Compare and Contrast Paper
Kantianism purports to make moral worth depend on conditions that can be satisfied by choice, and in so far as it succeeds, it offers solace to those whose natures through no faults of theirs are not, as Hume might say, sweet and gentle and good. Kantianism would be both repulsive and no solace if it made good natures barriers to moral worth. But, contrary to implications of what Beck and other translators and interpreters have taken to be ‘the first proposition of morality, Kantianism maintains merely that good natures are not necessary to moral worth. (In Chapter IV of Sobel 2002e)
At this level, utilitarianism competes with Kantianism, for instance, and both compete with anti-theorists of various stripes, who recognize only particular truths about morality. A quite different sort of question arises from seeking to give a metaphysical grounding for moral truths or for the claim that there are none. In the second half of the 20th century, “virtue ethics” became an increasingly popular alternative to the Kantian and Utilitarian theories that had for some time dominated normative ethics. In contrast to Kantianism and Utilitarianism, which despite marked differences share an emphasis on identifying morally obligatory actions, virtue-centered approaches emphasize the psychological constitution, or character, of actors. The central question for virtue ethics, so the slogan goes, is not what sort of action to do, but what sort of person to be. The aims of moral philosophy and any hopes it may have of being worth serious attention are bound up with the fate of Socrates’ question – How should one live? – And it has seemed too many philosophers that any prospects for a satisfying answer rest with the ethics of character. Allegedly, if the ethical reflection is to help people understand and improve themselves and their relations to others, it must be reflection focused on the condition and cultivation of character.
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