Virtue Ethics

  • Created by: KMuir
  • Created on: 16-04-14 11:11

Virtue Ethics


Eudaimonia: the final goal of all human activity – happiness, well-being, human flourishing.
habitually doing what is right – being good requires the practice of a certain kind of behaviour.
Phronesis (practical wisdom): the virtue most needed for any other virtue to be developed which requires balancing self – interest with that of others.


Plato and Virtue: centres around the achievement of man’s highest good, which involves inner well-being and eudaimonia. Happiness must be attained through the pursuit of virtue and actions are good when they help you achieve this. Plato centralised certain virtues: temperance, courage and prudence – the cardinal virtues. When in balance, Plato believed a person’s actions will be good.

Aristotle and Virtue: distinguished between things which are good as means (for the sake of something else) and things which are good as ends (for their sake only). He sees one final good in eudaimonia – human flourishing which is a life characterised by these virtues. Aristotle emphasised that good human life is one lived in harmony and co-operation with other people, as we are seen as social beings as well as rational beings.
Acquiring virtues: 1) intellectual virtues – developed by training and education
                             2) moral virtues - developed by habit
To Aristotle you acquire virtues through doing virtuous acts and practicing the acts to acquire the skill E.G temperance by doing temperate acts and courageous by doing acts of courage. Aristotle believed that while all people have the potential to develop moral and intellectual virtues, only a few will actually achieve this – for Aristotle these were gentlemen philosophers and todays equivalent of this depends on social factors: where we are brought up and the environment in which we live. Aristotle saw reason as a supreme human virtue also a moral sense – putting into action what act your reason judged as good.

Golden Mean

There exists two vices of excess and deficiencies which we must find the balance (mean) of to acquire the true virtue to live in society in the best way. The difference between virtue and vice is a matter of balance and extremes however the mean is not the same for everyone and depends on circumstance – you need to apply phronesis to decide on the right course of action in each situation.

Vice of deficiency

Virtuous mean

Vice of excess







The example of virtuous people

Virtue is acquired through doing, one way in which is to follow the example of virtuous people by watching and imitating how they live. People such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King JR and Nelson Mandela are good examples of virtuous people who challenge us to aspire to ‘moral heights’ and to see what can be achieved.


·         People flourish when they reason well

·         Virtues


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