Is innocence a virtue?

Hey Buddy!

Thanks for reading this topic, I hope you've got some answers cause i'm at my wits end here. I'm rewriting a thesis proposal for class and I've got this brain worm, here it is:

Is innocence a virtue? And if so can we somehow 'increase' our innocence? like somehow become more innocent? Other things that are considered virtues, like courage or fortitude seem to be "increasable" or at least depicted as such. Or is innocence something that erodes through time no matter what we do?

so... this is whats on my mind right now. thank you for letting me crowd source my questions so I can give'r on this proposal.

Edit:

I'm not talking about legal innocence, but the poetic innocence.

But definitions are part of the problem right? I'm talking about an attitude of innocence. For contrast its like how some people are just jonesing for a fight. Like if they cant find one, they will make one. can that be said about innocence? can you have disposition of innocence?

Any thoughts would be totally welcome and thanks to all you who are replying.

Innocence in the sense of not having done something wrong/criminal or innocence in the sense of naivete? Or innocence in the sense of not having done something that most don't consider wrong these days like sex before marriage? Or what?
Please expand upon your question. The meaning of innocence is very vague without context. It seems like you're asking about the naivete-variety, but I want to make sure.

EDIT: @thaluikhain
It may not look it, but that blue tentacle-blob is actually a ninja from another dimension, you know.

Define "innocence". If you mean in the sense of not knowing about bad things or whatever, that's naivete or ignorance, and it isn't.

If you mean in the sense of not even considering doing those bad things...well...depends on what those bad things are. Can run into problems there.

EDIT: Too slow.

No, innocence of the naivete variety is not a virtue in my opinion.

It is attainable, but not easily or lightly. Innocence is eroded by a combination of experience and the ability to learn from experience. Remove all memory of the experiences in question and/or disable reasoning skills, restore innocence. This would in turn suggest that being a brain dead vegetable is an admirable state to be in...

I think this is the "is the lack of something it's opposite" game. Because the innocence you're talking about I feel can be succinctly described as a "lack of or seperation from vice," and vice is the opposite of virtue. Is the lack of vice a virtue? Is the lack of bad characteristics a good characteristic? It's an interesting question. It seems clearer to me in the opposite direction; is the lack of good characteristics a bad characteristic? I wouldn't say so. We don't often blame people for not being characteristicly good, only for being bad. Lack of charity is not a vice like a gambling problem, likewise lack of a gambling problem is not a virtue like charity is.

Basically, I would conclude that innocence is not a virtue, not because it isn't good (innocence is certainly good), but because a virtue is a characteristic and innocence is not, rather it is a description of state.

By most modern conceptions, no.

Imagine a 80 year old who had no idea what sex is, what a penis or vagina is, what murder or starvation or anything else was that would tally with a typical conception of innocence. You wouldn't think of them as innocent, you'd think of them as lacking in basic knowledge or stupid.

Innocence can be a good thing in particular circumstances, you don't want to be introducing a three year old to the reality of torture, genocide, war, rape, etc but it does not carry some innate virtue that makes it inherently positive.

Innocence in one sense is the ignorance in the phrase 'ignorance is bliss'. We seek to preserve it in others because it hurts when it is lost. It's not nice to realise that a lot of terrible things happen in the world and the good guys don't always win, and even that there aren't really any good guys.

Another concept of innocence is someone's preparedness to do something wrong themselves. Here whether it is virtuous depends on whether they are innocent in that it just didn't occur to them to do wrong or whether they consciously rejected the notion in which case I would argue that they where good.

tstorm823:
I think this is the "is the lack of something it's opposite" game. Because the innocence you're talking about I feel can be succinctly described as a "lack of or seperation from vice," and vice is the opposite of virtue. Is the lack of vice a virtue? Is the lack of bad characteristics a good characteristic? It's an interesting question. It seems clearer to me in the opposite direction; is the lack of good characteristics a bad characteristic? I wouldn't say so. We don't often blame people for not being characteristicly good, only for being bad. Lack of charity is not a vice like a gambling problem, likewise lack of a gambling problem is not a virtue like charity is.

Basically, I would conclude that innocence is not a virtue, not because it isn't good (innocence is certainly good), but because a virtue is a characteristic and innocence is not, rather it is a description of state.

