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Assess The Strengths / Weaknesses Of Virtue Ethics

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Assess The Strengths / Weaknesses Of Virtue Ethics The virtue ethicist suggests that his theory avoids the complicated tasks of using a formula to figure out what we ought to do, by instead focusing on the kinds of persons we ought to be. The trouble lies in determining just how we know what kinds of persons we ought to be. Or, we might put it this way: how are we to determine just what the virtues are? Obviously, if we do not know what the virtues are, then telling people to "Live virtuously!" becomes an empty imperative. So, if we ask the virtue ethicist what the virtues are, what will he tell us? Virtue theorists answer this question in at least five different ways. Firstly, some virtue theorists suggest that we will know what the virtues are, we will know what the good life is. Secondly, some virtue theorists suggest instead that we can determine what the virtues are by figuring out what the excellent human life is. ...read more.


Fourthly, he might simply appeal to a formula like the categorical imperative or the utilitarian calculus. On this theory, he might argue that if we want to know what character traits are the moral ones, we just ask which ones maximise happiness and minimise harm for the greatest number. But this answer, only returns the virtue theorist to the very rule-based theories he tried to resist earlier. On this account virtue ethics just collapses into the rule-based systems. The final way in which the virtue theorist might try to determine what the virtues are that the good man can tell what to do in a morally complicated situation. This is because his habits not only internalise the rules but also give him a special ability to know what is morally appropriate independent of any rational calculus like Kant's. This could be called a form of moral intuitionism: a special faculty of moral intuition develops within a good man. ...read more.


the good action is its own reward. Doing good deeds, even grudgingly, can often produce within us a kind of satisfaction that is worth more than certain pleasures. Similarly, in moral action, we can internalise moral principles simply by doing the morally good deed and through the action itself come to understand its value and begin to desire it. However, virtue theory offers a great deal to moral psychology -it tells us how we in fact learn moral principles. This means that virtue ethics is less a normative theory of what we ought to do than a descriptive account of the limits and capabilities of human beings. If humans are creatures that tend toward habituation, then moral educators would do well to heed this fact in developing a moral curriculum. Then it also raises questions about whether calling virtue theory "ethics" is even appropriate. Since virtue theories fail to offer defensible moral norms that are distinguishable from their normative rivals, virtue theories are not really ethical theories at all. ...read more.

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