Virtue Ethics

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  • Created by: gracepxx
  • Created on: 18-04-16 13:40

Aristotle P1

Virtue Ethics based on view of Greek philosopher Aristotle - believed that;

All thing and humans have purpose or function - a telos

Complete explanations of anything include final cause or purpose

For humans, ultimate goal is human flourishing (achieve eudamonia) 

Develop characteristics best suited to person becoming virtuous 

Not about what people do but what kind of person they are - being kind leads to someone becoming a kind person

End purpose of humanity is rational thought

Highest good is to be found in intellectual virtue - end purpose/highest goal in humanity

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Aristotle P2

However, living in practical world, Aristotle said people must persue moral virtues:

Courage, temperance, liberality, magnificence, greatness of soul, good temper, vittiness, modesty

Maintained these were qualities that lead to a good life

Cultivate qualities to maximise potential for happy life and eudamonia

Person who develops virtues would be able to act in an integrated way, deriving satisfaction from doing the right thing because it is the right thing, not for any external reasons or goals 

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Aristotle P3

Believed right way to act was a golden mean - perfect balance between two extremes

Discovered by the intellect and leads to wisdom and moral virtue

Golden mean between cowardice and reclessness is courage - virtue people should cultivate 

Way to culivate virtues is to learn from others and act in a way that virtue becomes part of character

Aristotle called this "prudence" - person must not only desire to do good, they must know when and how to do it 

Involves constant practice 

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Modern virtue ethics

Elizabeth Anscombe - took different view - moral absolutes and laws are out of date in society that has abandoned God

Richard Taylor - rejected divine commands because he felt they discouraged pepoe from achieving potential 

Alasdair MacIntyre - claimed virtue based appraoches to ethics were more realistic and applicable to peoples everyday situation

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Strengths of virtue

Encourages people to do good for their own sake

Allows poeple to be led to a happier life

Applies to real life situations

Doing good, is, in itself, good 

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Weaknesses of virtue

How do we decide which virtues to develop most - relative value in different cultures - some value physical courage, others intellectual power

Not everyone wants to develop virtues - not all believe they are intrinsically good

Aristotle's principle of Golden Mean is not easy to apply in everyday situations

Gives no guidence in situations where virtues conflict

Selfish theory - places greater emphasis on personal development than affect of actions on others

Virtues valued are masculine - bravery and honour - little credit of feminine virtues such as humility and compassion 

Virtue ethics only relevamt to those who have time to engage in speculative moral philosophy 

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