Modern Approach to Virtue Ethics

A brief document containing a few philosophers and their answer to modern virtue ethics. contains the likes of Nussbaum, McIntyre and Anscombe.

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Philippa Foot attempted to modernize Aristotle's virtue ethics, she recognised the
importance of the persons own reasoning and claimed that the virtues benefit the individual by
leading to eudemonia. Virtues are good for us as they help us to correct harmful human passions and
G.E.M Anscombe put forward the idea asking if there could be any moral laws with no god?
How do people know what is right and wrong if there is no ultimate law giver
Alasdair Macintyre argues that most people's attitudes today are based on emotivism,
moral statements are nether true or false as they are just an expression of opinion. He believed that
human virtue depended on the community; it is the shared practices of the community that cultivate
virtues which are improved over time.
Michael Slote describes Virtue ethics as being based on our common-sense ideas and intuitions
about what counts as a virtue, and prefers to use the word 'admirable' to describe an action, rather
than 'good' or 'excellent' which need explaining. He sees the opposite as a 'deplorable' action, which
can mean both foolish and careless and morally blameworthy actions.
He described virtues as 'an inner trait or disposition of the individual', so this means a kind of
balanced caring between those who are close to us, and people in general. He says morally
admirable caring could, in some way, copy the sort of love we have for those we're close to and will
always express balanced caring.
Slote's view allows a wide range of actions by the person facing a moral dilemma, as a wide range of
actions could be fitted into a life that showed balanced caring and doesn't seem to help very much
when choosing between helping family, or strangers.
The major contribution of Slote's Virtue ethics is the differentiation between agent-focused theories
and agent-based theories. Agent-focused understand the moral life in terms of what it is to be a
virtuous person, where virtues are inner dispositions (e.g. Aristotle Virtue ethics), whilst agent-based
theories evaluate actions according to the inner life and motive of the people who do such actions.
He focuses on care and concern for others, looking for motives more than the community aspect of
virtues. He notes that we can identify admirable human traits by looking at people we admire.
Rosalind Hursthouse has an Aristotelian framework for her Virtue ethics, even though she
doesn't agree with all of his conclusions.
She defends a version of Virtue ethics that claims virtues are virtues because they help a person
achieve eudaimonia, and so living a virtuous life is a good thing for a human being.
Like Julia Annas she sees the virtues as shaping the virtuous person's practical reasoning in
characteristic ways and not just shaping their attitudes or actions.
For Hursthouse being virtuous is the most reliable path to flourishing and thinks no other path is as
She also tries to address the criticism of Virtue ethics that says it provides us no guidance in moral
dilemmas - not by telling us how a virtuous person would act, but by showing how a virtuous person
would think about a moral dilemma.
Richard Taylor believes that religion undermines and doesn't focus enough on eudemonia

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Christianity especially doesn't reward excellence enough as they try to make everyone seem equal.
Christianity implies that it will accept people as they are without the expectation that they will have
to excel.
Ben Franklin was a utilitarian virtue theorist. He believed that we should try to bring about
the greatest good for the greatest number (the principle of utility). However, he thought that the
best way to bring about the greatest good was by developing the virtues.…read more


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