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In what ways did the historical context from which virtue ethics emerged shape its basic principles?

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Introduction

´╗┐Applied Definition 1: Virtue Ethics Phil 2303/ TuTh 1100-1215 Jessica Todd ________________ 1. In what ways did the historical context from which virtue ethics emerged shape its basic principles? Presocratics, regarded as the first philosophers, brought the term logos to philosophy (literal translation: ?word?; also denotes ?logic?, ?argument?, ?reason?. Aristotle?s concept of Virtue Ethics regards humans as rational animals, implying that ?logos? is purely a human trait. Known as Plato?s most gifted student, Aristotle disagreed with his teacher?s view that the ?essence of reality lies in some abstract world of Forms or Ideas? (Brannigan, 2005:60). Aristotle?s point of view directly contrasts his teacher?s, stating that the ?source of meaning comes from concrete, physical reality? (Brannigan, 2005:60). This direct contrast with Plato leads to Aristotle opening his own school, which he called the Lyceum. Aristotle?s Nichomachean Ethics is his literary formation of his ethical theories. Aristotle believes that ethics originate from real world experiences, that there is not a set of rules to apply to life that will mold us into ethical beings, but rather the ?individual exists in relationship with others? (Brannigan, 2005:61). Thus, ethics is based upon how the individuals relate to each other and the cultivation of good character. How do we cultivate good character? Aristotle states we must fulfill our human nature. He tells us that all things existing in nature have their own specific end purpose, which he refers to as telos (Greek term for specific end). ...read more.

Middle

This creates the assumption of a natural link between who we are and what we do, between being and doing. However, doing the right thing simply because you are following a rule or guideline does not make a virtuous person, thus placing the emphasis of Aristotle?s ethics on being rather than doing, meaning that an honest person will tell the truth because this person?s character/being is honest. The reverse of this would be a dishonest person will be dishonest, or a dishonest person will tell the truth because societal rules/guidelines say it?s the virtuous decision ? either way, a dishonest person?s being and character is still dishonest, regardless of whether this person tells the truth or not ? one act of virtue does not equal a virtuous person. ?Virtue then is a state of deliberate moral purpose, consisting in a mean relative to ourselves, the mean being determined by reason, or as a prudent man would determine it.? (Brannigan, 2005:88) 2. What would virtue ethics suggest should be done in response to the dilemma of the school child who was made to turn his shirt inside out? Why? Virtue ethics really focuses on ?the golden mean?, which is achieved through rational and logical thinking. By avoiding extremes habitually when making decisions, ?the golden mean? can be achieved, leading to a virtuous person, and ultimately happiness and telos; this is the only way to truly achieve the ultimate goal of happiness and virtue. ...read more.

Conclusion

I feel like good people can and do make ignorant, unethical, or bad choices; vice versa being true as well. While I believe that being and doing definitely shape each other, I do not feel that one is formed ultimately by the other. As far as what I feel should have been done in this situation, I agree with the principal?s decision. Maybe the code needs refined a little, but your 5 year old having to turn his/her shirt inside out is a much better option than your 5 year old getting shot because the shirt holds a different meaning to a gang member. In class, it was argued that the University of Michigan?s logo held no meaning to the local gangs, but that does not eliminate the possibility of the logo being mistaken for something else, or even influencing a gang we don?t know about. The possibility that your child?s safety is in question should be plenty enough reason for the parents to, at the very least, complain to the school board instead of the media. The fact that the parents brought the media into the situation, I feel, decreases the credibility of their complaint, especially since they ultimately prospered from the incident and the resulting media attention (game tickets, university apparel, and so on). If the principal had ignored the shirt, let the child wear it throughout the day, and then the child became the victim of gang-related violence because of his shirt, I?m sure the parents would hold a different view-point about the rule ? and still end up bringing the issue to the media?s attention. ...read more.

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