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Ken Martin

November 24, 2008


Good Character Moral Agent
Do we actually know the definition of a Good Character or a Moral Agent Well, the
word character is defined as the combination of qualities or features that distinguishes
one person, group, or thing from another. The concept of the word character can imply a
variety of attributes including the existence or lack of virtues. These virtues are integrity,
courage, fortitude, honesty and loyalty. Now, if we look at the word Moral Character and
the definition of the word is an evaluation of a particular individuals moral qualities.
When someone is a moral character, it is primarily referring to the assemblage of
qualities that distinguish one individual from another.
How does a person become a conscientious moral agent? According to the book The
Elements of Moral Philosophy the minimum conception of morality is defined as at the
very least, the effort to guide ones conduct by reason that is, to do what there are the
best reasons for doing while giving equal weight to the interests of each individual who
will be affected by what one does. From this we can deduce that a conscientious moral
agent is a person who is concerned according to the book impartially with the interests
of everyone affected by what he or she does; who will carefully examine the implications
after looking at the facts; who only accepts principles of conduct after scrutinizing them
for soundness; who is willing to listen to reason even when it goes against what they
already believe to be true ; and is willing to revise their own thoughts and act on the
results of their deliberation on the matter. Ethics is all about how we as humans can
improve our quality of life by learning to be good characters and exercising good morals.
At the beginning of this Ethics class, we the students were asked by our professor to write
a short paper on what kind of good character am I, and what kind of good character will
I be. This was very hard for me personally since I dont like writing, to be put on the
spot without proper preparation. The exercise made us look at ourselves introspectively
and gauged what our perception of a good character was. Now, once again, we the
students are asked to write a paper on
Since taking this class, I have learned to face some of my fears of talking in a group, and
in doing so, have heard different opinions on various controversial subjects and why
people feel strongly about the topics we have discussed. I have become a much better
listener, have mulled over the classroom conversations in my head, and have learned to
appreciate everyones inputs. Aristotle, Socrates, Plato and many other philosophers of
the past, according to the book, approached ethics by asking What traits of character
make one a good person? Later philosophers began asking What is the right thing to
do? I think a blending of the virtue philosophy with the theories of rightness and
obligations such as Utilitarianism, Kants theory (Categorical Imperative), Social
Contract Theory would be the way to become as Immanuel Kant put forth a moral agent
and doing ones duty.

One of the great thinkers that I think I follow to some extent now and am trying to
improve on is Aristotles view on the ethics of virtue. But what is happiness? If we
consider what the function of man is, we find that happiness is a virtuous activity of the
soul. So according to that statement, if one is virtuous or occupies oneself with an
activity in accordance to virtue, then all happiness is yours. In the book, a virtue is
described as the mean by reference to two vices: the one of excess and the other of
deficiency. I agree with that statement, because if one is too much of the other, then it is
not considered a virtuous activity or something that a person should aspire to but rather
unwise.
Aristotle followed the idea of moral character after the Greeks which I did not know. He
tells us that there are two different kinds of human excellences, excellences of thought
and excellences of character. When we speak of excellence of character or moral virtue,
the emphasis is the combination of qualities that make an individual the sort of ethically
admirable person that he/she is. Each virtue is set over or concerned with specific
feelings or actions. The virtue of mildness or good temper, for example, is concerned
with anger. Aristotle thinks that a mild person ought to be angry about some things and
should be willing to stand up for him and those that he/she cares about. Not to do so
would, in Aristotles view, indicate the morally deficient character of the in irritable
person. The mild persons reactions are appropriate to the situation.
Another theoretical framework that I have learned about in class is Utilitarianism, which
was attributed to David Hume, Jeremy Bentham, and John Stuart Mill. The theory
promotes the greatest amount of happiness or the least amount of sadness for the greatest
amount of people. I like this idea, and it is true that people use this in making decisions
for family vacations and any other decisions that include a group of people. This comes
in handy at work when trying to make the schedule for the workers. It can possibly be
used in making decisions for yourself about how to spend your time; example what
activity can do me the greatest good in the sense of helping others and in the process
helping myself.
In the end taking this ethics class has been an eye-opener in some cases. I have come out
knowing that people can be good and not have to be religious believers, that they are
capable of making well thought out choices for good reasons, and that it is good to open
up and listen to what others have to say and not try and force your own thoughts and
beliefs on other people. Kant said Act only according to that maxim by which you can
at the same time will that it should become a universal law. In being able to grow in
learning how to be a better moral agent and to become a good character by applying some
of these principles in my life, I have to say is a very worthy thing to spend my time on. I
am glad I took this course and as Socrates stated in Platos Republic (ca. 390 B.C.), We
are discussing no small matter, but how we ought to live.