I disagree in general with this idea. It isn't uncommon for people to be blamed or portrayed as bad for exhibiting a lack of charity (christmas carol anyone?) or other 'virtues' (compassion, mercy, tolerance) or to be praised for being free of vices such as greed, selfishness or envy. That's how pretty much every fairy story lets you know that the hero is a super guy/gal.

Aristotle's virtue ethics theory has an interesting take on this, where a characteristic is 'virtuous' when exhibited to a certain amount, but became a vice in both excess and in deficiency.

Decide what you mean by "virtue" and "innocence" and then we can talk. You should come up with a method to consistently determine those first. You might look back on a past philosopher - Aristotle for example, and use his methodology (though that particular choice might be problematic for you because one could argue that certain forms of 'innocence' were inherent to ancient Greek life and thus were taken for granted).

If we mean innocence in the "pure naive" way then I honestly wouldn't call it a virtue. Lack of knowledge does not help you or anyone, and can actually hurt more due to lack of knowledge about some situation or another. If we mean innocence as in "not having done bad things" then I'd say it is, for obvious reasons.

Being innocent of a crime isn't a virtue because it's not exactly a trait someone can have. It doesn't define your character, it's a result of choices, not a way of determining how someone will behave.

Innocence in reference to being naive is definitely not a virtue. It might be considered desirable for others to have but it most certainly isn't something an individual will want for themselves.

Innocence is a weakness, plain and simple. It strolls hand in hand with the adage "Ignorance is bliss".

Abomination:
Being innocent of a crime isn't a virtue because it's not exactly a trait someone can have. It doesn't define your character, it's a result of choices, not a way of determining how someone will behave.

Innocence in reference to being naive is definitely not a virtue. It might be considered desirable for others to have but it most certainly isn't something an individual will want for themselves.

Innocence is a weakness, plain and simple. It strolls hand in hand with the adage "Ignorance is bliss".

If you take it to be the opposite of cynicism or at least freedom from cynicism then it can be a strength. A level of such innocence is arguably a vital component of the optimism that is necessary to achieve positive change. People who are on their guard and overly aware of the bad things in the world may be blinded of the good things in the world. Furthermore, it is possible to be overly cautious and miss opportunities as a result, which is a trap the naive are less likely to fall into (although much more likely to fall into others, I accept).

ClockworkPenguin:

Abomination:
Being innocent of a crime isn't a virtue because it's not exactly a trait someone can have. It doesn't define your character, it's a result of choices, not a way of determining how someone will behave.

Innocence in reference to being naive is definitely not a virtue. It might be considered desirable for others to have but it most certainly isn't something an individual will want for themselves.

Innocence is a weakness, plain and simple. It strolls hand in hand with the adage "Ignorance is bliss".

If you take it to be the opposite of cynicism or at least freedom from cynicism then it can be a strength. A level of such innocence is arguably a vital component of the optimism that is necessary to achieve positive change. People who are on their guard and overly aware of the bad things in the world may be blinded of the good things in the world. Furthermore, it is possible to be overly cautious and miss opportunities as a result, which is a trap the naive are less likely to fall into (although much more likely to fall into others, I accept).

Being the opposite of something that is negative doesn't automatically make it something positive. It's like boiling hot and freezing cold.

To be declared "innocent" it would be an almost all-engrossing aspect of someone's character. The average person is both cynical and innocent at the same time but about a variety of subjects.

There is place on the Scottish coast that is visited by stormy weather on a regular seasonal basis.

Jellyfish in their millions find themselves washed up on the beaches and are stranded to die.

One day a man is walking such a beach and sees something remarkable.

He sees a man with a shovel carefully picking up jellyfish and returning them safely to the ocean.

The other man is incredulous.

"Excuse me. But what are you doing?"

"I am saving jellyfish" the man says.

"LOL. But it's pointless. There are millions of them and they wash up here all the time. What you are doing doesn't make a blind bit of difference."

The man picks up another jellyfish. Throws it back in the ocean and replies:

"Made a difference to that one."

Abomination:

ClockworkPenguin:

Abomination:
Being innocent of a crime isn't a virtue because it's not exactly a trait someone can have. It doesn't define your character, it's a result of choices, not a way of determining how someone will behave.

Innocence in reference to being naive is definitely not a virtue. It might be considered desirable for others to have but it most certainly isn't something an individual will want for themselves.

Innocence is a weakness, plain and simple. It strolls hand in hand with the adage "Ignorance is bliss".

