Virtue ethics

Virtue ethics


  • Teleological, therefore allows you to look at the consequences of an action, unlike deontological ethics which only lets you look at the action.
  • Allows you to learn from your mistakes and become a good person over time
  • Flexible as it is not based upon absolute rules that cannot be broken
  • Allows virtues to differ between cultures
  • Focuses on what it really means to be a human being, rather than focussing upon moral dilemas
  • It does not break down our actions into single events, it takes the narrative or history of a person's life into account
  • MARTHA NUSSBAUM has argued that virtue ethics is a very compassionate and caring way of doing ethics, as it takes the whole person into account
  • It is accomodated by both religious and secular morality
  • It is a simple system
  • It attempts to link theoretical and practical approaches to ethics
  • It maintains that theories of moral behavior have objective valye as part of developing a good life


  • How do we decide which virtues are to be cultivated the most? SUSAN WOLF writes 'I dont know whether there are moral saints. But if there are, I am glad that I nor those about whom I care most are among them'
  • It does not give clear rules on how to act in particular situations like Natural Law
  • ROBERT LOUDEN has argued that it cannot resolve moral dilemas
  • HUGO GROTIUS argued that justice and truthfulness are not a middle way , but are ethical absolutes that we have a duty to follow
  • It does not adress the problem of people doing bad things who think they are acting virtuously
  • The principle of the 'Golden Mean' is not easy to apply to all virtues and even where there is a mean, how do we identify where it lies?
  • There is no guidance in situations where virtues conflict and where we need rules to guide our actions
  • It is a selfish theory because it is most concerned with personal development
  • The virtues valued by Aristotle are essentially masculine ones eg. bravery and honor
  • The system is ultimatly attractive to those who have the time, inclination and ability to engage in speculative morality


Overall I believe that Virtue ethics is a successful ethical approach because of the fact that it has universal appeal and it is flexible. Due to these assets it is very attractive as it can be used in all situations and it isnt the end of the world is a mistake is made as it is all part of the journey of moral development which isnt accessible in systems such as Natural Moral Law.


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