstract, and back, is one of the main assets of philosophical practice (Amir, 2003, p. 37). The intellectual and ethical functions of this dialectic do define philosophical practice's main tool, as I see it: abstract thought in the service of individual life. (3)

B. Intellectual Virtues

Epistemology and logic are the most powerful tools against New Age's laxity of thought. A philosophical practice which is faithful to philosophy's objectives has to address epistemological issues. I have argued elsewhere (Amir, 2005) that philosophical practitioners have an edge over psychologists of all trainings in dealing with moral problems and dilemmas. Notwithstanding psychology, I have emphasized philosophical practice's moral role (Amir, 2004). I would like here to stress its epistemological role and to connect both roles by a virtue epistemology.

We can distinguish several types of virtue theory by the ways they relate the fundamental moral concepts of a virtue, the good, and a right act (for the renewed interest in virtue ethics, see Amir, 2007b). A pure virtue theory makes the concept of a right act derivative from the concept of a virtue, although there is more than one way such a theory can relate virtue to the good. Happiness-based and the more radical motivation-based are two forms of pure virtue theory that can be developed in ways that adequately handle epistemic evaluation.

Over three decades ago Roderick Chisholm observed that "many of the characteristics which philosophers and others have thought peculiar to ethical statements also hold of epistemic statements" (Chisholm, 1969, p.4). In the last twenty years, parallel to a revival of interest in virtue ethics, there has been an interest in virtue epistemology.    

(1) Virtue Epistemology

Virtue epistemology, as characterized by David Solomon, "would not be belief-based; it would be agent- or end-based in that virtue would be more basic than belief. It would focus on the cognitive set-up of the agent rather than on episodes of cognitive activity in isolation." (Solomon, 2003, p. 80) (4) In a similar vein, another virtue epistemologist suggests that instead of focusing on static states such as belief and the evaluation of these as justified or knowledge, we might instead focus on evaluating and regulating the activities of inquiry and deliberation and the role of virtues in such evaluation and regulation (Hookway, 2003).

The idea of intellectual virtue was introduced into the epistemological literature by Ernest Sosa (1980; Cf. also 1991), but Sosa does no more than mention an association with virtue ethics, and subsequently "virtue epistemology" has been used as another name for reliabilism (according to reliabilism the epistemic goal is to form true beliefs and not to form false beliefs.) The works of Lorraine Code (1987) and James Montmarquet (1986) come closer to linking epistemology with virtue ethics, but neither one derives the concept of epistemic virtue from a background aretaic ethics or pushes the similarities between intellectual virtue and moral virtue very far.

Linda Zagzebski (1996) develops a virtue theory that is inclusive enough to handle the intellectual as well as the moral virtues within a single theory. She argues that intellectual virtues are, in fact, forms of moral virtue. It follows that intellectual virtue is properly the object of study of moral philosophy. This claim is intended not to reduce epistemic concepts to moral concepts in the way that has sometimes been attempted, but to extend the range of moral concepts to include the normative dimension of cognitive activity: normative epistemology is a branch of ethics. A virtue-based epistemology is preferable to a belief-based epistemology for the same reasons that a virtue-based moral theory is preferable to an act-based moral theory (Cf. Statman, 1997).

Linda Zabzebski notes the contemporary neglect of epistemic values, such as understanding and wisdom, which have been very important in the history of philosophy (Zabzebski, 1996, p. 2; pp. 43-51), and which are very important in philosophical practice. Indeed, the most interesting parts of works from the virtue ethics tradition are often the detailed, perceptive treatments of specific virtues and vices. The same holds for epistemological virtues. For example, in "Humility and Epistemic Goods", Robert Roberts and Jay Wood (2003) provide a model for the kind of rich discussions of a specific virtue.

Humble as opposed to vain people, they argue, are unconcerned with and inattentive to how they appear to others. This does not mean that humble people are ignorant of their good qualities, just that they are not particularly interested to be recognized for having these qualities. The reason for this is that their attention is focused on other, more important things. In the case of intellectual humility, one such thing would typically be the truth. Thus, for example, while vain persons might seek to hide their errors for fear of what others might think of them, the humble will be more concerned that any mistakes be brought to light so that they can correct their errors and get their inquiries back to track. Humble persons are not distinguished from arrogant persons by being unaware of or even unconcerned with entitlements. The distinction turns on what motivates the awareness or concern. Paradigmatic cases of arrogance involve an excessive interest in entitlements motivated by what Roberts and Wood call their ego-exalting potency. In contrast, when humble people do have an interest in some entitlement, the interest is pure, in the sense that they are concerned with the entitlement because it serves some valuable purpose or project. Roberts and Wood close their essay by considering a wider variety of ways in which intellectual humility promotes the acquisition of epistemic goods.

