Virtue Ethics

  • Created by: ellend49
  • Created on: 01-10-17 14:06

Virtue ethics

  • "Focuses on the human character and asks how you can be a better person"
  • "concerned with the qualities or virtues we must develop in order to become a good person"- Bowie
  • NOT teleological or Deontological- does not focus on rules of consequences.
  • ETHIKOS- concerned with individual character
  • Mckay- virtue ethics is more concerned with "being rather than doing"
  • Aristotle- "good habits formed at youth make all the difference"
  • Aristotle focuses on something good fulfilling it's purpose- EUDAIMONIA "HUMAN FLOURISHING"


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Intellectual and Moral virtues

  • Intellectual virtues- virtues of the mind
  • Moral virtues- not innate but aquired thorugh practice- over a period of time the virtues become good nature
  • Aristotle composed 12 moral virtues- the opposite of a virtue is a vice
  • vice of excess= too much of the virtue
  • vice of defiency= not enough of the virtue
  • examples of moral virtues: 
  • rashness- courage- cowardice
  • Boasftfulness- truthfulness-Understatement
  • shyness-modesty-shamelessness
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The doctrine of the mean

central to virtue ethics is the doctrine of the mean which is where the virtues are found. 

no blame can be put on another in virtue ethics because it is up to the individual completely to make the decision.

"our behaviour must not be extreme but always proportionate"- Aristotle.

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Intellectual Virtues

  • There are nine intellectual virtues- 5 primary and 4 secondary
  • primary: art or technical skill
  • Scientific knowledge- understanding of the universe
  • prudence/practical wisdom- not being rash
  • intelligence
  • wisdom- k + understanding of all things
  • seconadary: 
  • Resourcefulness
  • understanding
  • judgement
  • cleverness
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Aquinas' cardinal Values

In 13th century, Aquinas was introduced to the writings of Aristotle.

He created the 4 cardinal virtues from Aristotles virtues.

  • Prudence
  • justice
  • fortitude 
  • temperance

later the seven cardinal vices( 7 deadly sins appeared) 

pride, avarice( greed to own things for the sake of it), lust, envy, gluttony, anger and sloth. These should be avoided as a person who is interested in achieving eudaimonia will be interested in helping the whole community. 

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20th century revival and scholars

  • virtue ethics before the 20th century had died out due to the popularity in normative ethics- these gave an answer to a problem based on different circumstances
  • Anascombe- was critical of utilitarianism as it could justify anything
  • she stated, "actions have replaced persons, behaviour has been separated from people"
  • she wanted divine law changed to moral law, as theological approaches may not be dominant or necessary anymore.
  • she argues that the consequences of our actions should be inferior motives rather than what motivates us to make a decision.
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Phillipa Foot

" no one can get on well if they lack courage and does not have some measure of temperance or wisdome"- her main focus was on human wisdomn - Phillipa Foot

  • Ananias and Sapphira - foolishness 
  • she believes that action based ethics ignores the spiritual dimension
  • Difference between Foot and Aristotle is that she believes a person is even more moral if they make a mistake and learn from it- developing a virture
  • Aristotle would argue that a person cannot be virtuous if they have made one mistake i.e have no moral dilemmas and you will be virtuous
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  • he wrote a book called "After virtue"- we should give consideration to aristotles virtues
  • He complains that modern ethics puts to much emphasis on reason and not enough on people and their characters
  • Whilst Anascombe and foot assume that all humans want a moral life, Macintyre argues against this and says that humans need a reason to be moral.
  • he believed that being virtuous meant- getting into a habit of being moral and striving towards a virtuous life.
  • the virtues must also be at the good will of a person.
  • justice, courage and honesty were his three main virtues. 
  • He also warned that being virtuous does not protect us from vices- e.g a great violinist who could be vicious 
  • He argued that there are three people in society- we are in a "moral vacuum" these people lack virtue
  • Beaureacratic manager
  • Rich Aesthete 
  • therapist
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Anascombe's skeletal virtue theory

Skeletal virtue theory

  • actions are right if it is what a virtuous person would do
  • a virtuous person must follow the virtues placed by aristotle
  • a virtue must be a characteristic of a person in order for them to live well
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Stanley Hauerwas

  • A christian approach to VE
  • Worship pf the holy spirit can help us look to the right answers
  • believes in non-violence
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Rosalind Hursthouse

  • Believes that there is a place for rules in a VE approach
  • a like arisotle 
  • opinions on abortion- in all cases some evil is being done
  • examples of when it may be ok- mother has already had kids
  • mother is unable to be a full time mother because of career
  • etc
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