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Aristotle - Virtue Ethics Essay

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Introduction

ARISTOTLE - VIRTUE ETHICS ESSAY Timothy Pruss QUESTION A: How does one apply virtue ethics to business ethics? When considering Aristotelian ethics and then placing them in the context of modern business practices, it is important to note that the Greek paradigm was very different to that of our own in the modernist age. Homer's Greek myths, imminent wars and conflicts and empires were all important issues in Greek times, society however does not place such emphasis on these in today's society. The concept of strong bonds in a community where individuals must dutifully care for one another is not integral in today's society especially in a more capitalist society upon which the western world works and flourishes. Individuals in a community can live without the obligation of duty to others and without pride if they so wish. In light of this, it is worth noting that business practice and transaction in accordance with Aristotelian ethics would not be very common in the modern age. Aristotelian ethics centred round the concept of improving one' self - to quite literally make oneself more virtuous. To become more virtuous is to improve one's soul - the soul for Aristotle is split into two halves, - the irrational soul which focuses around the human desires and the rational soul which centres on the intellectual virtues. ...read more.

Middle

Moreover, Kant's ethical theory rules any sort of emotion when making a moral decision. This is not human nature - few people would claim to act purely through duty, and not through emotion. This is where virtue ethics is more realistic and accessible to the individual than Kantian ethics. With virtue ethics, emotion is very much involved because of the desire and want to improve oneself - emotion does not have to be a hindrance in making a moral decision - (it could potentially), but for many people, a moral decision will require some sort of emotional stigma, and to make it through reason alone is nonsensical. Utilitarianism like the other ethical theories has its strengths and weaknesses as well. The strengths are undoubtedly that the best interests for the majority are accounted for. When making a moral decision, it could be argued that this is instrumental, because as many people as possible are benefiting from the decision. However, the minority are blatantly discriminated against; while the majority are benefiting from the greatest good provided by the individual making the moral decision, the minority will suffer and thus not at all benefit. Moreover, Bentham's hedonic calculus (which gives a quantitative measure of the happiness potentially generated by making a particular moral action) is not at all appropriate for making a moral decision. This consequentialist view is undermined by basing a decision upon mere happiness that may come about as a result. ...read more.

Conclusion

Hence, when solving a moral situation, virtue ethics can be attractive because it appeals to the part of oneself which wants to improve. However, it can be very ambiguous to what course of action would actually develop this whilst Natural Law would seem to be more specific and 'helpful'. Moreover, passages from religious text such as the Bible would be more helpful to an individual. For example, the tale of the suffering of Job in the Old Testament is an inspiring tale for religious believers facing a moral dilemma about belief. It can be seen therefore that virtue ethics could be very helpful when making a moral decision - its dynamic nature especially makes it more appealing. However, to say that it provides a better 'moral guide than any other ethical theory or religious standpoint could' is not at all the case. Virtue ethics is too elitist, and while the concept of flourishing is integral in the theory; few will actually flourish. Moreover, it is promotes a selfish desire to better oneself, (which is not at all bad idea in many cases) but it could well be seen as elitist and exploitative. Bertrand Russell is too extreme when he states that Virtue Ethics is 'morally repugnant' but the basis upon which he makes such a claim can be seen and understood because of dated inequality of the ethical theory. ...read more.

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