Epistemology, therefore, seems to be a practical activity, as David Solomon rightly observes: "Just as moral philosophers find themselves asking epistemological questions, epistemologists are centrally concerned with questions about our practical life. After all, the central problems of normative epistemology are problems about what to do. To believe or not to believe, that is the question - or at least one of them. Even the most avid naturalizers in epistemology must recognize the centrality of evaluations of ourselves and others to our epistemic life." (Solomon, 2003, p. 60) (5) Being a practical activity, epistemology is highly relevant to philosophical practice. 

(2) The Search for Truth as a Possible Motivation for Intellectual Virtues

Intellectual virtues have been neglected in the history of philosophy, but there were discussions of them in the early modern period as part of the general critical examination of human perceptual and cognitive faculties that dominated that era. Both Hobbes and Spinoza connected the intellectual as well as the moral virtues with the passions, and both traced the source of these virtues to a single human motivation, the motivation for self-preservation or power. In the early part of the 20th century John Dewey stressed the place of the intellectual virtues in what he called "reflective thinking", arising from the desire to attain the goals of effective interaction with the world. Hobbes in Leviathan and Emerson in "Intellect" (Essay 11) describe how a deficiency in the desire for truth leads to such cognitive vices such as lack of autonomy, closed-mindedness, and dogmatism.

Few philosophers have given positive directions on how to think that are intended to circumvent the pitfalls in forming beliefs. The stress has generally been on the mistakes. A well-known exception is Descartes in Rules for the Direction of the Mind, and another is Dewey in How We Think. Dewey lists in page 32 "attitudes" or intellectual virtues, among them open-mindedness, wholeheartedness, and responsibility. In the contemporary literature Laurence BonJour (1980) and Hilary Kornblith (1983) introduced a motivational element into the discussion of epistemic responsibility, defined by Kornblith as follows: "An epistemically responsible agent desires to have true beliefs, and thus desires to have his beliefs produced by processes which lead to true beliefs; his actions are guided by these desires" (Kornblith, 1983,  p. 34).

A more extensive treatment of epistemic virtue and its connection with motivation has been given by James Montmarquet (1986a, 1992, and 1993, chap. 2). He connects a large set of intellectual virtues with the desire for truth, claiming that these virtues are qualities a person who wants the truth would want to acquire. He classifies epistemic virtues as impartiality, or openness to the ideas of others; the virtues of intellectual sobriety, or the virtues of the careful inquirer who accepts only what is warranted by the evidence, and the virtues of intellectual courage, which include perseverance and determination. (Notice that there is quite a bit of overlap between these sets of virtue and Dewey's. The major difference is in Dewey's virtue of wholeheartedness and Montmarquet's virtues of courage. Monmarquet calls the desire for truth "epistemic conscientiousness" and argues that some intellectual virtues arise out of this desire.)

Ever since the ancient Greeks Western thinkers have admired those who are relentless in the pursuit of truth. Such people are thought to be noble, certainly beyond the ordinary. The wide disagreements in practical, moral, religious, and philosophical beliefs, as well as many categories of scientific beliefs, is evidence that reliability about many important matters is not widely distributed among the general human population. This makes the desire for truth a desire to rise above the common lot. Traditionally, that desire led to a search for one or two inspired people who have the truth and can become one's mentors. Nowadays, we are less likely to think that such a search will be successful and we rely upon ourselves. And that often means flaunting convention. In any case, it takes special effort.

John Dewey is probably right that human beings are naturally credulous, which means that all too often learning the truth involves unlearning a falsehood. And that is what is noble about the desire for truth: we often have to give something up. Linda Zagzebski emphasizes that "the difficulty in getting at the truth means that the right way to behave cognitively requires the motives needed when there are internal or external obstacles to overcome, the motives constitutive of autonomy, courage, perseverance, humility, fairness, open-mindedness, and other intellectual virtues. The motive for valuing truth is probably primary, but I suspect that for many categories of truth we are not going to get truth at all unless we have the motives that are constituents of these other virtues" (Zagzebski, 2003, pp. 153-4).

