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Virtue Ethics

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Introduction

Virtue Ethics a) Explain the theory of Virtue Ethics. Virtue ethics is one of the three most popular approaches in normative ethics, the other two being deontological and teleological. Virtue Ethics dates right back to Plato and Aristotle (Aristotle in particular), who was a student of Plato whom went on to be a teacher of Alexander the Great. Virtue ethics rejects ideas such as moral relativism and situation ethics, as virtue ethics asks how you can be a better person. Not what the right thing to do is. Virtue ethics first started with Aristotle and his ideas of 'Eudaimonia' and the 'Golden Mean'. Eudaimonia is Aristotle's idea that everybody's aim in life is for a full and happy one. It is happiness, contentment, and fulfilment; it is the highest of good and the best kind of life, because we desire it for its own sake. The idea of this eudaimonistic ethics is that it reverses the relationship between virtue and rightness. Jeremy Bentham's ideas of utilitarianism would accept the virtue of kindness but only because it is likely to create consequences that would gain him utility. Therefore the virtue is only justified because of its consequence. But in eudaimonist virtue ethics these virtues are acceptable and justified because they create the elements of eudaimonia; such as wellbeing happiness etc. Alasdair MacIntyre looked at writings of the ancient Greeks, and saw the stories of Achillies and Odyessus; which show morality that 'you are what you do'. ...read more.

Middle

Philippa Foot changed peoples thoughts on Virtue Ethics when she wrote about how the concept of virtues were in the writings of Aquinas and Kant. However, she argued that although the theory of virtue ethics doesn't guarantee eudaimonia, it can be a part in accomplishing it. Richard Taylor argued that people shouldn't try to form themselves on Jesus, as an virtue it is damaged. He insisted that Christianity teaches people to think as everybody as an equal, therefore inferring that Christ is an equal, making the Western ethics useless. However, as Christianity teaches that because everyone is made in God's image, it doesn't mean that everyone has the same moral worth. There are advantages and criticisms to Virtue ethics. An advantage is that it is an ethical alternative that looks beyond religious ethics and fits Christian ethics. It looks at a key issue of what it means to be human, rather than looking simply for rules. It also is pragmatic as it can be understood very easily, and doesn't have any hidden meanings. It is the basic theory of being virtuous to achieve something people genuinely want, which is eudaimonia. Another advantage is that it provides a different view point on moral philosophy that avoids support moral absolutes and the hardship of their consequences. However there is also criticisms. One being a flaw in the ideas of the golden mean, there is not a golden mean for everything which MacIntyre pointed out, such as compassion and loyalty. ...read more.

Conclusion

The virtuous agent possesses the virtues and acts in accordance with them; therefore we would learn what to do by following their example. Virtue ethics puts a lot of pressure on the development of moral judgement. You cannot learn what to do by simply studying virtue ethics, as it cannot give us a simple easy answer. This is because these answers do not exist. Nonetheless, it can be action-guiding if we can learn to understand the role of the virtuous agent. If the virtue consists of the right reason and right desire, virtue ethics will be action-guiding when we recognize the right explanation and have come to terms with our desires and our commands. On this basis, we couldn't possible comment or attempt answering is virtue ethics of little practical use when facing a moral problem, as we simple could not know as we have not lived or live by virtue ethics. If we briefly looked at the situation without studying the facts of virtue ethics you could say that no, it is totally impractical and therefore I have no use for it. But as by going over the whole argument I would say if you included views on utilitarianism, that yes it would be of good use. Utilitarianism is about the consequences, the greater good for the majority. By taking aspects of utilitarianism in the example of the mother with the four children, she would let the other child die as she is safe (virtue ethics) and the majority of the children our safe (utilitarianism). ...read more.

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