Looney Tunes and Aristotle
The incontinent Daffy Duck is the ultimate moral villain of Looney Tunes and the continent Bugs Bunny our ultimate moral hero. That is to say that the continent psychological type is better than the temperate and the incontinent is worse than the vicious and even the bestial. On the surface this is an extremely contentious assessment and in order to make sense of this intuition we need to first construct an account of moral worth by which such an evaluation can be based upon. This account of moral worth will open our discussion and will centre around the idea that those worthy of higher moral praise are those that do the right thing after overcoming their ...view middle of the document...
Intuitively, I believe moral worth involves a strength of will to overcome the bad and uphold the good. I cannot escape this intuition. Those that are worthy of moral praise are those that act with reason and against bad desires to do the right thing. That is to say that it is truly virtuous to act against our bad desires and still do what is right. Let us use an example to display why strength of will is important when judging moral worth. Suppose an old woman drops fifty dollars on the street. Man X immediately wants to return the money and has no emotional inclination to keep it for himself. Thus his emotions and reason are aligned. Contrastingly, Man Y struggles internally with the decision. He wants to keep the money for himself but decides through reason that the right thing to do is to return the money and does so. Deliberation has triumphed over passion in the case on Man Y. Surely then Man Y deserves more recognition due to having to overcome his natural will for the bad. He has done good despite his passion for bad. That is not to say that Man Y is subjectively preferable. It is also intuitively impossible to wish that we all suffered the internal conflict faced by Man Y. If the world were populated with those whose will, emotions and reason were all in alignment for the good it would be preferable. However, we are concerned with making a moral evaluation and as such must ascribe the greater moral worth to the actions of Man Y. Thus those worthy of greater moral praise will, for our purposes, be those who have overcome their natural desires to do bad and managed, through strength of will, to do good.
II. Aristotle’s Types
a. The Temperate
Aristotle describes the virtuous or temperate person as one whose passions and deliberation are aligned for the good (Aristotle, NE, 1152a 35). The temperate person takes pleasure in, or is not, at any rate, disinclined toward, doing what she thinks is best (Walsh, 1963, p. 47). Let us call this person Tweety Bird. Tweety Bird does what is right and is not even tempted to do what is wrong. She lives in a caged world full of good desires aligned with her reasoning. She has appetite trained toward the good and has correct moral reasoning. Thus, for Tweety Bird, reason guides action in accordance with her desires. She suffers from no internal conflict.
b. The Continent
The continent person maintains correct reason whilst experiencing desires to do bad things (Aristotle, NE, 1145b 11). That is to say that the continent person can recognise which things really are good despite having an appetite not wholly trained towards the good (Russell, 2011). The character of Bugs Bunny takes on the role of the continent type. For example, Bugs may desire to steal the farmer’s carrots. However, through deliberation, decides that it would be the wrong thing to do. Bugs Bunny manages to overcome his misguided desires and act appropriately. Bugs Bunny overcomes his internal conflict through a strong will....