Virtue Ethics

Key features of Virtue Ethics for Edexcel, 2010, REligious Stuidies


Historical Context:

  • Aristotle, 300BC
  • Ancient Greek philosopher
  • Culture praised Gods which portrayed the characteristics of the ideal human, eg Hercules.
  • Therefore, Virtue Ethics is based on characteristics.
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Key Features

1) End/ Purpose OF Humanity and Reason- We have the capacity for rational thought or contemplation. This is outside of personal experience. Unlike animals we use reason and rational thought to achieve out personal best. This is intellectual virtue.

2) Intellectual and Moral Values- Inbetween too little and too much is a virtue. For example to little is cowardice and too much is rashness, but inbetween is the virtue courage. Other virtues are Temperance, Wittyness, Modesty ect...

3) Eudaemonia- This is were, by practicing moral virtues, you maximize your potential for a happy life. it is instinctive and not a mean to an end. Eudaemonia should be done with the interests of the individual and, more importantly, society. (This is Utilitarianism)

4) Golden Mean- This is the right way to act, it is a perfect balance between too much and too little. Although this is not innate. Good is the golden mean and a sin is missing the mark (like Relativism).

5) A Virtuous Person- This is a person who, even in their sleep, is virtuous. As if you practice it more then being virtuous becomes part of your nature. (Like Autonomy)

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Modern Virtue Ethics

Anscombe- Moral Laws are anachronistic (old and useless), virtue ethics is solves the void after the abandoment of God

Machintyre- Most theries are vauge and complex. Virtue ethics is based on a realistic, adaptive approach

Taylor- Rejects morality that is based on religion and God. As it encourages people to steer clear of achievement. Virtue Ethics does not do this.

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Strengths and Weaknesses


  • Encourages al aspects of life unlike Deontoogy.
  • Focuses of people and not Laws.
  • Promotes individuals, society and realistic goals.
  • Although old, Virtue ethics is still relative to modern society.


  • Annas- Virtues outdated, eg courage and temperance.
  • Loudon- Virtue ethics doesn't provide specific answers to moral dilemmas.
  • Dilemma on different cultures agreeing on set virtues. Eg, some cultures in Africa see slyness as a virtue.
  • There are no guidelines on conflicting virtues.
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In conciliation, although virtue ethics is a good theory which requires no need of religion to follow, It still remains that I agree with Loudon's view that virtue ethics do not provide specific answers or sufficient guidelines concerning moral issues.

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Possible Question and what to include

1a) Examine the main characteristics of virtue ethics as an approach to ethical decision making (12 marks)--> In this you would include information from the Historical Context and Key Features card

1b) Evaluate the claim that virtue ethics is no longer relevant to contemporary ethical decision making (8 marks)-> In this include information from Strengths and Weaknesses card BUT focus on the weaknesses, and add the conclusion.

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excellent notes, thankyou!

but on slide two it says 'like animals we use reason and thought to achieve our personal best', i thought aristotle views us as superior to animals because only humans do have the capability to use reason and thought. just thought id put it out there. :)

Mia Dowling


oh yes i meant unlike animals not like animals. Thank you for pointing that out i will change it now



I've always found virtue ethics difficult to understand, but this information really does set the foundation! Thank you :)

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