 

 

(3) The Interconnectedness of Moral and Intellectual Virtues

It is a commonplace of Western philosophy to regard human cognitive and feeling processes as distinct and relatively autonomous. At least it is usually thought that the former is capable of operating independently of the latter and that it ought to do so in the rational person, whether or not the latter is independent of the former. This part of our philosophical heritage is so strong that philosophers have maintained what Michael Stocker (1980) calls a "purified view of the intellect" long after it was given up by cognitive psychologists and in spite of the fact that a few philosophers like Hume and James called attention to the close connection between believing and feeling. (6)

Related to the alleged independence of the cognitive and feeling processes is the alleged distinctness of the intellectual and the moral virtues, a position we owe to Aristotle. Although it is no longer usual to draw the distinction in precisely Aristotle' s fashion, few philosophers have doubted that the division is deep and important. At any rate, few philosophers have opposed Aristotle's claim that such virtues as courage and temperance differ in nature from such qualities as wisdom and understanding. An exception was Spinoza, who connected both the passions and virtue with adequate ideas of God's nature, and who made understanding, an intellectual virtue, the key to all the virtues. Perhaps no other philosopher has unified the moral and intellectual virtues as solidly as Spinoza, who had the following to say about understanding:

Again, since this effort of the mind, by which the mind, in so far as it reasons endeavors to preserve its being, is nothing but the effort to understand...it follows...that this effort to understand is the primary and sole foundation of virtue, and that... we do not endeavor to understand things for the sake of any end, but, on the contrary, the mind, in so far as it reasons, can conceive nothing as being good for itself except that which conduces at understanding. (Spinoza, Ethics, Pt. IV, prop. 26, 1985, parenthetical references removed).

Another apparent exception was David Hume. Hume insisted that the distinction between the intellectual and the moral virtues is merely verbal, and that such qualities of intellect as wisdom, a capacious memory, keenness of insight, eloquence, prudence, penetration, discernment, and discretion should count as among a person's "moral" virtues since they are as much objects of praise as his honesty and courage (Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, App. 4). But since Hume also said it is merely a verbal matter whether the class of virtues includes all the human talents and the class of vices all the human defects, it is clear that he is using a much broader notion of virtue than that which dominated philosophy both before and after (App. 4, par. 1). Hume's inclusion of intellectual virtues within the class of moral virtues therefore loses most of its drama.

Julius Moravcsik (1992) has recently argued that Plato makes no sharp distinction between moral and nonmoral virtues, whether in terms of the source of virtue or its function (p. 300). Aristotle, however, does make such a division. What's more, he makes a further division within the intellectual virtues between those that aim at speculative insight or theoretical knowledge and those that pertain to practical thinking aiming at the production of artifacts or the performance of acts. These virtues are art (techne) and practical wisdom (phronesis) respectively. When we consider how entrenched the distinction between moral and intellectual virtue is in Western philosophy, it is remarkable that Aristotle's grounds for distinguishing them are so unpersuasive. Linda Zagzebski challenges these grounds, and in the process addresses the issue of distinguishing "the moral from the intellectual virtues on the grounds that the former but not the latter involves the proper handling of feelings, whereas the latter but not the former involve the proper direction of cognitive activities." (Zagzebski, 1996, p. 146)

It is true that many moral virtues, such as temperance, courage, and the virtues opposed to envy, jealousy, vengeance, and spite, are more directly related to the handling of strong feelings than are intellectual virtues, but this does not divide the class of virtues into two distinct categories. The moral virtues that many theorists consider central, namely, justice, has only a peripheral relationship with feelings, as do such virtues as honesty, sincerity, candor, and trustworthiness. On the other hand, intellectual virtues involve the proper use of the passion for truth, which, at least in some people, can be very strong indeed. There are feelings and desires that need to be restrained by the intellectual virtues. One of the strongest feelings people must overcome in their quest for knowledge in any field is the desire that some particular belief be true. The feelings that accompany prejudices can be strong; the desire to hold on to old beliefs can be strong; the desire that one's previously published views not be proven wrong can be strong. In each case there are desires or feelings that need to be restrained or redirected.

Pascal saw the passion of self-love as weakening the love of truth and leading to self-deception, the deception of others, and hypocrisy, vices, that are, at least in part, intellectual (Pensées, 1961, p. 348). Plato recognized the need for natural feeling and moral rectitude in the apprehension of truth, particularly in moral matters, and gave a dramatic argument for their power in the seventh epistle (Plato, Letter VII. 344a-b, 1961)

One final problem with dividing the moral from the intellectual virtues, on the grounds that the former handle feeling states and the latter handle thinking states, is that there are states that are actually blends of thought and feeling. Curiosity, doubt, wonder, and awe are states of this kind, each of which can either aid or impede the desire for truth. Curiosity is interesting because both Augustine and Aquinas call curiosity a vice, whereas it would be much more common these days to think of curiosity as valuable.

