In “Moral Saints”, Susan Wolf argues that being morally perfect is “not a compelling ideal”. Perhaps the strongest argument that Wolf gives for this claim is by condemning the undesirable and unattractive lifestyles that moral saints have. I believe that leading a perfectly virtuous life is a compelling ideal. This paper will further discuss what moral saints would look like in virtue ethics and whether living perfectly virtuous is a compelling ideal.
In Susan Wolf’s essay “Moral Saints” she argues moral saints are unattractive and believes that moral sainthood is “very, very nice” (Wolf 1997).
In this case, they lose the humor in them in becoming fun and entertaining. This is where I agree. I personally believe moral saints are “extremist” in doing what is morally right. They “over” help people until they lose the sense of ” entertainment” in them.
For example, when a baby cries out of fear, a moral saint would not know how to calm down the baby.
Instead of making the baby laugh by making silly faces, moral saints would give milk and feed the baby. Also, when a girl is having a difficult time with her boyfriend, moral saints would have limited “skills” in making her feel better.
Wolf also argues that moral saints “lack the ability to enjoy the enjoyable in life” (Wolf, 1997). Moral saints would have no time for any recreation, outdoor activities or any “fun” activities. For example, a moral saint would not be able to be a great athlete because they will use most of their time helping other athletes and coaches thus, would have no time for training and exercise.
A moral saint would not be a successful soccer player because they would be busy feeding the audiences and teammates thus missing many soccer games.
Also, moral saints will never be good friends because they will spend their time finding ways to “please” their peers by being manipulative in their actions. I believed that moral saints sacrifice their lives just to make others enjoy their lives. Therefore, I strongly agree with Wolf’s argument upon the lack of ability to enjoy the enjoyable life among moral saints.
Next, Wolf argues that moral saints are “boring, humorless and no fun” (Wolf 1997). Moral saints would not know how to pluck a guitar, create beautiful melodies on a piano or riding a skateboard. In a family gathering where family members are busy showing-off their skills and talents, moral saints would find ways to feed and help them. I personally agree with that. I think moral saints pull the “vibe of happiness” out from people. For example, in a football team where the coach and players are in full-spirit in winning the final game, Tom who is a moral saint football player, planned to distribute free pizzas to the entire audience.
Thus, if Tom were to reveal his plans to the coach, the coach would feel sad to have a non- passionate player like Tom. Making the coach sad would affect the entire team too. Therefore, I agree with Wolf that moral saints have boring and humorless lives.
Wolf concluded that moral saints could not pursue other good value if we only pursue on morality (Wolf 1997). I agree on this because I think moral saints are “non-self-centered” in doing what is morally good. They do good all the time and to everybody which made them forget their rights upon others or even on themselves. For example, a moral saint would be busy feeding his neighbors at night, which then led him to starve in the morning because he forgot that he has rights upon his body. A moral saint dad would be busy spending time with poor people at the same time would have no time to fulfill his right upon his children which is to spend time with them and feed them. A moral saint president would be busy in helping other poor countries and at the same would fail to fulfill his rights to help his own nation.
I also believe that moral saint sometimes ruin peoples’ dreams. For example, say that a young man, John committed a terrible crime and when he gets older he repented and felt guilty about his past memories. He then decided to punish himself by living in a bad, poor and worthless life. Moral saints would find ways to maximize John’s happiness by feeding him and find a place for him to sleep, but in reality John is already “living his life”.
A virtuous person is somebody who focuses more on their character rather than their actions. Characters like patience, justice, courage, temperance etc. are all part of virtue ethics. Since Wolf did not discuss virtue ethics in her paper, I am going to elaborate more on what would a moral saint look like in virtue ethics. Firstly, I believe that Moral saints would enjoy more in life because through the virtue of wisdom would make moral saints plan their time wisely. Moral saints would now have time for recreation, outdoor activities or any “fun” activities.
For example, a wisdom moral saint would now be a great athlete because instead of helping other athletes and coaches, they would manage their time properly. They would train and exercise everyday for ten hours, help the needy for seven hours and the remaining of their time they would sleep. They would also focus on winning more competitions to gain more money and prizes so that they would contribute it to the needy and poor.
