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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Darwin and Worldview again

Here is something that a Darwinist might say in reply to my linked post. "It seems that the crucial aspect of worldview forming for you is the role it plays in the personal integration of the agent, which means the role it has in cultivating virtues in the agent. An integrated agent is one whose actions and reason are appropriately tied to virtues. But if that is right, then this poses no inconsistency for Darwinism. What makes a tendency a virtue is that in tends to maximize some good whether that end be truth, in the case of intellectual virtues, or happiness, in the case of moral virtues. The fruitfulness of virtues with respect to these ends is what makes those virtues virtuous (or simply "right"). And if one has several virtues, whether intellectual or moral, each of which is right, then a person is right through and through. What more can "integration of the agent" ask for? But it is clear that there is no paradox between this picture of personal integration and Darwinism. Methodological naturalism is an example of an intellectual virtue in this sense and right dispositions can be selected by fitness. In fact, Darwinism expects that picture. So Darwinists do get their worldview without a hitch after all."

This plays on a distinction that Aristotle makes between intellectual and moral virtues, which is a distinction not only between intellect and character but also a distinction between two senses of how something can be a virtue. On standard interpretations, for Aristotle an intellectual disposition is virtuous if it maximizes truth relative to error, but the benefit of a moral virtue is intrinsic to the disposition itself. Further, intellectual virtues are passive and receptive, while moral virtues are active and agent-expressive.

However, one could suggest that we see moral virtues as being like Aristotle's intellectual virtues, as virtuous because they maximize goods relative to bads. And one could even suggest that we see intellectual virtues as being like Aristotle's moral virtues, as privileging the truth that intrinsically results from a certain form of inquiry. To make a long story short one could identify four kinds of virtue; (a) intellectual passive virtues, (b) intellectual active virtues, (c) moral passive virtues, (d) moral active virtues. A problem with Aristotle's selections, (a) and (d), is that many see them to be in a kind of tension. One solution is to either adopt (a) and (c) or (b) and (d) to deny the tension. But another option is to accept all four to embrace the tension more uniformly.

In my first post, it seems clear that by worldview formation, I had in mind cultivating an intellectual virtue of type (b) to facilitate cultivating moral virtue of type (d). But I also think that virtues in the sense of (a) and (c) a relevant and necessary for this to be possible. This means i embrace the strategy of seizing the tension. The cultivation of active virtues in necessarily involved in rendering the results of the passive virtues into a coherent system for ourselves as agents. But that means accepting the point that this system is more tenuous than either (a) and (c) or (b) and (d), although the only (b) and (d) option is still open for me.

The Darwinist however avoids my objection by embracing only (a) and (c) and he does so successfully.

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