Susan Wolf presents two different versions of the Moral Saint in order to show that a perfectly moral person does not live a desirable life. A saint is someone who lives a perfectly moral life according to a given ethical system, and “a necessary condition of moral sainthood would be that one’s life be dominated by a commitment to improving the welfare of others or of society as a whole” (Wolf). Is a Moral Saintliness even a humanly possible? Susan Wolf’s description of a Moral Saint is virtually a fictional being. The requirements, characteristics, and skills she attributes to being a Saint are impossible to obtain without also participating in activities Wolf deems nonmoral or inappropriate for a Saint to engage in. These nonmoral activities are essential building blocks to becoming the Moral Saint that Wolf wishes us to imagine. Human beings have psychological needs that Wolf does not consider or seem to understand. Wolf essentially creates a fallacy and then proceeds to argue against it. When you consider the Moral Saint that Wolf has created, and pair him with the moral dilemma of The Ring of Gyges, you will discover that Wolf’s version of a Moral Saints is not attainable, no matter how innate his moral goodness.
The first Saint she calls the Loving Saint and states that his happiness “would truly lie in the happiness of others, and so he would devote himself to others gladly, and with a whole and open heart” (Wolf). In other words, the Loving Saint does what is right because he truly loves being moral for its intrinsic value. Wolf compares the Loving Saint with the Utilitarian who believes in doing what will make the largest amount of people happy. The Loving Saint is happily moral therefore, will bring bringing happiness to others by his commitment to morality.
The second saint is the Rational Saint who “sacrifices his own interest to the interest of others, and feels the sacrifice as such” (Wolf). In other words, the Rational Saint is not always happy about their sacrifice for others but they do so because it is a moral duty. Wolf believes the Rational Saint is more Kantian, “with his emphasis on reason” (Wolf), meaning the Rational Saint is a person of good will who follows the Categorical Imperative.
Plato uses the fictional story of The Ring of Gyges to prove that the just or moral man is happier than the unjust man (Plato). The Ring of Gyges is a magical ring that when placed on the finger and turned allows the wearer to become invisible, anonymous, and free from consequence. How might these two Saints behave if they were presented with the Ring of Gyges?
In order to consider the behavior of these two Saints when they possessed the Ring of Gyges you must consider whether Susan Wolf’s “Saints” could actually exist. Wolf states right from the beginning of her article, “I don’t know whether there are any moral saints” (Wolf). Wolf’s requirements of both the Loving and Rational Saint seem to defy what is rationally...