Virtue Ethics

  • Created by: MattyLew
  • Created on: 17-05-18 14:31
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  • Virtue Ethics
    • Aretaic branch of moral philosophy
      • Agent Centred morality (emphasises character rather than duties or consequences)
        • Rather than asking 'what I ought to do in these circumstances - ask what is the good life for me as a human being? What kind of person should I want to become? How do I achieve both of these goals?
      • Goal of EUDAIMONIA - meaning human happiness, flourishing and fulfilment 'the good life'
        • assumed everyone wanted this - and it was the highest form of good because it sought for it's own sake and nothing else
    • Feminist Interpretation
      • Carol Gilligan
        • argued virtues are gender specific
          • F: caring/loyalty, compassion
            • M: justice/fairness, courage
          • suggested androgyny was the best way to realise one's potential as a human
    • History
      • In the West, VE was the prevailing approach to ethical thinking in the ancient and medieval periods
        • 1. Socrates - held that virtue is a knowledge of good and evil which is required to attain the ultimate good (Eudaimonia)
          • 2. Plato - discusses the Four Cardinal Virtues in his 'Republic' e.g. Justic
            • 3. Aristotle - influenced by Plato he developed VE
      • New Testament: the Gospels promoted the virtues, in Paul's letter to the Galatians he describes the virtues as accepting God's grace + "the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance....Against such things there is no law"
        • Christian Virtues could protect against the seven deadly sins - based on a poem by a Roman Christian Emperor
          • Aquinas: Feels we can achieve eudaemonia,in the afterlife by fulfilling our telos. We need to use virtues, but also need help from God's grace because of Original sin.
            • Aquinas' Cardinal Virtues: prudence, justice, temperance and courage
      • Early Modern Period: Aristotelianism grew unpopular in the West instead Utilitarianism,deonotlogy and NML ruled.
      • Returned to prominence in Western philosophical thought in the 20th century
        • Anscombe
          • 'Modern Moral Philosophy' 1958
            • Argued against the idea morality cannot exist with God, the law giver
              • human flourishing does not require a God
                • preferred VE as it focused on the entire human including emotions + friendships
        • Foot
          • 'Virtues and Vices' 1978
          • Ethics is not just about dry theorising, but practically making the world a better place
            • Suggested goodness should be seen as the natural flourishing of humans as living beings
              • + a virtue is only virtuous if used to the right end e.g. loyalty to hitler is not virtuous
        • Because:  interest in self-development,rejection of problems associated with other moral theories, focus on more practical moral philosophy, secular + suitable for a pluralistic society
        • Macintyre
          • 'After Virtue' 1981
          • criticised 'quandary ethics' where thoeries are tested by looking at unlikely dilemmas (e.g. SE)
          • ethics had become a 'bizarre lose-lose game that many had simply stopped playing'
            • ethics should be more practical; tell us how to live our lives in our own context
              • Different societies have different values
              • Virtues = internal goods. food/clothes are External goods, but still needed.
    • Aristotle asks: What makes people happy? What do good people possess? = distinct virtues that should be recognised and nurtured in ourselves and honoured within others
      • 11 Virtues
        • The Golden Mean -observed that every virtue seems to be in the middle of two vices; a Deficiency and Excess.
          • Cowardice - COURAGE - rashness
            • Unambitiousness - PRIDE - ambition
          • We use our human reason, to judge every situation and make a choice which is a balance between extremes
            • Phronesis = practical wisdom which humans develop over time
        • Two Types of virtue: Intellectual (developed by training and education) and Moral (developed by habit)
          • Arete: a skill which one becomes excellent at over time


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