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Virtue ethics comes from the time of Aristotle and Plato but has only become popular again fairly recently. Virtue comes from the word 'arete' meaning excellence or virtue.

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1. Explain the theory of virtue ethics. 2. Virtue ethics is of little practical use to someone faced with a moral problem. Discuss. 1. Virtue ethics comes from the time of Aristotle and Plato but has only become popular again fairly recently. Virtue comes from the word 'arete' meaning excellence or virtue. Virtue ethics looks at a person as a whole and not just in their actions, or their choices of moral behaviour. Ethical questions should therefore not be about whether one choice or another is morally right, but whether the person making the decision is a good person. This is what matters because the person making the decisions is aiming to become a better person by developing their own virtues. Virtue ethics therefore asks the question 'what type of person should I aim to become?' rather than 'what is the morally right thing to do?' It concentrates on being rather than doing so contrasts with other forms of ethics, which look at what, would be the right course of action to take. Virtue ethics should not be considered completely different from other types of ethics. Kant and Bentham both wrote about what it is to be virtuous and tried to define virtues. ...read more.


In this way, future generations can be taught goodness from those that have gone before. It is argued that we can learn more about being virtuous by following and watching someone virtuous than being taught a set of rules to follow. For example, someone might have been told 'be kind to others' but they will no know how to unless they have been shown. Aristotle defines two types of virtues, intellectual and moral. We can be taught intellectual behaviour such as foreign languages but we learn moral virtues by living them. Virtue is something we acquire rather than being born with it according to Aristotle. This can be likened to a craftsman who learns by watching others and practising himself. Also the right actions have to be done with the right motives. The revival of virtue ethics was mainly due to the release of Elizabeth Anscombe's article 'Modern Moral Philosophy'. It claimed that the concept of moral rules and moral obligation is flawed. She criticised utilitarianism and Kant, which both set out principles for people to follow rather than looking at a person's character. She argued that the idea that we have a moral obligation to someone doesn't make sense unless the whole community believe in God. ...read more.


For Taylor, virtue ethics is a long overdue return to a system which has far more to offer the individual than Christianity. There are many problems with virtue ethics. Firstly for some virtues there are no midpoints; like for promise keeping or compassion. And for others it is hard to define where the midpoint is. Virtues also differ from society to society so it is hard to define what is virtuous in different places, jobs etc. Also, sometimes virtue ethics is of little use to someone who is in a moral dilemma. Some people say that morals cannot be separated altogether from rules so without rules we would not know whether a characteristic was to be judged as a virtue. Some people might say that virtue ethics is a selfish way of life; it concentrates on putting yourself first and choosing an action that is most beneficial to you. Also, a virtuous person cannot just be virtuous; they have to do the right thing at the right time, like saving a child from a fire. This act however can be done by an un-virtuous person and similarly, a virtuous person might not do anything. So in conclusion, virtue ethics looks at a person's character rather than a persons actions. If you are a moral person you are likely to do virtuous acts. ...read more.

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