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Examine the key features of Virtue Ethics

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Introduction

Transfer-Encoding: chunked Examine the key features of Virtue Ethics (18) Evaluate the extent to which the selected theory can withstand criticism (12) Virtue Ethics is an ethical method that rejects the deontological ethics of Kant, the consequentialism of Utilitarianism and religious ethics as some ethicists were worried by an apparent lack of love, care and compassion in both of these moralities. ‘Virtue’ comes from the Greek word, arête, which means excellence, and centers on the character of the person making the moral decision rather than the action itself. Instead of focusing on the act, like deontology, it is agent-centered. ‘We are not concerned to know what goodness is but how to become good people, since otherwise our enquiry would be useless.’ Those such as Aristotle suggest that the ‘ethics of dilemma’ approach to morality forgets an essential part of ethics. A key feature of Virtue Ethics is eudaemonia, which Aristotle argued should be the superior aim of human life. Eudaemonia is achieved when we become virtuous and Aristotle argued that this is a process that we grow towards by practicing virtues. However, Aristotle noted that ‘happiness’ could be subjective, consequently leading him to define three types of pleasure. The three types of pleasure are, pleasure seekers, seekers of honour and those who love contemplation. ...read more.

Middle

Virtue Ethics was revised in the late 20th century by some leading ethicists, such as Elizabeth Anscombe, Alasdair Macintyre and Rosalind Hursthouse. Alasdair Macintyre was inspired by those such as Anscombe and tried to produce a version of the system after considering the history of Virtue Ethics, which can work in the modern age. Macintyre observed that ancient societies developed a series of virtues agreed by their inhabitants and the high point of this was the Athenian Virtues of Aristotle. The four versions of the Athenian virtues were Sophist, Platonic, Tragedian and Aristotelian. However, following the Enlightenment such virtues became displaced and rational philosophers ignored individual practice. A moral vacuum occurred where we were left with three archetypal characters, the bureaucratic manager, the rich aesthete, and the therapist. Macintyre argued that having a set of agreed virtues for our society could help to give life purpose and meaning. He suggested seven virtues, which are courage, temperance, wisdom, industriousness, hope and patience. Macintyre also used the idea of internal and external. An internal good is specific to the activity itself, for example, giving money to charity results in helping others and developing a sense of satisfaction. An external good is a good that is not specific to the act. For example, when giving to charity, your example may inspire others to do the same. ...read more.

Conclusion

But, virtue ethics stresses the importance of character ? someone who helps the poor out of compassion is morally superior to someone who helps out of moral duty. To Aristotle, personal and social flourishing is the final rational goal, and reason tames and moralizes the desires and appetites of the irrational part of our soul. Modern philosophers have placed too much emphasis on action and reason without emphasising socially agreed virtues. Robert Solomon, a modern virtue ethicist stated that, ?the very idea that the good person is one who acts according to the right principles?makes my blood run cold.? As one of the benefits of virtue ethics is that it emphasises the importance of the person who is the object of most moral discourse. To conclude, virtue ethics can withstand criticism to a large extent. While many may question the absence of systematized instructions, virtue ethics allows the agent to control their own morality, thus allowing them to grow as an individual. Aristotle connected emotions closely with judgment and belief, and held that they can be cultivated through moral education to be important components of a virtuous character. By placing emotions on a higher pedestal, emotions become intelligent parts of the moral personality, which can be cultivated through a process of moral education and produce moral agents who can experience emotions like fear and anger appropriately. Taking emotions out of an ethical theory reduces an individual to robotic qualities that are unrealistic and impracticable. ...read more.

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