           Feelings are involved in intellectual virtues, and intellectual virtues are involved in handling feelings, but their operation shows how blurry the distinction between intellectual and moral virtue really is. Intellectual prejudice, for example, is an intellectual vice, and the virtue that is its contrary is fair-mindedness, but clearly we think of prejudice as a moral failing and fair-mindedness as a morally good quality. It is possible that the intellectual form of prejudice and the moral form are the same vice, and the same point could apply to other cases in which an intellectual trait has the same name as a moral trait, such as humility, autonomy, integrity, perseverance, courage, and trustworthiness. William James has said in "The Sentiment of Rationality" (1937) that faith is the same virtue in the intellectual realm as courage is in the moral realm (p. 90). I will not take a stand here on whether a moral and an intellectual virtue can be the very same virtue. In any case, if there is a distinction between intellectual and moral virtue/vice, it cannot be on the grounds that the latter handles feelings and the former does not.

Not only is the proper handling of feelings involved in intellectual as well as moral virtues, but almost all moral virtues include an aspect of proper perceptual and cognitive activity.

In the Nichomachean Ethics Aristotle gives a different reason for distinguishing the intellectual and the moral virtues. He claims there that they are learned or acquired in different ways. Intellectual virtues are qualities that can be taught, whereas moral virtues are habits that are acquired by practice and training (Aristotle, 1941, chap. 2). James Wallace accepts this distinction and connects it with the distinction between skills and virtues (Wallace, 1978, pp. 44-5).

I do not think, however, that intellectual virtues differ from moral virtues in the way in which they are acquired. Both require training through the imitation of virtuous persons and practice in acting virtuously. Both also involve handling certain feelings and acquiring the ability to like acting virtuously. Both also have stages in between vice and virtue consisting in akrasia or weakness of will and self-control. Some of the traditional moral virtues have more of a taming function than most of the traditional intellectual virtues, and that may explain why moral akrasia, or weekness of will, looms larger in our vocabulary of character than intellectual akrasia. Still, we have not yet seen any reason for dividing moral and intellectual virtues into distinct kinds.

Moreover, the moral and intellectual virtues are intimately connected in their operation. There are both logical and causal connections between moral and intellectual virtues that are just as extensive and profound as the connections among various moral virtues. For example, honesty is on all accounts a moral virtue. It is a virtue that requires that one tells the truth. But it is not sufficient for honesty that a person tells whatever she happens to believe is the truth. An honest person is careful with the truth. She respects it and does her best to find it out, to preserve it, and to communicate it in a way that permits the hearer to believe the truth justifiably and with understanding. But this in turn requires that she have intellectual virtues that give her as high a degree of justification and understanding as possible. She must be attentive, take the trouble to be thorough and careful in weighing evidence, be intellectually and perceptually acute, especially in important matters, and so on, for all the intellectual virtues. The moral virtue of honesty, then, logically entails having intellectual virtues.

The causal connections among intellectual and moral virtues are numerous. Envy, pride, and the urge to reinforce prejudices can easily inhibit the acquisition of intellectual virtues. A person without sufficient self-respect and an inordinate need to be liked by others may tend to intellectual conformity. An egoistic person will want to get his way, and this includes wanting to be right. He will therefore resist any demonstration of a mistake in his beliefs. If his belief is about a topic of contemporary debate, his egoism may lead him to read only those articles that support his own position and to discuss politics only with like-minded individuals. Or if he is a philosopher, he may invite debate but will not fairly evaluate criticisms of his position and will invest most of his intellectual energy in winning the argument. He has, then, intellectual failings resulting from a moral vice.

Furthermore, many moral virtues such as patience, perseverance, and courage are causally necessary for having intellectual virtues. In addition, there are virtues that apply both to the moral and the intellectual realm, and it is possible that that they are in fact the same virtue. The same point holds for such virtues as courage, humility, and discretion, all of which have both moral and intellectual forms. Vices such as laziness, prejudice, and obtuseness have both moral and intellectual forms.