A wisdom moral saint would also be a successful soccer player because they would be filling their schedule with training and kicking soccer balls. With the wisdom they have, they would save all their money and distribute free tickets and foods to the entire audience in the stadium. That completes my argument that moral saints with virtue ethics would enjoy more in life. Next, I believe that with the virtue of friendliness in moral saints would make them become more attractive. My structure of argument explicit as follows:
Therefore, friendliness in moral saints would make them become more attractive. Since Wolf believed that moral sainthood is “very, very nice”, virtue moral saints would become fairly “nice” with the friendliness and wisdom traits in them. For example, a friendly moral saint would greet almost everyone every morning along the walkway. By this, the public would believe that he or she is approachable and an “easy going” person. One might think that a virtue moral saint would even greet “bad guys” like robbers, serial killers when he sees them. The answer is yes, but virtue moral saints would use their wisdom and friendliness to attract “bad guys” to be their friend.
Thus, by taking them as friends, virtue moral saints would call the cops to catch these “bad guys”. Now one might say that “faking” to friend someone is not a good thing and would hurt the “bad guys” feeling. I would say that putting those bad guys in jail gives better consequences to the society than letting them escape freely. In conclusion, the public would believe that friendly moral saints are nice, protecting and easygoing people. Kids would take them as role models and the public would willingly take friendly moral saints as their best friend. Thus that completes my argument that moral saints with virtue ethics would become more attractive.
Next, I believe that through creativity, virtue moral saints would become more fun and entertaining. With the creativity they have, they would turn a dry and boring environment into a joyous one. They would learn how to pluck a guitar in a unique way, play different melodies on the piano and do “crazy” stunts on skateboards.
For example, in a family gathering, moral saints would entertain everybody by playing the best songs on the piano while blowing the trumpet at the same time. They would put the “vibe of happiness” inside people’s heart. For example, in a football team, where the coach and players are in full-spirit in winning the final game, Tom the creative moral saint would come up with unique and creative game plan to win the game. If Tom were to reveal his plans to the coach and the entire team, everybody would be more passionate in lifting the trophy.
Since anger is like fire that “burn down” happiness, I would say that virtuous moral saints would gain more happiness by having good temper in them. They would know when and how to control their anger. This would also create more time for them to help people. For example when good-tempered moral saints are busily feeding the poor in rural areas, the community from that area decides to stop them from feeding, believing outsiders are threats to their people.
A normal moral saint would probably go against these communities and continue feeding the needy. By doing this, moral saints could get arrested by the local cops. However, a good-tempered moral saint would just politely leave the area and feed other people somewhere else.
Wolf would argue that living in a perfect virtuous life is still undesirable because of the character that one has to build. Also, Wolf would not accept a moral theory that orders an undesirable life as the ideal (Wolf 1997, 96). I am totally against Wolf that a perfect virtuous life is undesirable. My structure of argument explicit as follows:
Therefore, a perfect virtuous life is not undesirable. I believe that building a character itself is a desire and a medium to gain more desires. For example say that Tom always lies. He has a habit of lying until nobody trusts him anymore. Nobody wants to hang out or even talk to him. One day he decided to be truthful and wants to become a better person.
Every day Tom would go against the habit of lying and to speak the truth. He kept on speaking the truth until his family began to love him back and friends began talking to him. From here, Tom’s desires could “flow” well, like he could now play soccer with his friends, watch movies with his family and even go out for a date. If Tom were to continue lying, his desires to have “fun” is “stagnant” and could only achieve it by having the desire to speak the truth.
That completes my argument that building a character on oneself is a desire and a medium to gain more desires. Next, Wolf says it is impossible to compile an accurate set of virtues for human life (Wolf 1997, 93). She believes that being sincere, good-tempered, courageous all at once is impossible. I would argue that it is possible to have a set of virtue all at once.
My structure of argument is explicit as follows:
So, having a set of virtue all at once is possible. Say that Tom only knows one virtue trait that is to be truthful. He would always speak the truth every time. When he sees his friends, he would tell them the truth about how they really look and what do people really think of them. When he sees the mayor of his town, he would tell the mayor about the character that he has and not considering to “filtering” his words. In this case, Tom’s friends and family would stay away from him because of being extremely truthful and not having other good virtue traits like being balance and respectful. Thus that completes my argument that that it is possible to have a set of virtue all at once.
In conclusion, I have argued that moral saints in a perfectly virtuous life would enjoy more in life, be more attractive, desirable and it is possible to have a set of virtue all at once. Therefore, I believe that leading a perfectly virtuous life is a compelling ideal.