If you take it to be the opposite of cynicism or at least freedom from cynicism then it can be a strength. A level of such innocence is arguably a vital component of the optimism that is necessary to achieve positive change. People who are on their guard and overly aware of the bad things in the world may be blinded of the good things in the world. Furthermore, it is possible to be overly cautious and miss opportunities as a result, which is a trap the naive are less likely to fall into (although much more likely to fall into others, I accept).

Being the opposite of something that is negative doesn't automatically make it something positive. It's like boiling hot and freezing cold.

To be declared "innocent" it would be an almost all-engrossing aspect of someone's character. The average person is both cynical and innocent at the same time but about a variety of subjects.

I'm not saying it's objectively positive, just that it is not in all cases a weakness and in some cases can be a strength.

ClockworkPenguin:

Abomination:

ClockworkPenguin:

If you take it to be the opposite of cynicism or at least freedom from cynicism then it can be a strength. A level of such innocence is arguably a vital component of the optimism that is necessary to achieve positive change. People who are on their guard and overly aware of the bad things in the world may be blinded of the good things in the world. Furthermore, it is possible to be overly cautious and miss opportunities as a result, which is a trap the naive are less likely to fall into (although much more likely to fall into others, I accept).

Being the opposite of something that is negative doesn't automatically make it something positive. It's like boiling hot and freezing cold.

To be declared "innocent" it would be an almost all-engrossing aspect of someone's character. The average person is both cynical and innocent at the same time but about a variety of subjects.

I'm not saying it's objectively positive, just that it is not in all cases a weakness and in some cases can be a strength.

Of course, almost everything has a negative and a positive quality about it. A cynical person on the flipside is less likely to be swindled or fooled by another.

So if both extremes have both positive and negative traits I can't see either as being a virtue.

By virtue I guess we're talking aspects that are opposite to that of the 7 deadly sins.

Patience, humility, diligence and temperance to name a few.

Gorrila_thinktank:
Hey Buddy!

Thanks for reading this topic, I hope you've got some answers cause i'm at my wits end here. I'm rewriting a thesis proposal for class and I've got this brain worm, here it is:

Is innocence a virtue? And if so can we somehow 'increase' our innocence? like somehow become more innocent? Other things that are considered virtues, like courage or fortitude seem to be "increasable" or at least depicted as such. Or is innocence something that erodes through time no matter what we do?

so... this is whats on my mind right now. thank you for letting me crowd source my questions so I can give'r on this proposal.

Edit:

I'm not talking about legal innocence, but the poetic innocence.

But definitions are part of the problem right? I'm talking about an attitude of innocence. For contrast its like how some people are just jonesing for a fight. Like if they cant find one, they will make one. can that be said about innocence? can you have disposition of innocence?

Any thoughts would be totally welcome and thanks to all you who are replying.

Define "innocence". Or, even more problematic, define "Virtue". This has been the problem with Virtue-based Ethics since the very beginning: What the hell is a "Virtue", and even if we know what it is, why should this definition be used instead of another one?

But, to give a plain answer with using a prima-facie definition of innocence and virtue: No, it is not a virtue. It is nothing which is desirable in itself, nor is it a particularly handy instrumental value.

I think innocence comes from a lack of knowledge and experience, so for an adult human being it's not a virtue, it's almost a vice.

According to the catholic church, it's not? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_virtues The 'official' virtues of the church are listed here and I would consider them all to be virtues, so that's nice. Innocence doesn't seem one to me, but we have this trope:

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ChasteHero

Plus all these:

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TropesOfInnocence

And before anyone gets on my ass, I'm not christian. The only reason I know about them is because they're cleric domains in DND.

Gorrila_thinktank:
I'm not talking about legal innocence, but the poetic innocence.

But definitions are part of the problem right? I'm talking about an attitude of innocence. For contrast its like how some people are just jonesing for a fight. Like if they cant find one, they will make one. can that be said about innocence? can you have disposition of innocence?

Any thoughts would be totally welcome and thanks to all you who are replying.

Innocence, even when defined by this, isn't really a virtue. "Innocence" suggests ignorance, and if you're ignorant of societal and social influences that cause people to want to fight and argue, then that isn't really being virtuous. You're just not doing something you don't know about. I think it could only be considered a virtue if you are aware of the state of these forces, and still choose to not submit to them.

