Area home

Spring Points

  intelligent virtue: conceptual philanthropy
gary e. davis
June 2020
Greater happiness in the sense of fulfilling life is strongly associated (statistically) with higher individuation. More wholly flourishive life (especially including,
I would emphasize, Values In Action traits of creativity, appreciation of beauty
and excellence, perspective, and spirituality) is more fulfilling.

And a vast body of statistical results shows that greater freedom (scale) of “self-expression” in a life correlates with greater happiness in the hedonic sense.

Admirability of that naturally secures interpersonal esteem, even though that’s supplemental for the horizonal character of highly individuated Selfidentity (whose sense of security is beyond interpersonal life).

No wonder then that senior virtue theorist Julia Annas (writing in latter years
of her career) associates virtue with enjoyment (ch. 5 of Intelligent Virtue) and living happily (ch. 9).

Yet, “the unity of virtue” (ch. 6) can be better than Annas understands that,
in terms of rich lifeworld conceptuality whose humanity is highly conceived.

One might regard that as merely ideal, rarely instanced. Yet the appeal of high humanity is, I would argue, integral to the potential of human intelligence (intro-duced earlier) exemplified by generally recognized leading minds, especially when a good range of specialties are brought into virtual convening (i.e., brought to display a “conventional” consilience) that can be well advanced (i.e., proffered, argued) as deserving to be regarded as admirably exemplary for better humanity.

So, I would extend the above discussion and sections to “posit” that there “is”
(or appreciably deserves to be) protean virtue, natural goodness of that, and entailed appeal of cultivating humanity practically (e.g., sufficient political support for generalized educational excellence and durably extensive normal-ization of higher education in conceptions of human rights).

Such is the better humanity at heart in social progress, which is fundamentally cultural. (Even statistical research vastly supports the contention that social progress emerges from cultural progress.) And conceptions of progress depend on conceptions of human potential, which depend on conceptions of intelligent life.

Conceptions of progressivity, modeled on intelligent life, are fundamental to notions of evolution that are more than tropes for environmental adequacy or adaptive robustness. There is no intrinsic progress in biology apart from human valuing of increasing flexibility irt increasing complexity, i.e., our appreciating of emergent intelligence in nature. Naturalization of progress is a gift to nature by human interest.

A progressive ethic is an “evolutionary” ethic in basically that redundant sense: An evolutionary ethic just is a progressivist ethic. Finding bioanthropological roots to ethics is retrojective and reconstructive relative to conceptions of progressive life (especially overtones of natural goodness) that are efficacious for genealogical research. In fact, ethical conceptuality in professional anthropology has relied on notions imported from philosophy (“ethics, anthropological,” Routledge Encyclo-
) , then mapped into field research—and interestingly dominated by neo-Aristotelian notions of virtue (“ethics, anthropology of”).

I think that appeals of virtue are integral to all “great” religions’ sacred texts; and in the idealisms of progressive modernity.

Particularly interesting are notions of genuine nobility that evolved in Medieval Europe, modernly entailing noblesse oblige which is philanthropic in the original, non-financial sense.

The appeal of that is concealed by hegemonic orders of ingenuine “nobility”
which have contributed to legacies of class-oriented resentment. But originally (13th century) being noble was about “1 a : possessing outstanding qualities (as
of eminence, dignity” (M-W. Un.), which pertains to the admirability of exemplar-ity. Without true exemplarity, admirability becomes vanity. So, notions of “1 b :…commanding excellence of mind or character, or high ideals or morals” soon seem (and too often were) a spirit of exclusive privilege. Increasingly rare in modern-
ization (so compensatorily avaricious in the wake of exclusivist history) is genuin-ely3 a : possessing very high or excellent qualities or properties…” But in fact, the genuineness of that is integrally appealing because the appeal of Self enhance-ment is intrinsic (and “naturally” good). Nobility of spirit is a vitally admirable and educationally exemplary way of being.

Originally (17th century), a “philanthropic” person was consilient with its Greek root: love of humanity (well: love of “mankind,” but that’s always intended, in principle, to be about humanity—and must be regarded as originally intending that). Being philanthropic was originally to have/show “1 : goodwill toward one’s fellow human beings…”—(Kant was at heart a philanthropic ethicist)—“…espec-ially as expressed through active efforts to promote human welfare,” a notion which invites ambitious conceptions of cultivating humanity.

next—> advancing public support for generalizing higher quality of lives



  Be fair. © 2020, gary e. davis