Susan Wolf Moral Saints Analysis

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In her writing on Moral Saints, Susan Wolf presents the idea of morally perfect beings, that is, hypothetical (or potentially existent along some contemporary moral theories) individuals who’s lives are dominated by acts of moral worth. Her argument goes over their compatibility with popular moral theories such as Utilitarianism and Kantianism, then expresses the unattractiveness of such an individual as an ideal. In this paper I will first briefly define moral saints and their characteristics, pointing out that which Wolf finds unattractive or unrealistic. Next, I will argue that her conclusions regarding how people are likely to approach the idea of a moral saint have merit, but only in-so-far as her approach to moral saints, in general, …show more content…
A moral saint, presented with the opportunity to learn to cook (or otherwise develop one’s person) could and would not choose to participate as there is surely a morally superior alternative, such as volunteering for charity. A moral saint would not spend money on frivolous pursuits such as a concert ticket with friends when that money could be donated towards a charity, moreover if they were provided the ticket at no cost, they would instead give that ticket away or otherwise refuse in favour of volunteerism. There are at least two reasons, Wolf says, that any moral saint could not indulge in such simple pleasures; that being they could simply not justify doing any of these things as there is always something morally better to do. Secondly, in the case of the Loving Saint, they simply would not want to, as non-moral actions have little to no value to them and are consequently of little desire. The notion of meeting, much less being one of these individuals is somewhat uncomfortable. For example, were you to approach a person of kind and ask “Hey, do you like to read books?” A likely reply might be, “Unfortunately no. I’m much too busy running the …show more content…
Wolf describes moral saints as hospitable and charitable, in thought as well as in deed. Her argument against moral perfection as a constituent of well-being that we, as rational beings should strive towards I believe is correct. It is a form of extremism in one sense that is simply unappealing, both to become for the sake of our own interests and arguably ‘fair’ selfish desire, and horrific to witness; as not only does moral perfection highlight our own flaws, it derives a sense of empathy for those who are unable or unwilling to experience all the good that they are deprived of in life. These judgements are fair, however as a basis for argument against sainthood, they are flawed. Wolf employs what seems to be a straw man fallacy, that being she argues disproportionately to opposing views on moral perfection. If we are to judge those around us against impossible standards, we too serve only to disappoint. It appears even in light of figures like Mother Teresa there are no historical nor living example(s) of a moral saint. Therefor, it appears as though Wolf argues against an impossible ideal, why? Perhaps to prove a point, alternative to her definition of moral sainthood one can easily approach the idea of moral perfection as successive acts throughout one’s life

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