Let us conclude this discussion of the connection between moral and intellectual virtues with two of the few important philosophers in the history of philosophy who discuss intellectual vice. Francis Bacon (Novum Organon, Book I, aphorisms 41- 44, 49, 52- 62) and John Locke (On the Conduct of the Understanding, sec. 3, pp. 208-9; also Essay IV.20) associate intellectual failings with the passions and the moral vices. Both Bacon and Locke emphasize the connections between moral and intellectual character in their enumerations of the ways things can go astray in human thinking.

In a more contemporary vain, John Benson defines autonomy in a way that makes it both a moral and an intellectual virtue. As mentioned above, he writes: "The virtue of autonomy is a mean state of character with regard to reliance on one' s own powers in acting, choosing, and forming opinions" (Benson, 1987, p. 205). He argues that "autonomous moral thinking is closely parallel to autonomous theoretical thinking, the one being concerned with what should be done, the other with what is the case... Autonomy is a proper degree and kind of reliance on others, what is proper being determined by the end of the activity in which one is engaging." (pp. 208-9) This virtue, Benson says, is closely allied to courage, as well as to humility, and it shows the connection between cognitive and volitional processes: "To be autonomous in one's thinking calls for intellectual skills, including the ability to judge when someone else knows better than yourself. But it calls also for the ability to control the emotions that prevent those skills from being properly exercised" (p. 213).

One of the most important intellectual virtues would be intellectual integrity. A modern list of intellectual vices could be the following: intellectual pride, negligence, idleness, cowardice, conformity, carelessness, rigidity, prejudice, wishful thinking, close-mindedness, insensitivity to detail, obtuseness, and lack of thoroughness. There is probably also a vice contrary to intellectual perseverance, which involves giving up too soon and may be a form of intellectual laziness or proneness to discouragement.

Some forms of self-deception may be a vice, but other forms may instead be a form of intellectual akrasia (when one is aware that one has a vice and acquires the ability to tell how she should behave intellectually on the proper occasion and, moreover, acquires the desire to be intellectually virtuous, but without doing so, one is in the state of intellectual akrasia, a state higher than vice.)

Some of the intellectual vices may have contrary vices, where one is an excess and the other a deficiency and the virtue is a mean between them. For example, there may be such a thing as intellectual rashness, the contrary of intellectual cowardice. In addition it may be possible to be overly thorough, overly sensitive to detail, overly cautious. 

Linda Zagzebski (Zagzebski, 1996), Karl Popper (Popper, 1965) and his followers (Agassi & Jarvie, 1987) might have their own lists of intellectual virtues and their own agenda of how to get there (7). Yet, Philosophical practitioners might join in the debate began by contemporary virtue epistemologists, and help determine the intellectual virtues most needed today by citizens of various nations.

C. Moral Virtues

The past twenty years have witnessed a dramatic resurgence of philosophical interest in the virtues. The charge that modern philosophical thought neglects the virtues, once apposite, is by now outmoded; and the calls for a renewed investigation of virtue and virtue ethics are being answered from many quarters. (8) Daniel Statment characterizes virtue ethics as a "rather new (or renewed) approach to ethics, according to which the basic judgments in ethics are judgments about character." (Statman, 1997, p. 7) Virtue theory argues that the aim of the moral life is to develop those general dispositions we call the moral virtues, and to exercise and exhibit them in the many situations that life sets before us. This approach to ethics is now recognized as a viable alternative to act- and principle-centered and consequentialist theories.

Aristotle is the philosopher who is best known for his emphasis on the cultivation of the virtues. When Aristotle is not taken as the prime model of virtue ethics, the Classical philosophers generally are: Martha C. Nussbaum, for example, thinks they are relevant to us for she sees a resemblance between Antiquity and our times (Nussbaum, 2000, p. 41). New Age movements, theories and practices represent a thoroughly different influence, which urge us to search inspiration in non-Western and pre-Christian civilizations. (9)

Interesting as these cultures might be, I think that the applicability of Pagan or Pre-Christian values to contemporary issues is problematic. For all Westerners are post-Christians in the same way in which they are all post-Freudian. That is, whether or not we have been Christian, we are part of a civilization that is the heir of the Christian world. We are, therefore, profoundly influenced by Christian values. This might be the reason for the revival of interest in Thomas Aquinas, who added to Aristotle's list of the moral virtues the "theological" or Christian virtues of faith, hope and charity, and some virtues that make sense within the life of the Christian, such as humility. (10)

Spinoza is a virtue ethicist who has been neglected in the literature. However, I see clear advantages for Spinoza's approach over Aquinas' and over Greek and Roman philosophers, because he is a post-Judeo-Christian philosopher. He is also the most Eastern of Western philosopher (with the exception of Schopenhauer, maybe), his thought being often compared to Buddhism (e.g., Wetlessen, 1979). He could pass for a New Age theorist, sharing the wide appeal of this movement's goals, but without the logical and epistemological deficiencies which plague its theories (Cf. Grossman, 2003). I defended elsewhere the applicability of Spinoza's virtue ethics to our times (Amir, 2007b).

