Are ad hominem attacks or character assassinations legitimate forms of Aristotelian virtue arguments to criticize political opinions so long as all claims are entirely factual?

I confess I do not understand what you mean by "virtue arguments" but I would respond by asking: do good persons approach arguments via character assissination? Does a good rhetor use ad hominem attacks? Facts are well and good, but "do as a good person would do" trumps nastiness and falacious reasoning in my book. But perhaps an example might help me understand better. - bjm

What is it about certain situations that makes anger, hate or rage morally justified (beyond merely being excusable)?

Anger is normal, but it is important to take responsibility for the effects of one's anger. Anger or rage can never justify actions that inflict harm on others. Why? Well, because we are not terribly aware of what triggers such destructive power, but often the real target is not the person or object we are responding to. Take, for example, road rage. Some persons blast their horns and flip persons off - all out of anger that is often misdirected. That's an easy case, but think how anger at a spouse - that may be morally justified - often gets directed at the family dog, or worse, the children. There is little universality about anger/rage as a human feeling - and yet what triggers you may not trigger me. This suggests to me that our moral outrage tells us more about ourselves than about the world and objective moral evils in it. I am willing to grant exceptions such as the holocaust, but the need to invoke Nazi's is always a sign of a weak argument. Professor Leaman is correct of course:...

I was recently reading about the potential effects of violent media, such as film, on people. I noticed that the effects of film were being condemned using language that was rather utilitarian. Such films are said to be problematic because that kind of influence could cause the spectator to become violent and harm others in the future. However, this kind of argument seems, to me, to be remarkably similar to virtue ethics - where it is wrong to cultivate the wrong kind of character (in this case, a violent character). It would seem the wrongness of cultivating certain kinds of character stems precisely from the kind of influence that character has on its surroundings, which actually sounds rather consequentialist. So I wonder, is virtue ethics really just utilitarian ethics, but with a focus on the person performing the action rather than on the potential victims? Or is there more to it than that?

This is a wonderful question, deserving of many responses, so let mine be brief. I would suggest that because a virtuous character is deemed to be the desired telos of human being, it is a type of consequentialism, but it is not utilitarianism. Utility, strictly defined, demands to maximize benefits and minimize harms, based on the reality of sentient beings' capacity to suffer. This foundational point is very different than Aristotle and more recent virtue approaches that focus on the goodness of the individual's character per se. This said, I cannot read Mill on the cultivation of higher pleasures without hearing echoes of Aristotle! Perhaps we seek ethical types to be more differentiated than they are. For the purpose of teaching, I draw bright lines between types, but when I read Kant's discussion of the only possible good in this world or beyond it is that of the good will - it is a matter of character that he is discussing! I think addressing violence from the standpoint of character...

Is there such a thing as an obligation to trust? It seems a peculiar kind of obligation, if it exists. Suppose that although my fiancée has always been faithful, on the night before our wedding I endeavor to test her fidelity. To this end, I hire an attractive man who attempts to seduce her in private. My fiancée rebuffs the man, at which point I present myself to her and happily explain that she has passed the test. I think most would say that my fiancée would be rightfully indignant in this case, that I have wronged her somehow. Does this show that I violated an obligation to trust my fiancée? Is that obligation contingent on her history of fidelity (such that a history of cheating might justify the test)? Perhaps we can explain the wrongdoing without reference to trust--by way of a prohibition on manipulating or deceiving others, say. Or perhaps no wrong committed here at all.

Framed in the language of duty, as you have done, I cannot see how you can universalize this as a duty, find it in natural law or divine command. A rule consequentialist might weigh in and say what greater good was your aim or even, do brides, as a rule, betray their intended on the night before their wedding? Trust is the outcome of a relationship, not a duty or test of one. To my mind the question is best framed as one of character: "who am I" - am I suspicious, paranoid or simply love to mess with someone's head? Better yet, "who do I wish to become" within this relationship? I wish to be a trusting partner and do trust, until I have cause to revisit the wisdom of this way of being. More important is whether I wish to be trust-worthy than trusting. Personally, I'd rather be a foolish lover proved wrong than a cynic who cannot or will not trust my lover. Perhaps trust is not even a question of ethics - but the sting-operation really is!