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What is Virtue Ethics?
· Virtue ethics focuses on how to be a good person,
not what is considered right or wrong. It looks at
what makes a good person and the
qualities/virtues that make them good.
· Virtue ethics is agent-centred morality, it asks
'what sort of person ought I to be?' rather than
'how ought I to act?'.
· The Greek word for virtue, arete, means
excellence, meaning a virtuous person is one that
does thing excellently all the time.…read more

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Where Does Virtue Ethics Fit In?
· There are two main branches of ethical theories:
deontological and teleological. Many people argue
that both are unsatisfactory ethical theories so they
turn to Virtue Ethics which is neither deontological
or teleological.
· "The problem is that one can follow either toute, but
it says very little about our inner moral worth or
ourselves. Virtue Ethics attempts to find a third way
in which our duty (however we locate it) is replaced
by the kind of character exhibited by the agent" -
Anscombe…read more

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A father sees his daughter drowning in a river ­ naturally he loves her and
jumps in to save her. Kantian ethics would not consider his leaping into the
water morally good, since it was not done out duty, but love and concern
for his daughter.
· Imagine that at the same time, a heart surgeon falls into the water.
The utilitarian ethicist would be forced to rescue the surgeon, since he
would bring the greatest good to the greatest number of people. Most
people would consider the father a monster should he do that. Even if the
utilitarian attempted to shift sides, and say that the daughter should be
saved, since parental love will help make the community a better place over
all, he is still making parental love a secondary feature to the benefits to the
· Anscombe and others have been unsatisfied with these alternatives.
She says that we learn ­ not being told what to do, whether by the
categorical imperative or by the principle of utility, but by learning to
develop certain characteristics.
· Virtue ethics is concerned about educating ourselves to become
better people, and so to act in a way that demonstrates the right kinds of
feelings and emotions.…read more

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Plato and Virtue
· Plato's moral theory centres around the achievement of
man's highest good. This involves the right
improvement of the soul and the well being of his/her
life. Happiness must be attained through pursuing
virtues, a good action is one that helps to achieve this.
· Plato considered certain virtues as central, Cardinal
Virtues, and when these virtues are in balance a
person's actions will be good. However Greek
philosophers disagreed on what the Cardinal Virtues
were.…read more

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Aristotle and Virtue
· Aristotle explained that the point of engaging in ethics is to
become good: "For we are enquiring to become good since
otherwise our enquiry would be of no use"
· He distinguishes between things which are good for means
and things which are good for ends. He sees the one final
good as eudaimonia.
· Aristotle's ethics is known as Virtue ethics. This is because
central to his description of the good are the virtues which
shape human character and behaviour. He suggests human
flourishing is a life characterised by virtues.
· However, good human life is one lived in harmony with
others, as he saw us as rational and social beings. We live in
groups and the well being of the group is more important
than that of a single member.…read more

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