Aristotle Virtue theory Crib sheet

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  • Created by: Meg8
  • Created on: 27-04-16 15:25

Virtue theory

Created by Plato. Developed by Aristotle and found in his book Niomachean ethics. Later developed by Ansecombe, Macintyre, Taylor, Slote and Foot.

About being a good person. Doing things just because they are good. Not about following rules, which is deontological, and not because you are aiming at a consequence (consequentialist). The theory is relative and agent centred (focused on the individuals moral character). There are two aims:

Superior aim: Doing something just because it is good. This is the aim of virtue theory. This must be the aim to accomplish eudemonia.

Subordinate aim: Doing something to achieve a purpose.

Aristotle said ‘The measure of goodness is within the person. It is agent centred as you should develop your moral character through the virtues. He saw that through social interaction and friendship, you could develop this. (Three kinds of friendship= 1. Friendship of Utility. 2. Friendship of Pleasure. 3. Friendship of goodness)


A happy and flourishing life and community

The ultimate aim is the supreme Good. This is classified as love of pleasure, love of honour or love of contemplation. This is Eudaimonia- The Telos. This is achieved through cultrivation of the virtues. 

It is very hard to achieve. Our purpose is to achieve a life of good character. 

Only free men could achieve eudaimonia

To Aristotle, the good of the community is more important than the individual

There is not one approach to achieving eudaimonia, it is relative.


The soul is extremely important to Aristotle. It has rational and irrational elements

Aristotle believed that reason is what set humans apart from everything else. We have reason because of our soul.

(Heirarchy of souls: 1. Humans 2. Animals 3. Plants)


There are four cardinal virtues. These are the most important:





There are two types of virtues:

Intellectual virtues: These involve training yourself and being educated. (e.g/ learning to play piano)

There are five intellectual virtues:

Common sense


Practical skill

Practical wisdom (phronesis)

Sophia (theoretical wisdom)

Moral virtues: Developed through practise and habit (e.g/ manners)

There are twelve moral virtues:




Just resentment






Good temper



The doctrine of the mean:

Aristotle used the doctrine of the mean to help people develop the correct balance of a virtue. He recognised each individual would require a difference balance for it to be golden (the golden mean). Each person’s golden mean is different and it continually changes depending upon the situation.

The golden mean provides a balance of the two extremes of the excess and deficiency of the virtue.

Vice of deficiency               Virtuous mean                     Vice of excess

surliness                         Friendliness                    …


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