Spinoza's ethical goals are echoed in Bertrand Russell's philosophy (Cf. Blackwell, 1985). Russell seems to believe in the necessity of developing an impersonal feeling that would be constitutive of wisdom: "Our age", he writes, "is in many respects one which has little wisdom, and which would therefore profit greatly by what philosophy has to teach. The value of philosophy is partly in relation to thought and partly in relation to feeling, though its effects in these two ways are closely interconnected. On the theoretical side it is a help in understanding the universe as a whole, in so far as this is possible. On the side of feeling it is a help toward a just appreciation of the ends of human life." (Russell, 1956, p. 178)

Closely parallel to the development of impersonal thought is the development of impersonal feeling, which is at least equally important and which ought equally to result from a philosophical outlook. Our desires, like our senses, are primarily self-centered. The egocentric character of our desires interferes with our ethics. In the one case, as in the other, what is to be aimed at is not a complete absence of the animal equipment that is necessary for life but the addition to it of something wider, more general, and less bound up with personal circumstances. We should not admire a parent who had no more affection for his own children than for those of others, but we should admire a man who from love of his own children is led to a general benevolence. We should not admire a man, if such a man there were, who was so indifferent to food as to become undernourished, but we should admire the man, who from knowledge of his own need of food, is led to a general sympathy with the hungry (cf. Kuntz, 1986, p. 107ff).

            What philosophy should do in matters of feelings is very closely analogous to what it should do in matters of thought. It should not subtract from the personal life but should add to it. Just as the philosopher's intellectual survey is wider than that of an uneducated man, so also the scope of his desires and interests should be wider. A man who has acquired a philosophical way of feeling, and not only of thinking, will note what things seem to him good and bad in his own experience, and will wish to secure the former and avoid the latter for others as well as for himself.

Wisdom has an affective aspect, Russell argues since "comprehensiveness alone... is not enough to constitute wisdom. There must be, also, a certain awareness of the ends of human life... perhaps one could stretch the comprehensiveness that constitutes wisdom to include not only intellect but also feeling. It is by no means uncommon to find men whose knowledge is wide but whose feelings are narrow. Such men lack what I am calling wisdom" (Russell, 1956, p.174). For example, the best way to overcome the fear of death, according to Russell, is to make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until "bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life." (Ibid., p. 52)

Some philosophical counselors believe that the main goal of philosophical practice is to educate on the emotions (e.g.Warren Shibbles, 1998, 2001). Others, following Bertrand Russell's view that "the good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge" (Russell, 1957, p. 56), think that developing better feelings is a worthy philosophical goal (e.g. Amir 2002; 2004a).

The liberation of thought liberates from an intelligence focused on narrow interests. A method of questions and critically assessed alternative answers which does not shun abstract thought develops one's intelligence. An epistemology of virtues is best suitable to philosophical practice's goals, as an ethics of virtues is best equipped to harmonize reason and feelings, intellectual and moral virtues. Moreover, virtue ethics avoids the skepticism which plagues postmodern morality and circumvents the aesthetic turn in ethics which is so fashionable. Let me explain.

Talking about virtues and vices today is not fashionable. In postmodern thought, morality has become a matter of taste, a shift which has been called the aesthetics turn in ethics. Talking about morality is not fashionable even in non-postmodernist circles: thinkers such as Bernard Williams (1985, p. 29) and Richard Wollheim (1984, pp. 215-6) emphasize the difference between ethics, which has a connotation of individual development, and morality, which has an undertone of obligation.

The bon ton today is to avoid issues of values by talking about aesthetic realization (e.g., Shusterman, 1992, 1997). But a criticism is in order, here: the description of aesthetic realization involves an immense effort of bettering oneself. The motivation and on-going effort cannot be justified on aesthetic grounds. When one compares the philosophical aesthetic ideal with other aesthetic ideals, the difference is the ethical dimension of the former.

Indeed, ethics should not be narrowed down to morality. An ethic of virtues avoids this pitfall, and present, therefore, a viable alternative to a philosophical aesthetic ideal of self-realization. Moreover, it is a better answer to the question of the good life, for it provides a justification and a possible motivation, which the aesthetic ideal cannot, on principle, provide.

