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The qualities of virtuous and good leaders through history

Introduction Leaders make choices that affect the lives of other people. When making these choices, leaders must make normative assessments regarding human ends and the means to those ends. Thus in order to understand them we need to construct a theory to help us distinguish what ends and means are ethically good from those that are bad.

My aim is to show that the first two approaches are inadequate to the qualities of virtuous and good leaders through history what an ethically good leader is like. Nevertheless, even though they are inadequate to describing what a leader is, they are essential for describing, in conjunction with virtue ethics, how one is developed. To begin, I would like to tell a story. Two members of the platoon are trapped on a hill and under fire. Both soldiers are seriously wounded; within a few hours, they will be dead.

Between the platoon and the two soldiers is a minefield, which the platoon must breach or go around if they are to get to the trapped soldiers in time. As the platoon leader ponders his options, he notices a civilian picking his way through the minefield. Obviously, he knows where the mines are.

The qualities of virtuous and good leaders through history

The lieutenant detains the civilian, but the man refuses to lead the platoon through the minefield. The lieutenant offers several enticements to get the man to cooperate, but the man continues to refuse.

There is no way he is going back through that minefield. The lieutenant must make a decision that he had hoped to avoid.

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There are rules for situations like this, but if he follows them, good men will die. Utilitarians define the morally right action as that action that maximizes some non-moral good such as pleasure or happiness and minimizes some non-moral evil such as pain or misery. In military situations these are usually equated with victory. If the lieutenant were a utilitarian, he might reason that he makes his platoon happy, the two men on the hill very happy, and accomplishes his mission if he gets the civilian to cooperate, even though that might involve violating the laws of war.

He weighs this against the unhappiness the civilian will experience and the unhappiness he may experience if he is ever tried for violating the law the qualities of virtuous and good leaders through history concludes he must do what it takes to get the civilian to cooperate.

In fact, he reasons, failure to do so would invite a mutiny by the platoon who would no longer have any interest in following someone who values their lives less than the welfare the qualities of virtuous and good leaders through history someone who is, if not actually the enemy, certainly not a friend. Unfortunately, utilitarian reasoning does not stop there. If he is to be a good and consistent utilitarian, the lieutenant must also consider the implications of sending the message to his men that whenever they are in a similarly sticky situation, they are free to disregard the rules.

What if, some time later, they are in a village looking for a sniper and some of his men conclude that threatening to shoot a civilian until they turn over the sniper is a good idea? What if they conclude that it would be OK to shoot one or two to give incentive to other villagers to turn the sniper over to them?

As far as they are concerned the happiness of the platoon forty or so people outweighs the unhappiness of a few civilians. Even though it is clear to the lieutenant that this is faulty reasoning, even from a utilitarian point of view, he must still take this into account when deciding his own course of action.

If it is his decision to torture this civilian that would open up these kinds of possibilities, he must consider it as weighing against the happiness his platoon would experience. Now he is not so sure it is a good thing. The problem he has is that both possible outcomes, as far as the lieutenant can tell, are just as likely. It seems he is in a dilemma. If we construe ethical dilemmas as a disagreement about the application of the principle of maximizing happiness or pleasure, we run into three kinds of problems.

The first concerns what kind of happiness we are maximizing, the second concerns knowing whether a particular action will indeed maximize happiness, and the third involves the practical application of maximization principles that lead to counter-intuitive conclusions about moral behavior.

With regard to the first problem we can distinguish between objective and subjective employment of the maximization principle. What you feel is in your interest may indeed not be in your interest. If we take what is to the qualities of virtuous and good leaders through history maximized the qualities of virtuous and good leaders through history the subjective sense, from the point of view of the people affected, we run into the difficulty that we might be placed in the situation of doing things for others that one believes or even knows to be harmful to them.

If, on the other hand, we take the objective sense, then we run into two kinds of epistemological problems. First, we have to be able to determine, objectively, what would make people happy. In the qualities of virtuous and good leaders through history situation in which the lieutenant is placed it is likely that he will be able to do this.

The soldiers will be objectively happier if they save their friends. However, in many other situations where happiness is culturally determined or where it is impossible to establish a single objective account of happiness, utility theory will fail. Second, how can we know we have accounted for all the possible consequences of a particular action? In such a case, we might do something we believe will maximize happiness, but in fact does not. This was certainly the situation the lieutenant was in.

He could not be sure which course of action would actually promote happiness. This leads to our second objection, how do we know a particular action will indeed maximize happiness? Jeremy Bentham, the founder of modern utility theory, defines happiness as the amount of pleasure someone feels as the consequence of a particular action. The means by which we do this is called the hedonic calculus. One utilizes the first four of these factors when considering the value of a particular pleasure or pain by itself.

If, however, this person wants to estimate the tendency of a particular act to produce pleasure or pain, he then must consider the next two factors, fecundity and purity. So for each alternative, one would add up the sum of pleasure that would likely be experienced, subtract from it the amount of pain likely to result from such an experience and then, when choosing among alternative pleasures, choose the one that produces the most happiness or the least misery, if that be the case in relation to the other alternatives.

