Virtue Ethics

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  • Virtue Ethics
    • Aristotle
      • all things and all human beings have a purpose or function
        • a telos
      • a complete explanation of anything would include its final cause or purpose
        • purpose is to realise its potential and to fulfil its goal
      • ultimate goal is human flourishing
        • eudaimonia
          • means developing those characteristics best suited to a person becoming virtuous
            • not about what people do, but what kind of person they are
              • e.g. being kind leads to someone being a kind person
      • highest good is to be found in intellectual vritue
      • people must pursue moral virtues
        • courage
        • temperance
        • liberality
        • magnificence
          • ones attitude towards ones wealth
        • greatness of soul
          • attitudes to social inferiors
        • good temper or gentleness
        • being agreeable in company
        • wittiness
        • modesty
      • these virtues are qualities that lead to a good life
        • people should cultivate these qualities to maximise their potential for a happy life (eudaimonia)
      • right way to act is the golden mean
        • perfect balance between two extremes
          • discovered by intellect and leading to wisdom and moral virtue
            • e.g. golden mean between cowardice and recklessness is courage
        • not easy to apply in all situations
      • prudence
        • the way to cultivate good virtues is to learn from others and act in such a way that the virtue becomes a part of character
      • emphasis on masculine virtues e.g. bravery, little on feminine virtues e.g. compassion
    • modern virtue ethics
      • philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe
        • moral absolutes and laws are out of date in a society that has abandoned God
      • Richard Taylor
        • rejected divine commands because he felt they discouraged people from achieving their potential
      • philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre
        • virtue-based approaches to ethics more realistic and applicable to people's everyday situations
    • strengths
      • encourages people to do good for its own sake
        • can lead to a happier life
      • applies to real life situations
      • doing good is, in itself, good
    • weaknesses
      • not everyone wants to develop these virtues
      • how do we decide which virtues are those to be developed the most?
        • why should we prefer certain ideals to others
      • not everyone believes they are intrinsically good
      • Aristotle gives no guidance where virtues may conflict
      • selfish theory
      • only relevant to those with the time to engage in speculative moral philosophy

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