Essay on Morality, Virtue and the Public Figure

Essay on Morality, Virtue and the Public Figure

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Morality, Virtue and the Public Figure


According to the dictionary Grand Robert, the term “public” means
“what concerns people as a whole and what belongs to the social or
political community and is done in its name”; a public figure is
defined as “a person who is invested with an official function or
plays an important role in the social or political life of his or her

In relation to these definitions, it is possible to identify different
categories of public figures with more or less important roles : a
political figure such as a government Minister who creates laws and
take important decisions for his country; an intellectual and a "star"
who is defined as "an artistic performer or athlete whose leading role
or superior performance is acknowledged" (

This essay will firstly attempt to explain what is the meaning of
morality, its importance and the relation with virtues, with some
examples and then it will identify the rights and wrongs of expecting
a public figure to have a higher standard of morality than someone
with little or no public role, in relation to the different moral
principles and virtues explained before.

I- Importance and meaning of morality and the relation with virtues

A) A short / quick definition

As Comte-Sponville defines it, "morality is composed of all duty,
which means the obligations or proscriptions we impose on ourselves,
independently from any / all reward or sanction and even hope"
(Comte-Sponville, 2000, Dictionnaire de la philosophie, p. 390).

To illustrate his theory he uses a very simple example : if tomorrow
is the end of the world, morality will remain as it wouldn't allow
people to kill, rape or be egoist or nasty, while politics which needs
a future, won't survive.

Harman (1977) argues in the same way by highlighting more precisely
that morality may be something we learn as a consequence of our

As Kant argues, an action is morally valuable only if it is selfless ("Les
Grandes idées morales et les grands moralistes", 1906). Morality
requires us to respect humanity inside us and in other people.

In fact, someone will impose on himself these kinds of rules in a free
and selfless way, because they appear to him to be universal. That
means that whatever the differences between civilisations, periods or
religions, people looking for wellbeing are leading to the...

... middle of paper ...

... as they don't use this kinds of
argument to increase their popularity. Public figures do also have a
right to privacy.

Moreover, some differences have been identified between countries with
for example France, which doesn't care about politicians having
affairs and Great Britain being very critical toward David Blunkett.

Finally, different standard of morality are expected from public
figures according to their level of responsibility and the kind of
decisions they have to make.


Ø Foggo, D; Hennessy, P; Peston, R, 2004, Blunkett's ex-lover accuses
him of fast-tracking visa for her nanny, The Sunday Telegraph, 28
November 2004.

Ø Hampsire, S et al, 1978, Public & Private Morality, Cambridge
University Press.

Ø Harman, G, 1977, The Nature of Morality, Oxford University Press,
New York.

Ø Parekh, B; Berki, R.N, 1972, The Morality of Politics, George Allen
& Unwin Ltd, London.

Ø Geisler, N, 1998, Focus on the family,




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