Virtue Theory

What was it and who developed it?

  • Ethical system based on personal qualities
  • Emphasises that what is right or wrong are not a matter of rules, but qualities that individuals share
  • Individuals learn how to live virtuously through completing morally correct actions
  • Aristotle developed this giving a psychological account of what is good
  • Our purpose is to develop our rational and virtuous behaviour
  • Aristotle's Virtue Ethics is a teleological, aretaic system
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Why was it developed by Aristotle?

  • Student of Plato, but he disagreed with many of his teachings about Virtue Theory
  • Plato stated that goodness was "metaphysical" (beyond our world), and our aim was to contimplate good
  • Aristotle argued with this leading to a dispute in moral ethics, what is good?
  • Discussed in his book 'Nicomachean Ethics'
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What is the goal of Virtue Theory?

  • The goal is to create a good life with the ultimate aim- 'eudaimonia' (to be flourishing)
  • If someone is continuously practising to live virtuously, then eudiamonia will be reached and they will feel content and fulfilled
  • "Good has rightly been declared to be that which all things aim" (Aristotle)
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How do you reach a virtuous existence?

  • Reached by continuing to practise, train and form virtuous behaviours.
  • That is how you will live a happy life
  • "Every act and enquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good" (Aristotle)
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What are Moral and Intellectual Virtues?

  • Moral Virtues can be changed by habit, including: courage, liberality, patience and modesty
  • There can be an excess or deficiency of these 12 virtues; courage = mean, rashness = excess, and cowardice = deficiency. It was best to be in the middle
  • Intellectual consists of intelligence, wisdom, artistic behaviour and scientific knowledge, as examples
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What is the Doctrine of the Mean?

  • Consists of three individuals who practise virtuous actions
  • 'Sophron' who naturally lives in the 'mean' and stays true to their practises
  • 'Enkrates' who is tempted but has strong enough power to stay inside the mean
  • 'Akrates' who is weak and cannot live inside the mean by overcoming their temptations
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What was the most important to Aristotle?

  • People remain as 'Sophrons' and continue being virtuous as 'eudiamonia' is reached
  • "Happiness, then, is something final and self-sufficient, and is the end of action" (Aristotle)
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Virtue Theory and Christianity

  • Many similarities between Virtue Theory and specifically, Matthew 5:3-12, The Beatitudes
  • "Blessed are the pure heart", modesty, "blessed are the weak", and courage- "blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness", are all quotes where the generosity of the Moral Virtues shine through
  • However there are some differences with virtues like wittiness and liberty not being shown in The Beatitudes
  • Biggest difference is that there is the reward of heaven for Christian's good actions, whereas in Aristotle's Virtue Theory, we should be good for the sake of being good and helping people
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Strengths of the Theory

  • Motivates us to work on morality
  • Good to have our own opinions and be individual
  • Doesn't rely on a theory and instead, self-improvement
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Weaknesses

  • The virtues are time-changing and their is no definitive answer to what they include
  • No answer to what should be done in moral dilemmas
  • Might not be a telos (purpose), apart from 'eudiamonia', is there a reason for the development of these virtues?
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