Ethics and Political Philosophy
Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education
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AbstractJohn Stuart Mill and Immanuel Kant authored two of the most famous pieces of work in ethical theory (Utilitarianism and Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, respectively), yet both fail for various reasons to give us direction by way of living good lives. This thesis begins by outlining those shortcomings, before offering Aristotelian virtue ethics as the solution. Virtue ethics, as conceived by Aristotle, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Julia Annas, delineates a process – grounded in our real lives – by which we may improve as people and therefore flourish, or live good, moral lives: the habituation of the virtues. Importantly, virtue ethics is a process, (not a set of outcomes) and is teachable, which distinguishes it from the other two theories. In developing the virtues, we are able to discover goods internal to the practices that define our lives, whether those are our work, our school, our relationships, or something else entirely. Furthermore, the virtue-ethical approach helps us learn from and grow in our emotional lives, as opposed to casting emotions aside as a skewing force contrary to morality. Virtue, as I will show, lays the groundwork for love, and therefore for flourishing relationships across our lives. In the final chapter, I examine a place where virtue and virtuous love are effectively taught and embraced: Camp Lanakila, in Fairlee, VT. I conclude by offering some takeaways from Lanakila that we may incorporate in our schools, our places of work and worship, our families, and our lives.