Virtue ethics

Virtue ethics

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Virtue Ethics
A virtue is a trait of mind or character and it helps to achieve a good life. Greek for Virtue is
Arete which literally means excellence.
If a virtue is used to achieve a good life then does that make it selfish?
Virtue ethics is about the person not the act therefore it is agent centred.So asks the
question of how a person ought to be rather than what they should do!
A virtuous person is one who does things excellently all of the time.
Virtue ethics
Who am I?
Who ought I to become?
How do I get there?
Plato and Virtue:
Plato centres his theory on the achievements of man's highest good, which involves the
right cultivation of his soul (inner wellbeing) and the harmonious wellbeing of his life
Happiness must be achieved through the pursuit of virtue and actions are good when
they help to achieve this.
Cardinal Virtues ( cardio in Latin meaning hinge) are central to being:
o Temperance ­ doing things in moderation
o Courage,
o Prudence ­ With care and thoughtfulness.
o Justice.
Plato thought that when these actions were equal they give a good person.
Theological Virtues
o Faith
o Hope
o Charity Agape.
Aristotle and Virtues:
Aristotle sought to give an account of the structure of morality and explained that the
point of engaging in ethics is to become good:
Aristotle distinguishes between things which are good as means and things which are
good as ends. He sees one final and overriding end of human activity eudaimonia or
human flourishing. achieving eudaimonia is human's purpose within life.
Good is the description of virtues which shape human behaviour, he suggests that
human wellbeing and human flourishing is a life characterised by virtues.
Good human life is one lived in harmony and cooperation with other people since
Aristotle saw people as not only rational beings but also as social beings.
He saw that the wellbeing of the group as more important than a single member within

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Aristotle thought that you were working to the greater good of all mankind then you
were not in anyway selfish and the virtues should not be used just for personal benefit.
Acquiring Virtues:
1. Intellectual Virtues developed by training and education. E.g. Wisdom,
Judgement, Intuition, Common Sense.
2. Moral Virtues developed by habit. Traits of characteristics.
Aristotle compares virtues to skills acquired through practice and habit.
To become virtuous then is rather like playing a musical
instrument, it needs teaching and practising.…read more

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People at the time such as Kant were talking about actioncentred theories
rather than the person themselves and it seemed to be easier to follow there
were précis guidelines to follow rather than trying to work out what was meant
by being a virtuous person.
o Deontological and Teleological were replaced instead of virtues as it was easier
to follow and left people with fewer choices to make.…read more

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James Rachels virtues should be:
Loyalty to support friendship.
Rosalind Hursthouse:
o Has Aristotelian framework for virtue ethics ­ Virtue ethics has some moral
o Virtues are virtues as they help people achieve eudaimonia and so living in
accordance with these will help you have a good life.
o Similar to Julia Annas, she sees the virtues as shaping the virtuous person's
practical reasoning in characteristic ways and not just simply as shaping the
person's attitudes or actions.…read more

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The principles of virtue ethics are compatible with religious belief also. The compliment
the moral guidelines within religion.
Does not have a single set of guidelines that you must follow, focuses on becoming a
better person rather than the way a human ought to act.
Logical theory focuses on practical reason and the traits of society that will benefit
Encourages people to become better people and improve yourself by aspiring to the
virtue of others.…read more


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