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Aristotle's Virtue Ethics

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Aristotle's Virtue Ethics Virtue ethics denies that any ethical theories or systems are valid, relevant, adequate or helpful. It is not a normative branch of philosophy, like Utilitarian or Kantian ethics. As its name suggests, it calls upon the character of a person (moral agent) to deal with the moral problem instead of applying some fixed set of codes or theories. Hence, if a person lies, you cannot deem his action as right or wrong. He is just dishonest, which is his character. An ethical person is thus, an individual who is able to develop a desirable character. Which leads us to the next question...what virtues are desirable? Before answering the question above, it seems we have to define what virtue is. Over the years people have suggested various cardinal virtues, but I do not think there is a set of virtues we must follow and find the Greek philosopher, Aristotle's arguments more convincing. ...read more.


Therefore this idea of doing what is right is dependent on the 'education of character'. An example to show this, is when A deals honestly with B; not because they will achieve 'the greatest happiness for the greatest number' (Bentham), or because it is their 'duty' (Kant) to do so. A acts honestly because it is in their character, and allows them to express themselves as a virtuous person. So now we know that a moral life; according to Aristotle's theory, is not attained through obedience to rules; but through that beings own desire to and motivation to achieve happiness. We have the ability to reason, as well as the sense to obey reason. Thus, there are two branches of virtue; the virtue of intellect (wisdom) and the virtue of character (generosity), both of which are equally valuable. Reason again must play a part in controlling these virtues, especially those of character, and in achieving them. ...read more.


However, this virtuous person would not feel this anger at trivial matters, but, say when they are witnessing an appalling injustice or cruelty. Aristotle's third condition of the mean is that it only applies to actions that have a scale of value, or initiate a range of emotions, varying from excess to deficiency. There is no 'mean' emotion to be felt regarding issues such as adultery or murder. One cannot have a 'little bit' of an affair, or moderately murder some one; you either do it, or you don't, and no matter how short the affair is, it is still regarded as a shameless act. Finally, and most importantly, one has to be able to distinguish between a person's real internal desire to do good and act virtuously, and a person who is just acting in conformity of virtue. In other words, the individual must act virtuously upon their own free will, and not be swayed by others opinions. If they follow these conditions, and follow the mean, they will achieve a great feeling of 'telos of their being', and happiness. Anam Khan Keswick House, 6'1 ...read more.

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