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Explain how Virtue ethics might be applied to issues raised by sexual relationships.

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Introduction

Explain how Virtue ethics might be applied to issues raised by sexual relationships. According to the theory of virtue ethics, the heart of morality is not found in actions, or in duties, but in the person performing the actions, the 'agent'. In other words, morality should concentrate on the person, and not necessarily on the choices they make in their moral behaviour. Ethical questions, therefore, should not debate whether a decision is morally right, but whether the individual is a good person. As a result, virtue ethics considers the personal character of the agent as primary importance: morality is involved with developing one's own virtues in order to become the right kind of person. Virtue ethics, does not ask 'what is the right thing to do?' but 'what sort of person should I aim to become?' It concentrates on being, rather than on doing, and in this way contrasts with other forms of ethics, such as Utilitarianism (the 'greatest happiness for the greatest number') and the Categorical Imperative (Kant), which aim to show how to discover the right course of action. ...read more.

Middle

However, in contrast, Plato considered that 'virtue' is 'knowledge' (which is gained by accessing the Realm of the Forms), and that no one willingly acted immorally: individuals acted wrongly due to ignorance (represented by the analogy of the cave), and if they could be brought to understand their error and to appreciate and understand what is 'right', then they would act accordingly - this approach is based on the Socratic concept that no one would choose what was 'not good' for one's self for the reason that if one commits a bad act then one harms one soul. In view of the information outlined above, it is apparent that by applying the theory of virtue ethics to issues raised by sexual relationships, the underlying factor in any such situation will concern promoting the concept of 'developing one's own virtues in order to become a better person'. However, by following this premise, one may argue that there is a direct contradiction, as what one may feel is right in order to become a better person, may not necessarily correspond to 'what the right thing to do is'. ...read more.

Conclusion

For example, in certain parts of India it used to be considered honourable and virtuous for a woman to throw herself onto her husband's funeral pyre and be burned to death with his body: such action in western democratic societies would be viewed upon as deplorable and immoral. Finally (as opposed to the statement outlined directly above), it may also be contended that virtue ethics is a very self-centred approach towards morality, on the grounds that it encourages putting oneself first, and choosing a course of action that will be the most beneficial to one's own character, with another person's needs coming second. In conclusion, although there are several advantages and disadvantages of applying the theory of virtue ethics to such issues as sexual relationships, my personal view is that such difficulties and differences (as highlighted above) must be resolved if virtue theory is to work in practice - this may involve using certain principles from other ethical systems such as utilitarianism or Kantian ethics in order to do so. Nevertheless, it must be remembered that virtue ethics raises the importance of the individual when many other ethical theories simply address acts and consequences. ...read more.

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