Modern Virtue ethics

A quick review on what the different modern philosophers said on virtue ethics.

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  • Created by: Henna
  • Created on: 06-05-12 14:12
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Modern perspectives of virtue theory
G.E.M. Anscombe argued that modern philosophy is misguided, asking if there are any moral laws if
there's no God - what do right and wrong mean without a lawgiver? She suggests eudaimonia being
the answer (human flourishing) which doesn't depend on any God. Both Kantian ethics and
Utilitarianism don't depend on God, but they're still act-based and ignore the person who acts. She
also thought that act-based doesn't make sense as it ignores a belief people no longer hold, and in
stressing the principle of autonomy it neglects the community aspect of morality.
Philippa Foot tried to modernise Aristotle's Virtue ethics while still keeping his understanding of
character and virtue. She saw the importance of the person's own reasoning in the practice of virtue,
claims that the virtues benefit the individual by leading to flourishing, and stresses that the virtuous
person does more than conform to the conventions of society.
Alasdair MacIntyre thought modern ethical morality is lost and ethical terminology is meaningless
now-a-days. Morality should be aimed at developing your telos (end). ­Aristotle Virtues are judged
by society. He encourages a return to the basis of Aristotle's understanding of virtue by encouraging
society to assist in the developing of virtues that are relevant to modern times.
Elizabeth Anscombe believed that theories that were act or consequence based did not provide an
adequate foundation for moral guidelines. They relied on the idea of punishment and reward, either
by divine law-giver, or by their consequence. She believed what was required was a return to
eudaimonia. She also believed that other theories were too focussed on autonomous actions, whilst
disregarding the social aspect of morality, which unites communities.
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 he though need clarifying. He sees the opposite as a 'deplorable'
action, which can mean both foolish and careless and morally blameworthy actions. If something is
admirable or deplorable then we know by definition which is the right action to pursue.
Rosalind Hursthouse tackles the criticism that virtue ethics does not provide moral guidance in
dilemmas. It may not explain exactly how a person would or should act, but it does explain how a
virtuous person would think about the moral dilemma. Virtues are virtuous because they encourage
people to flourish and achieve eudaimonia (Aristotelian view). Virtues assist practical reasoning,
enabling us to become better and, hence, respond to moral dilemmas in a virtuous way. If we use the
virtues, our reasoning will enable us to be virtuous people.


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