Wolfs argument against Moral Sainthood
According to her argument, a moral saint is a person whose purposes and intents are not realizable. The life of a moral saint involves choosing to take action with an objective of improving the welfare of others and the entire society. Based on the theory of utilitarianism, a moral saint is considered a loving saint whose happiness is derived from helping others. According to Kantianism, a moral saint is referred to as a rational saint, an individual whose happiness is subjugated to the moral laws. According to Wolf, moral sainthood is not necessarily an ideal way of life because the moral saints do not serve as morally compelling ideals as the name suggest. She describes moral saints as people who would inhibit the ability of others to enjoy themselves (Wolf 428).
Wolf argument against moral sainthood as an ideal way of life is pinned on four premises: moral sainthood avails life uncertainties and unrealizable thoughts one should ever strive for, deontic ethical theories give room for moral sainthood as an ideal way of life, a moral theory, which mandates undesirable way of life is impermissible thus, deontic ethical theories are unacceptable. Based on the first premise, Wolf’s argues that people consider what a moral saint would be like in the absence of any particular ideology. She points out that a saint’s life would be defined by the absolute commitment to improving other’s welfare or that of the society. Based on this line of thought she claims two possibilities of saints as either rational saint whose actions are defined by the moral sense of duty or loving saints whose actions are primarily defined by altruism (Wolf 429).
This would imply that only the non-moral qualities could be disposed of. In a similar way, Wolf concludes that based on Kantian’s resolute obedience to the categorical imperative actions would yield a domination of their lives by the moral laws as pointed out in (Wolf, 1997, 90). She points out that Kantians will also inevitably participate in personal development; she identifies a similar criticism against Kantian’s moral saint just like those of utilitarian (Wolf 91). Subsequently, a Kantian has an obligation to continually obey the moral laws and would be characterized by the thought of many and will be obliged to be dismissive of their individual interests in the favor of the moral commitment. This would automatically force these people to exhibit saintless aspects of life.
She applies the concept of goodness to illustrate how unpleasant it is in the human life to be a moral saint in light of its contribution to human life. Despite her assertion that she is not interested in condemning the saints (Wolf 94), it is clear that she resents moral sainthood life. The aspect of undesirable life is derived from Wolf first premise in attempts to evaluate the life of a saint. By relying on the moral judgment such as an action that is morally bad will always yield undesirable life due to the commitment to the moral theories. This follows her evaluation of an ideal life. Surely there are other aspects of life an individual can pursue other morality. Moral sainthood is thus an unrealizable way of life and if it were to be realized the life of such people would be undesirable just as suggested by Susan Wolf.
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