Virtue ethics is an alternative approach to morality that enables people to achieve their potential as human beings and not to have to focus on their rightness/wrongness of their actions, as it is an agent-centred approach. Instead, it provides a way to develop character ad to flourish as a person without following persistent rules.
Aristotle believes that our superior aim is to achieve the supreme good, which is happiness. For Aristotle, happiness/fulfilment was the goal and purpose of life. He saw happiness as: a life of enjoying please, a free member of society and a philosopher.
In order to achieve this happiness, or eudaimonia, he believed we had to practise skills or virtues to achieve happiness and live good lives. The basis of morality is to have a firm foundation of good and positive character traits and no negative traits or virtues.
There are three types of virtues: moral, intellectual and cardinal virtues. Intellectual virtues are developed by training and educating yourself, such as learning to play piano. Moral virtues are developed by practice and habit, for example, learning to be compassionate. To practice the cardinal values was considered to live a flourished life, making you closer to achieving eudaimonia. These virtues were: temperance and moderation, justice, courage and practical wisdom.
With every virtue comes two vices, the vice of excess and deficiency. Aristotle referred to the virtue as the doctrine of the mean, the golden mean. The virtue provides a balance between two vices. For example, courage is the virtue, cowardice is in deficiency and rashness is in excess.
Anscombe said that other theories, act or consequence based, did not have the foundation to provide moral guidelines. They each relied on the idea of punishment and reward, either by a divine law giver or by their consequences. Therefore, Anscombe believed that the older systems couldn't provide a basis of guidelines for the moral life.
Foot attempted to update virtue ethics whilst still maintaining its Aristotlean roots. Emphasises that virtues are only virtuous as long as they are used in the correct way to bring a good outcome. For example, courage to rob a bank cannot be seen as virtuous. Virtues do not guarantee happiness, they just help us move towards achieving it.
-Appeals to both secular and religious morality.
-The principles of virtue are compatible with religious beliefs. They compliment the moral guidelines outlined in religious writings, as the teachings on virtues are focused on the person's moral development, not the action's.
-Virtue ethics does not have a set of rules that must be followed like other traditional ethical systems.
-Logical theory. It focuses on our practical reasoning and the traits that will help society prosper.
-Virtues sometimes clash with each other. Which one is most/least important?
-At what point does a virtue become a vice? Aristotle said that it would depend on the situation and is not a fixed point. Still subjective and lacks precision.
- Aristotle's teachings on virtue were aimed at more masculine attributes such as bravery and honour and comradeship, rather than more feminine virtues like empathy, compassion and humility.