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Virtue Ethics is of little use when applied to environmental issues

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Introduction

Virtue Ethics is of little use when applied to environmental issues The issues that are raised when discussing the protection of the environment, usually focuses on human activity, and the destruction of habitats such as the rainforest or marine environments. Therefore, the cause for concern is how humans ought to act towards the environment in which they live in. Virtue Ethics as opposed to normative ethics is an agent-centred theory which focuses on developing and cultivating ones virtues in order to reach happiness. There seems to be no direct link to issues concerning the environment; however if you ask yourself whether a virtuous person would damage the environment, there does appear to be a strong argument how virtue ethics is of use when applied to environmental issues. Aristotle argued the theory of virtues, using a teleological twist. He explains how we all aspire to become virtuous people in which a eudaimonia is the supreme good. This approach moves away from the ideas of normative theories such utilitarianism or natural law where responsibility to the environment is based upon duties or upon consequences. ...read more.

Middle

In the case of the environment Aristotle's vices can be applied. For example a complete neclect of the environment around you is a vice of deficiency; too much care for the environment that blinds you from reaching eudaimonia can be a vice of excess. Furthermore, Aquinas states that 'What you do is what you are' which suggests that your actions determine what kind of a person you are. This statement from Aquinas can be applied to environmental issues in the sense that caring and looking after the environment makes you a virtuous person. Virtue ethics also encourages virtues to be acquired by aspiring to virtuous people and modelling their virtuous behaviour. People such as St Francis of Assisi, who is known as the patron saint of animals and the environment, can be used as role modals to people in order to cultivate and develop their own virtues of compassion on environmental issues. Anscombe also contributes to argument. She explains how the way forward was 'human flourishing.' ...read more.

Conclusion

In addition he explains how normative ethics has distanced itself from real people and real issues by debating fine legalistic points which they will never agree on. Virtue Ethics asks a much more important question - what sort of person should I be? This question may have different answers depending where and when it is asked, but it gives real direction and purpose to people especially on environmental issues. Further thinkers such as Nussbaum argue that are absolutes; however it is virtues that have value, not rules. Nussbaum argues that we should strive to virtues not rules; therefore virtues are what we should consider when discussing environmental issues. In conclusion, it is evident that virtue ethics does respond confidently to these criticisms by drawing attention to the failings of deontological theories and 'consequentialist' positions. Virtue ethics is a reliable alternative to normative ethics; however its failure to give a clear set of guidelines related to environmental issues is possibly its biggest weakness. With this aside, the evidence presented does suggest virtue ethics to be of use when applied to environmental issues. ?? ?? ?? ?? Liam Taylor ...read more.

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