ClockworkPenguin:

If you take it to be the opposite of cynicism or at least freedom from cynicism then it can be a strength. A level of such innocence is arguably a vital component of the optimism that is necessary to achieve positive change. People who are on their guard and overly aware of the bad things in the world may be blinded of the good things in the world. Furthermore, it is possible to be overly cautious and miss opportunities as a result, which is a trap the naive are less likely to fall into (although much more likely to fall into others, I accept).

Optimism would be the opposite of cynicism, and both are merely a way of looking at things both with their pros and cons.
Needless to say, optimism =/= innocence. Innocence is more like ignorance, which others have pointed out.

I suppose a child is innocent, whereas an adult would be ignorant. In a child we view it as something positive, in an adult we view it as something negative.

If anything innocence describes a lack of realism.

Innocence, at least the way I think you're meaning it, is not exactly a virtue. If by "poetic innocence" you mean something like "a lack of awareness of the adult world, including but not limited to the evil and/or sleazy things some people do to others" then that's not a virtue. If carried into adulthood, that sounds more like naivety than anything else.

However, while being innocent does not make a person good, taking away the innocence of someone before they are developmentally ready does seem like something that should be avoided. Of course what this entails is subject to culture, parental influence, and the individual's personal level of social development, so it's hard to draw a firm line as to what is and is not bad.

Gorrila_thinktank:

Any thoughts would be totally welcome and thanks to all you who are replying.

"Innocence", as I take it, is essentially shorthand for, "Acceptable Ignorance."

That is, innocence is an excuse for ignorance. It applies exclusively to the mentally deficient: children, the mentally handicapped, and animals.

Yeah, I know that reads like I'm a total bastard, but I mean mentally deficient in the literal way. Like, they can't do things with their brains that most humans can do with their brains. It is impossible for them to do so unless their brain changes, in which case they are arguably no longer in the category assigned.

Bentusi16:
According to the catholic church, it's not? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_virtues The 'official' virtues of the church are listed here and I would consider them all to be virtues, so that's nice. Innocence doesn't seem one to me, but we have this trope:

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ChasteHero

Plus all these:

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TropesOfInnocence

And before anyone gets on my ass, I'm not christian. The only reason I know about them is because they're cleric domains in DND.

Tropes only reflect popular culture (or old culture), though. They can't be used as arguments for or against everything. By the reasoning, I could quote the Sex Is Evil trope, and now sex is evil? Hardly.

Well, seems it's indeed about the naivete-variety. Here's what I tend to think of when I think of that idea of innocence: Eloi. And not the ones from the movie that eventually fight back, no, the ones from the novel who are basically a herd of livestock with no ambitions, no plans, no cares, nothing. It's not a good thing.

Skeleon:
Well, seems it's indeed about the naivete-variety. Here's what I tend to think of when I think of that idea of innocence: Eloi. And not the ones from the movie that eventually fight back, no, the ones from the novel who are basically a herd of livestock with no ambitions, no plans, no cares, nothing. It's not a good thing.

Depends on if said Eloi can somehow enjoy the world far better than the average human can, thus they might actually be 'happier'. However, the Eloi are NOT human. They are not part of the Human Condition and humans would most certainly not enjoy themselves in such a situation.

Realitycrash:
Depends on if said Eloi can somehow enjoy the world far better than the average human can, thus they might actually be 'happier'.

Nah, it doesn't really. Even then it's still not a good thing. Or at least it isn't if can at all you agree with Mill: "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied." There's more to life than ignorant happiness.

However, the Eloi are NOT human. They are not part of the Human Condition and humans would most certainly not enjoy themselves in such a situation.

Well, posthuman. But, sure, human beings would not enjoy themselves.
But like many a fictional example, they are over-the-top representations of faults in human beings. You don't have to be literally livestock for this to be applicable and I think the innocence the Eloi represent, is an important warning to similar tendencies in ourselves. Let's not forget whom the Eloi sprang from.

I don't think it's a virtue, but a vulnerability. From the way it's talked about, it's a subset of what we call ignorance, and that is definitely not a virtue. It is quite possible for people to cause harm through their innocence; the innocent can be taken advantage of for the exploitation of themselves or others whom they make decisions on behalf of.

I would say it is not, but I would be willing to argue that it is something to act in respect of or even to preserve in some cases, though I most consider innocence to be having not done something wrong rather than ignorance. It's a sin to kill a mocking bird after all.

