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Virtue Ethics Notes

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Introduction

´╗┐VIRTUE ETHICS ? INTRODUCTION TO ETHICS WHAT IS IT? * Virtue ethics is a type of moral theory that emphasises the virtues, or moral character, in contrast to approaches that emphasise duties (deontology) or consequences (consequentialism). * This is the main approach to ethics taken by ancient thinkers (e.g. Aristotle [384-322 BC] in his Nicomachean Ethics). * A virtue-ethical account of moral rightness: An act is right if and only if it is what a virtuous agent (i.e., a person with excellent character traits) would characteristically (i.e., acting in character) do in the circumstances. * What sort of person should I be in order to ?live well? or ?flourish? as the kind of being I am (to possess eudaimonia)? ARISTOTLE * Aristotle: what we need, in order to live well, is a proper appreciation of the way in which such private and social goods as friendship, pleasure, virtue, honour and wealth fit together as a whole, and the ability to sustain an appropriate balance of such goods, by using reason. ...read more.

Middle

* To possess virtue is to be a certain sort of person with a certain complex mindset, a person who is able to discern the right thing to do, to feel motivated to do it, and hence to do it. * A virtue (including the attendant emotions) is not just a pattern of action but a ?way of seeing? the world and reasons for action in a certain way. FOUR KINDS OF MORAL AGENTS: * The virtuous do the right thing and get pleasure from doing so. * The strong-willed (the ?enkratic?) have to go against their inclinations to do the right thing, but do so through strength of will. * The weak-willed (the ?akratic?) recognise what?s good and right, but do the wrong thing against their better judgement because of stronger contrary inclinations. * The vicious are so twisted that they do the wrong thing and mistakenly think that it?s good of them to do so. ...read more.

Conclusion

* Nietzsche: Aristotle encourages insipid moderation in all things. This restricts the possibilities open to the soul. * Response: not so ? the mean is rarely at the exact mid-point between two vices. * Aristotle?s rule of thumb: the virtue is likely to lie further away from the vice towards which humans naturally tend. HOW DO WE TRANSFORM INCLINATIONS: * Aristotle: our feelings and emotional reactions are central to the moral life. We become good by transforming them. * How can we ? as full but less than fully virtuous moral agents ? apply this model to our own lives? Or is it too late for us? * Aristotle: it?s too late for the vicious; their characters are distorted in ways that take them beyond the pale. * Do as the virtuous person would do. Train yourself over time to be not just generous, but naturally generous (etc. etc.) and try to be sensitive to how all these qualities fit together with other valuable things in life. ...read more.

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