If a particular action affects more than one person, then those making the decision must factor the number of people affected the extentto come up with a total value of the pleasure or pain, and thus the good or evil, that is gained by acting in such a way. Bentham saw this as tool for leaders, as well as individuals, to utilize when seeking the qualities of virtuous and good leaders through history on which actions to do and which to avoid.

There are however, several objections to this calculus that make its employment problematic. The first of these objections is that in order to obtain reliable guidance, fairly accurate values must be derived for each pleasure and pain and these values must be comparable among people. We can divide this objection into two parts, the intra-personal and the qualities of virtuous and good leaders through history inter-personal. The intra-personal objection is that an individual is not capable of determining, to a sufficient degree, the value of one pleasure or pain versus another.

In fact, it may well the qualities of virtuous and good leaders through history the case that pleasures and pains are incommensurate and cannot be compared to each other.

For example, how do you compare the pleasure obtained from graduating college with the pleasure one might get from drinking a good bottle of wine? Let us say I assign drinking the bottle of wine a the qualities of virtuous and good leaders through history value of one and graduating college a pleasure value of ten.

If it is possible to do this, then given the hedonic calculusdrinking ten bottles of wine would be just as good as graduating college. This seems intuitively odd. But if they are not commensurate, then they are not comparable. If they are not comparable, then we cannot assign values to each which then enables us to make a decision between the two. The interpersonal objection is that it is not possible, or at least it is very difficult, to compare the values of pleasure and pain between people.

For example, how do I compare the pain of my having been diagnosed as having a terminal disease and my friend losing her child in an automobile accident? More to the point, how would a third individual or a government agency determine between the two?

But, as before, if we cannot make statements such as this, then the hedonic calculus cannot apply. Pain, for example, is experienced from each of these sources as a sanction. In the examples he cites concerning the man to whom a catastrophe falls, it is either the result of a divine judgment, or as a result of some error in judgment such as not putting your candle out at night and then having your house burn down.

The first would be an example of a religious sanction and the second the result of a physical sanction. But even though the sources are different, the pain felt is the same. Since pleasure and pain are of the same kind, they are just different points on the same continuum.

Also, since pleasure and pain derive from the same sources for all people, it seems that Bentham believed that we the qualities of virtuous and good leaders through history be able to compare them among individuals. A second objection to utilitarianism is that some of the conclusions we derive from using it are counter-intuitive. The reason for this counter-intuitiveness lies primarily in the calculus used. One problem with it is that it does not distinguish between qualities of pleasure.

This can have two consequences.

First, it can lead us to claim that the moral worth derived from drinking a bottle of wine is the same as producing a great work of art as long as the pleasure derived from each of these acts is the same. This, however, does not seem to conform to our intuitions concerning the value of human acts.

The second consequence is that pleasure from any source is considered equally as good. For example, if a bunch of sadists get a great deal of pleasure from tormenting an unwilling subject, their act could be said to be good, or at least not wrong. There is no way to tell the moral difference between the two. This seems to conflict with our intuitions concerning the nature of good. Bentham would probably argue that every pleasure is indeed a good but he would be concerned that the qualities of virtuous and good leaders through history we introduced moral judgments outside the framework of pleasure and pain we will be left with only subjective means for determining right and wrong.

According to Bentham, the various systems of moral philosophy that do not take pleasure and pain into account when deciding right and wrong all fall under the principle of "sympathy and antipathy. As I stated before, there is nothing intrinsic to the theory that prohibits inflicting pain on others as long as the happiness generated by the act exceeds the misery created by the act.

One needs only to determine the value for each person of the pleasure or pain caused by an act and sum the values for pleasure and sum the values for pain. If the value for pleasure is greater than the value for pain, the act is a good one.

As Bentham states, Sum up all the values of all the pleasures on one side, and those of all the pains on the other. Take the balance; which, if on the side of the qualities of virtuous and good leaders through history, will give the general good tendency of the actwith respect to the total number or community of individuals concerned; if on the side of pain, the general evil tendency, with respect to the same community.

If more people are made happy by enslaving a minority of people, then oppressing a minority can be justified. In fact, this argument has been used since the time of the ancient Greeks in justifying slavery.

As a result, setting limits on any actions such as murder, theft, rape, etc, becomes impossible. LeGuin tells of a utopic society whose happiness is based on the misery of a single individual. This individual from birth is locked away in a basement, and except for occasionally being fed, is completely neglected.

If utilitarian theory is correct, then this is a morally obligatory act. By the same logic, if the pleasure a the qualities of virtuous and good leaders through history majority in a particular community experienced by taking advantage of a racial minority exceeded the pain felt by that minority, the exploitation of the minority would be a morally good thing to do.

If a larger nation wanted to colonize and exploit a smaller nation, as long as the net pleasure exceeded the net pain, this, too, would be a good thing to do.