187. What Does It Mean To Be Virtuous Now? feat. Christian Miller

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By Greg La Blanc. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Character is a uniquely human feature, based on questions of agency, responsibility, free will and choice. But what qualifies as good or bad character, and how do we decide where we fall in this spectrum?

Christian Miller is the A. C. Reid Professor of Philosophy at Wake Forest University, and currently the Director of the Honesty Project. His main areas of research are meta-ethics, moral psychology, moral character, action theory, and philosophy of religion.

He is the author of over 100 academic papers as well as a number of books including “The Character Gap: How Good Are We?,” and “Honesty: The Philosophy and Psychology of a Neglected Virtue.”

Christian and Greg talk about moral character, a brief history of 20th century ethics, finding happiness, whether or not there is a trade off in becoming more virtuous, and consistency in our values.

Episode Quotes:

Virtue comes in degrees

So, I like to say virtue comes in degrees. There can be someone who's weakly virtuous, moderately virtuous, fully virtuous. Vice comes in degrees too. So you can be really vicious, moderately vicious, weakly vicious, and then there's a middle space in between them. And that's what I call mixed character, where your character has some good sides to it and some bad sides to it. So you're not good enough to count as virtuous to any extent. You're not bad enough to count as vicious to any extent. You're in the middle.

What are you losing when you become more virtuous?

I think you have to accept that becoming virtuous will be at the expense of something that you might enjoy. That could be multiple things, but the easiest thing to cite would be moments of short-term pleasure.

Unvirtuous form of motivation

What would be an unvirtuous form of motivation? That would be self-interested motivation if you're doing it to benefit yourself. So, if you only stay at the level of self-interested motivation, even though your behavior is always admirable, you'll never get to virtue.

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217 episodes