Virtue Ethics A2 RS Revision

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What is virtue ethics?
VE is about goodness and the path to achieving it. It is not concerned with action or words, but with changing a person's character to make them good (virtuous). We should seek to do everything towards living and becoming the best we can be.
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Why is developing character important for VE?
It is about the development of a person rather than about making rules to obey. This means becoming good by developing the characteristics of goodness- the virtues. Virtue is not about what people do, but about what kind of people they are.
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What is the goal of virtue?
Aristotle, in Nichomachian Ethics, believed that all things and all humans have a final purpose or function- a telos. For humans, the ultimate goal is human flourishing and developing those characteristics best suited to becoming virtuous person.
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What is Eudaemonia?
Aristotle said virtues are the qualities that lead to a good life, such as courage and honesty. The most important quality is happiness (eudaemonia). The person who practices these qualities is increasing the potential for a happy life.
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Why is being virtuous important?
Being virtuous should be desired for its own sake and is important not only for individuals but also for society. Those who develop the virtues will be able to act in an integrated way, not because they ought to do so, but because it is the right way
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What are superior and subordinate aims?
A person who acts virtuously just to achieve a particular aim has only a 'subordinate aim' A person who acts virtuously for its own sake has a 'superior aim'. A good person acts goof not because they ought to, but because they know it is right.
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What is the Golden Mean?
The right way to act is to follow the golden mean, the perfect balance between two extremes, e.g. the golden mean between cowardice and foolhardiness is courage.
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Are humans born with virtues?
No. They learn them from good role models and then train them until they become an automatic part of their character. In the end, a person will act virtuously because their actions are automatically motivated to do so.
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What are moral virtues?
'Excellencies of character'- with practice we improve our skills (virtue/arete). These are kindness, generosity, patience, truthfulness, friendliness, fortitude, liberality.
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What are intellectual virtues?
Common sense, intuition, resourcefulness, understanding, judgement cleverness. These practical skills lead to wisdom, which leads to happiness.
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What are the Cardinal Virtues?
These are: Temperance, courage, wisdom and justice. These virtues work together, and it would not be enough to ave just one of these alone. Christians added faith, hope and charity (agape).
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How are the Cardinal Virtues developed?
Temperance and Courage are moral values we get into the habit of, judges require years of training before they earn the title 'justice', and wisdom sits above all the other virtues, the culmination of years of learning.
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How does one acquire virtues?
Positive virtues are obtained by training and exercise for example: Performing courageous acts will mean that, in the end, the person's actions will be motivated by courage.This also involves being aware of the circumstances.
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What is the highest virtue according to Aristotle?
The highest virtue was rational thought/ intellectual virtue- it is what differs humans from animals. It is found through contemplation. 'All virtue is summed up by doing justly'- Aristotle
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What does Macintyre say in 'After Virtue' (1997)?
Morality has lost its way; we end up not knowing what to do, either abandoning them or allowing terrible consequences. 'Virtues are not static, but come out of the communities in which they are practiced- they belong to particular times and place.'
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What does Macintyre believe about internal and external goods?
People have to practice 'internal goods'- those things than only come with time, such as compassion. They also need 'external good's-food, home etc. in order to have the time and peace to develop virtue.
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What does Macintyre believe about historical context?
The historical context is important for understanding issues. He doesn't like 'quandary ethics' when're theories are tested by looking at implausible dilemmas. He still wants ethics to do its job; we understand the decisions people make contextually.
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What are relative values?
Different societies have different virtues, & virtues change over time and this can be seen by looking at different societies. He explains that ancient virtues (strength etc.) change as villages developed, and more value was placed on wisdom.
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What are internal and external goods?
Aristotle & Macintyre would call call the virtues of character 'internal goods'. We also place value on 'external goods'. Aristotle would ask if a house , clothes and food would make a poor person happier, if they would they are part of Eudaemonia.
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Summarise Macintyre's arguments.
He says that we value different qualities of character, practices and physical things, and that by understanding historical and social contact we can understand ethical issues that arise.
