Virtue Ethics Revision Notes

Can we use this in reality? It's such a nice theory! So yeah, anyway, all my notes on it - you know the drill by now...

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Virtue Ethics
The origins of VE lie with Aristotle, a student of Plato who rejected his
Plato gave a `metaphysical' account of goodness ­ he regarded good as
something real
Aristotle, though, criticised Plato ­ and instead gave a naturalistic and
psychological account of good it is a part of our natural disposition as
human beings
This led Aristotle to the idea of purpose ­ ethical life means living in tune with
our natural purpose of rational and virtuous behaviour
Aristotle's virtue ethics is, therefore, a teleological system
Aristotle's Ethics
"[Pleasure] is also thought to be most important for the forming of a virtuous
character to like and dislike the right things"
Discussed in his book Nicomachean Ethics
Instead of offering `normative ethics' (i.e. claims about what is right or
wrong), Aristotle's system is `aretaic' (arête being Greek for `excellence'),
focused on the character of the individual ­ in other words, aretaic virtue
ethics focuses upon the desire to be a person of a certain quality
Aristotle thought that the purpose in our life is to become happy by practising
the `skill' of virtuous behaviour
This ultimate aim is called eudaimonia (`wellspirited' ­ roughly, `flourishing'),
referring to the idea that the person practising virtue feels fulfilled and content
Superior and Subordinate Aims
Aristotle believed that every action is directed towards an aim ­ I get up in
the morning because I want to go to work I go to work because I want to earn
a living and have a good life
There are superior and subordinate aims ­ we do one thing to accomplish a
greater thing
Ultimately, everything is subordinate to the supreme good which is
So: superior and subordinate aims are not only subjective by being different
for each person, they also depend on scale:
o Going to work is subordinate, earning a living is superior
o But earning a living is subordinate to happiness
Qualities of Happiness and the Human
Valuing pleasure can be unclear ­ what is happiness?
Aristotle distinguished between three types of happy people:
o Pleasure seekers
Driven by basic desires (food, sex)
Follow the lowest form
The servile masses prefer this, but not philosophers
o Honour seekers

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Driven by their reputations (politicians, Dr. Wratten)
o Lovers of contemplation
Philosophers and thinkers
Achieve what is best (shades of J.S.…read more

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However, since the Enlightenment, rational philosophers have sought to give
a single account of the cause of ethics, ignoring the most important aspect ­
individual practice
MacIntyre argues that having a set of agreed virtues for our society could
help give life purpose and meaning
He suggests these virtues
o Courage
o Justice
o Temperance
o Wisdom
o Industriousness
o Hope
o Patience
He claimed that if we all willed to put such virtues into practice in our lives, it
could give morality a fresh…read more


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