„For most Americans, ethical matters are usually discussed either in utilitarian terms of weighing competing goods or balancing benefits and harms, looking to the greatest good for the greatest number, or in moralist terms of rules, rights and duties, "thou shalts" and "thou shalt nots." Our public ethical discourse is largely negative and "other-directed": We focus on condemning and avoiding misconduct by, or on correcting and preventing injustice to, other people, not on elevating or improving ourselves.“

—  Leon R. Kass, Context: For most Americans, ethical matters are usually discussed either in utilitarian terms of weighing competing goods or balancing benefits and harms, looking to the greatest good for the greatest number, or in moralist terms of rules, rights and duties, "thou shalts" and "thou shalt nots." Our public ethical discourse is largely negative and "other-directed": We focus on condemning and avoiding misconduct by, or on correcting and preventing injustice to, other people, not on elevating or improving ourselves. How liberating and encouraging, then, to encounter an ethics focused on the question, "How to live?" and that situates what we call the moral life in the larger context of human ­flourishing. How eye-opening are arguments that suggest that happiness is not a state of passive feeling but a life of fulfilling activity, and especially of the unimpeded and excellent activity of our specifically human powers—of acting and making, of thinking and learning, of loving and befriending. How illuminating it is to see the ethical life discussed not in terms of benefits and harms or rules of right and wrong, but in terms of character, and to understand that good character, formed through habituation, is more than holding right opinions or having "good values," but is a binding up of heart and mind that both frees us from enslaving passions and frees us for fine and beautiful deeds. How encouraging it is to read an account of human life—the only such account in our philosophical tradition—that speaks at length and profoundly about friendship, culminating in the claim that the most fulfilling form of friendship is the sharing of speeches and thoughts.
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Leon R. Kass20
American academic 1939
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