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What did Elizabeth Anscombe write in 'Modern Moral Philosophy'?
She was critical of a 'law conception of ethics' where the key focus was obligation and duty. Ethical codes which lay stress on moral absolutes and law were anachronistic in a society which has effectively abandoned God.
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Why has virtue ethics been criticised regarding ethical dilemmas?
They do not give clear answers to ethical issues, but it allows each of us to make our own responses to situations life throws at us. You might respond to a beggar by stopping and giving some time, talking etc. Not everyone needs to do the same thing
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What links can be found between virtue ethics and religion?
'Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.'- Jesus Christ 'If people do you good, you will do good to them.'- Mohammed 'Neither fire nor wind, nor birth nor death, can erase our good deeds.'- Buddha
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STRENGTHS: How has Alistair Macintyre supported VE?
He noted that many deontological theories of ethics are of little value as they are time-consuming and overly complex. A virtue-based approach to ethics is more realistic to people's everyday situations.
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STRENGTHS: How has Richard Taylor supported VE?
He rejected a system of morality which is based on divine commands and which decoupages people from achieving their potential. He also argued that Christianity does not encourage individuals to strive to be great but rather makes people settle lower.
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STRENGTHS: How does VE affect secular and religious morality?
It can be accepted by both. Jesus can be held up as an example of the virtuous person, in whom weakness becomes strength and death is transformed into life.
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STRENGTHS: How is VE effected by universal well-being?
It is a simple system BASED on universal well-being for the individual and the community. It does not set goals, and refers to people in the real world. It links theory and practical ethics-as you do things, you become a better person.
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STRENGTHS: How does Philippa Foot support VE:
She tries to modernise Aristotle. She believes that goodness should be seen as natural flourishing of humans as living beings. She believes that ethics should bot be about dry theorising but about making the world a better place. She founded Oxfam.
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STRENGTHS: Why can VE be seen as better than Aquinas' NML?
VE provides an alternative route in a way that is different from NML. It avoids the pitfalls of ethical systems that espouse moral absolutes & struggle with the consequences of those absolutes.
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WEAKNESSES: How does Walter Schaller criticise VE?
He argues that moral virtues have only 'instrumental or derivative value'. Virtue theory relies on a concept of duty, our responsibility for acting in a certain way, & the idea that there are moral norms or absolutes.
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WEAKNESSES: Martha Nussbaum interprets Aristotle's virtues in what way?
She interprets them as absolutes; she claims that justice, temperance, generosity etc. are essential elements of human flourishing across alls societies and throughout time. This is a sharp contrast to the general attitude among modern VE theorists.
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WEAKNESSES: How does Susan Wolf criticise seeing virtuous people as role models?
Not all virtuous people are a good role model. She writes 'I don't know whether there are moral saints, but if there are, I am glad that neither I nor those about whom I care most are among them.'
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WEAKNESSES: How does Julia Annas reject VE?
She rejects the idea that ancient virtues outdated. She suggests that there may well be some value in them, but she offers a warning '...there is another attitude, equally harmful, of romantic nostalgia... like much nostalgia, this is misplaced.'
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WEAKNESSES: What difficulties does Robert Louden identify within VE?
VE doesn't provide answers to specific moral dilemmas such as Euthanasia, and nor does it provide a list of intolerable acts such as murder which we might want to condemn outright. It is also difficult to decide who is virtuous.
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WEAKNESSES: What are some examples of further weaknesses of VT are there?
It is a selfish theory which places greater emphasis on personal development than the effect our actions have on others. It only has use for those with time to contemplate.
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A good conclusion...
VE is a weak theory because it is selfish in nature; a person must seek to better themselves, rather than care for others. Moreover, the characteristics Aristotle thought virtuous-courage a bravery- are masculine, and feminine qualities are left.
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Why is developing character important for VE?

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It is about the development of a person rather than about making rules to obey. This means becoming good by developing the characteristics of goodness- the virtues. Virtue is not about what people do, but about what kind of people they are.

Card 3

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What is the goal of virtue?

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Card 4

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What is Eudaemonia?

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Why is being virtuous important?

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