Concluding Remarks

If meliorism and perfectionism are both loyal to philosophy's aims and methods, the same virtues championed in perfectionism will also predominate in meliorism. The difference would be that the very high ethical ideals of perfectionist philosophy, as well as its demand of a radical break with society's presuppositions would be avoided.

Richard Rorty's recent solution of dividing the self into two heteronymous domains, the public moral one, and the private "ironic" of perfectionist one (Rorty, 1989), impedes intellectual integrity and seems unnecessary. As Stanley Cavell maintains, there is no opposition between perfectionism, the cultivation of self-perfection, and what I deemed "meliorism" - providing the citizen, myself included, with necessary tools to live autonomously in a liberal democracy. In defending the conscious cultivation of distinctive self-perfection, Cavell's goal "is not simply to show that it is tolerable to the life of justice in a constitutional democracy but to show how it is essential to that life." (Cavell, 1994, p. 56)

It is not enough to have legal rights. One should have to means to exercise those rights. The right to the "pursuit of happiness" is an empty one, if we are not given the tools to develop and harmonize our intellectual and moral capacities, so that in reaching intellectual and moral integrity we thereby become autonomous not only de jure but also de facto. Neither is it sufficient to write on these issues, as do academic philosophers. An active and involved philosophical practice helps minimize the tension between liberty and equality which plagues every democratic and liberal society.    

Though a perfectionist in my personal life, in my practice - unless asked specifically to provide perfectionist tutoring - I am a meliorist. If the philosophical practitioner would concentrate on what correspond to the majority of persons, she would succeed in her endeavor because she services her community. There is nothing as unphilosophical as the power a philosopher assumes and its necessary consequence - the heteronomy for those who listen to him. This is the danger of perfectionism in the consultancy. By contenting ourselves with meliorism we minimize the risks of power and personal influence, we fill a vacuum in society, and we fulfill an important educational role. One should act where one is needed and not where one fancies. At the very least, respectability for philosophical practice depends on this ethics.

Notes

 

(1) The criticism of the way philosophy is done in the academy did not begin in this century, nor did it begin with the Philosophical Practice movement. In a way, Socrates began it with his attack on the Sophists, Schopenhauer rekindled it with his attack on Hegel, Montaigne, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche partook in it, as well as Thoreau and Emerson, and in this century, Dewey, Wittgenstein, Foucault, the existentialists as well as the Spanish-born American philosophers Santayana. 

The very discipline of academic philosophy rubbed Santayana the wrong way. "That philosophers should be professors is an accident," he wrote, "and almost an anomaly. Free reflection about everything is a habit to be imitated, but not a subject to expound; and an original system, if the philosopher has one, is something dark, perilous, untested, and not ripe to be taught, nor is there much danger anyone will learn it." Looking back on his Harvard days in Character and Opinion in the United States (1921), he spoke of the new breed of philosophy professor who was "very professional in tone and conscious of his Fach," "open-minded, whole-hearted, appreciative," but also - deadly phrase - "toasted only on one side." "On Philosophers and Philosophy", he notes that: "there is a sense in which James was not a philosopher at all. He once said to me: ‘What a curse philosophy would be if we couldn't forget all about it!' In other words, philosophy was to him what it has been to so many, a consolation and a sanctuary in a life which would have been unsatisfying without it. It would be incongruous, therefore, to expect of him that he should build a philosophy like an edifice to go and live in for good." (Santayana, 1921, pp. 56-57)

            In this century again, the late Foucault has rekindled the Greeks', Spinoza's, Nietzsche's and Kierkegaard's views by saying: "more important, however, than scrutinizing the lives of others, each philosopher must direct critical attention and creative imagination to her own concrete deeds and life-experiences as well as to her own ideas.... At every moment, step by step, one must confront what one is thinking and saying with what one is doing, with what one is" (Foucault, 1984, p. 374).  

            Richard Shusterman sums up the views shared by Dewey, Wittgenstein and Foucault (1997, chap. 1) by saying that "the disrespect for mere academic philosophizing" stems from the view that "philosophy had a much more crucial, existential task: to help us lead better lives by bettering ourselves through self-knowledge, self-criticism, and self-mastery. Philosophy is more than thought; it is a life-practice where theory derives its real meaning and value only in term of the life in which it functions, in the concrete pursuit of better living."

