Modern Perspectives on Virtue Ethics

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Elizabeth Anscombe

She believed that other ethical theories were too focused on autonomous actions and did not have the foundation to provide moral guidlines.

Other ethical theories rely on punishment and rewards and Anscombe thought this was wrong, and we need to return to Aristotles emphasis on the ideals of eudiamonia.

A theory which can exist on it's own merit - with or without God but is not dependant as it is a system in its own right.


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Philippa Foot

Foot wanted to mordernise virtue theory whilst keeping the roots of Aristotle.

She recognised that virtues don't necessarily guarentee happiness but they do help in us moving forward to achieve it. 

Virtues can only be virtuous as long as they are used in the correct way. For example, there cannot be justification for a robber using courage to rob a bank - this cannot in any way be seen as virtuous as it was used in the wrong way.

She recognised the importance of a persons own reasoning and practise of virtues.

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Alasdair MacIntyre

Says that morality should be focused on Aristotles idea of telos as otherwise we are in danger of losing our moral wisdom. 

Modern ethical morality has lost its way.

He sees society as one in which people recognise commonly.

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Rosalind Hursthouse

Successfully addresses criticism about moral guidance in dilemmas. It can be argued that virtue ethics doesn't give help in how to act in these situations but Hursthouse recognises that we need to look at how a virtuous person would think about this moral dilemma. 

Virtues assist our practical reasoning which enables us to become better people and respond to moral dilemmas in a totally virtuous way.

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Michael Slote

Virtue ethics is mostly based on our common-sense ideas and intuitions as to what counts as a virtue.

He describes a virtue as an 'inner trait or disposition of the individual'.

He uses the words 'admirable' and 'deplorable' as alternatives to 'good' and 'bad'; as good and bad always require clarification and can be too disputed.

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