McMullen:
I don't think it's a virtue, but a vulnerability. From the way it's talked about, it's a subset of what we call ignorance, and that is definitely not a virtue. It is quite possible for people to cause harm through their innocence; the innocent can be taken advantage of for the exploitation of themselves or others whom they make decisions on behalf of.

One can argue that any selfless virtue is a vulnerability at least as much as it is a resource. It is quite easy to take advantage of another's generosity, or their non-violent nature.

Revnak:

McMullen:
I don't think it's a virtue, but a vulnerability. From the way it's talked about, it's a subset of what we call ignorance, and that is definitely not a virtue. It is quite possible for people to cause harm through their innocence; the innocent can be taken advantage of for the exploitation of themselves or others whom they make decisions on behalf of.

One can argue that any selfless virtue is a vulnerability at least as much as it is a resource. It is quite easy to take advantage of another's generosity, or their non-violent nature.

Virtue must be reflect gain for others, not just yourself. Unless you only want to talk about so-called 'Self-serving Virtues' which are in themselves rather paradoxical (for if everyone were to adopt them, society would break down).
So, given this, the fact that a virtue makes you vulnerable does not make it a bad virtue.

Realitycrash:

Revnak:

McMullen:
I don't think it's a virtue, but a vulnerability. From the way it's talked about, it's a subset of what we call ignorance, and that is definitely not a virtue. It is quite possible for people to cause harm through their innocence; the innocent can be taken advantage of for the exploitation of themselves or others whom they make decisions on behalf of.

One can argue that any selfless virtue is a vulnerability at least as much as it is a resource. It is quite easy to take advantage of another's generosity, or their non-violent nature.

Virtue must be reflect gain for others, not just yourself. Unless you only want to talk about so-called 'Self-serving Virtues' which are in themselves rather paradoxical (for if everyone were to adopt them, society would break down).
So, given this, the fact that a virtue makes you vulnerable does not make it a bad virtue.

Your generosity can be exploited by a drug addict to fuel their self destruction. Your non violent nature can keep you from using lethal force to stop a serial killer. I suppose one could argue that according to Aristotle this would simply mean that said virtues are out of balance, which would lead me to point out that if your innocence is out of balance if it is harming others.

Revnak:

Realitycrash:

Revnak:

One can argue that any selfless virtue is a vulnerability at least as much as it is a resource. It is quite easy to take advantage of another's generosity, or their non-violent nature.

Virtue must be reflect gain for others, not just yourself. Unless you only want to talk about so-called 'Self-serving Virtues' which are in themselves rather paradoxical (for if everyone were to adopt them, society would break down).
So, given this, the fact that a virtue makes you vulnerable does not make it a bad virtue.

Your generosity can be exploited by a drug addict to fuel their self destruction. Your non violent nature can keep you from using lethal force to stop a serial killer. I suppose one could argue that according to Aristotle this would simply mean that said virtues are out of balance, which would lead me to point out that if your innocence is out of balance if it is harming others.

According to Aristotle, a truly virtuous person wouldn't do a non-virtuous act, he'd know exactly when to do A or B, and he'd always be right, because otherwise he wouldn't be virtuous.
But virtue-ethics is arbitrary bullcrap. I'm just saying that the fact that a virtue can be exploited doesn't mean that having said virtue is bad.

Realitycrash:

Revnak:

Realitycrash:

Virtue must be reflect gain for others, not just yourself. Unless you only want to talk about so-called 'Self-serving Virtues' which are in themselves rather paradoxical (for if everyone were to adopt them, society would break down).
So, given this, the fact that a virtue makes you vulnerable does not make it a bad virtue.

Your generosity can be exploited by a drug addict to fuel their self destruction. Your non violent nature can keep you from using lethal force to stop a serial killer. I suppose one could argue that according to Aristotle this would simply mean that said virtues are out of balance, which would lead me to point out that if your innocence is out of balance if it is harming others.

According to Aristotle, a truly virtuous person wouldn't do a non-virtuous act, he'd know exactly when to do A or B, and he'd always be right, because otherwise he wouldn't be virtuous.
But virtue-ethics is arbitrary bullcrap. I'm just saying that the fact that a virtue can be exploited doesn't mean that having said virtue is bad.

Oh. So am I, essentially. I was just trying to do so by extending the argument the other poster made (which was that a virtue isn't a virtue if it can be exploited) to other virtues.

Why would ignorance of reality be considered a virtue? I guess it might be if one's moral system was predicated upon personal sacrifice.

 

Reply to Thread

This thread is locked