            The idea of philosophy as "self-help" in the art of living was once philosophy's prime goal, and it remains a worthy one. Yet it may bring a scornful smirk from most professional philosophers. As one of them writes: "the idea of philosophy as a deliberate life-practice that brings lives of beauty and happiness to is practitioners is as foreign to professional philosophy today as astrology is to astrophysics" (Shusterman, 1997, p. 3). And as another contemporary philosopher warns us: "Philosophy is a wonderful subject but it does not make a human life... Too much of it is not good for a person." (McGrinn, 1989, p. vi).

(2) Recall, among other classical formulations of this idea, Descartes' (1991, vol.3: Letter to Princess Elizabeth, 6 October 1645), and more recently, Andre Comte-Sponville's (1993, p. 199): "Le philosophe, on s'en doute, fait un autre choix, qu'à vrai dire il ne choisit pas. Ce n'est pas en effet parcequ'il est philosophe qu'il fait ce choix; c'est parce qu'il fait ce choix qu'il est philosophe. Il est l'effet, plutôt que le sujet de ce choix qui le définit...Toujours est-il qu'il a ‘choisi', lui, doublement la vérité et le bonheur. Comme le savant, il a souci du vrai; et comme nous tous, cette exigence d'être heureux. Mais le vrai prime: s'il faut choisir entre une vérité et un bonheur, il choisit la vérité. Il ne serait pas philosophe autrement..."

(3) By disconnecting the client momentarily from his more personal concerns, the abstract allows for a space, sometimes a necessary hiding space, for understanding and maybe change, to take place. The abstract as an inward space where thought can be expanded and freedom gained without the tyranny of personal fear is one of the great therapeutic inventions of philosophy. But any solution to any problem that would remain at the abstract level is useless. Self philosophical counseling and well as philosophical counseling for others presuppose some knowledge of the art of shades and light. Some people will perish from too much light, according to Plato (Plato, The Republic, 1961; Amir 2001); all neurotics, that is, all of us, need the shade, according to Freud (Amir, 2006a); and the value of an individual might well be the quantity of truth (light) she can bear, according to Nietzsche (Nietzsche, 1974; Amir 2007c). I explain how to translate this into the practice of questions and answers in Amir, 2003, which describes the method I used in counseling, and in the workshop published in the first volume of this book (Amir, 2006c).

(4) Among contemporary philosophers who have written on epistemology, a few seem to be moving in the direction of a radical virtue epistemology: Jonathan Knaving (1992), Linda Zagzebski (1996), and Alasdair McIntyre (1990).

(5) Christine McKinnon (2003) argues for the advantages of applying feminist ethics to epistemology since it permits an account of a broader range of case of knowing than those standardly discussed, in particular, knowledge of oneself and others. She argues that a virtue approach in epistemology is better suited to giving an account of knowledge of persons than traditional approaches.

(6) See Linda Zagzebski's discussion, 1996, part I, sec. 3 and Amir, 2007c.

(7) See Karl Popper's (1963) and his followers' (1987) critical rationalism for a method of improving thinking for scientists as well as laymen. See Linda Zabzebski's detailed many-staged method of developing intellectual virtues (Zagzebski, 1996, pp. 152-155): the stage after akrasia is intellectual self-control, she writes. At this stage a person has to stop herself from accepting inadequate evidence or poor testimony or lapsing into ways of speaking and reasoning of which she disapproves. But, unlike the previous stage, she does it successfully. Still, she lacks the virtue because she finds it difficult to weight evidence properly or judge authority reliably or reason with care. Her behavior may be correct, but it is not grounded in a "firm and unchangeable character," as Aristotle characterizes the person who truly possesses virtue. The final stage is the intellectual virtue. Examples include intellectual carefulness, perseverance, humility, vigor, flexibility, courage, and thoroughness, and the virtues opposed to wishful thinking, obtuseness and conformity.

(8) See Velazco y Trianoski, 1997, note 1, p. 53, for a relatively updated list of sources on recent work on the virtues.

(9) For New Age characteristics, see Hanegraff, 1998; Helas, 1996; and York, 1995.

(10) For the revival of interest in Aquinas' ethics, see Casey,1990,  and Ramsey,  1997, especially note 1, p. 177. Ramsey maintains that "just as mainstream ethics a generation ago consisted largely of debate concerning utilitarianism and Kantian theories, it is now for the most part concerned with debate over virtue ethics and versions of objectivist or natural law ethics [principles]" (Ramsay, 1997, p. x).

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