Virtue Ethics (OCR exam board)


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Virtue Ethics (OCR exam board)

  1. 1. Virtue
  2. 2. Virtue Ethics • What makes a good person based on their qualities or virtues. • It is agent centred morality rather than act centred – asks “what sort of person ought I to be?” • Virtue can sound old fashion but the Greek word ‘Arête’ means EXCELLENCE.
  3. 3. Plato • Being Virtuous is the achievement of man’s highest good • Right cultivation of the soul • Happiness gained through pursuing virtues • Temperance, courage, wisdom and justice (Cardinal Virtues) are the central virtues • These virtues work together: not enough to have just one alone. • When these virtues are in balance = good person.
  4. 4. Aristotle • Central philosopher of virtue ethics • Final end of human activity is to achieve happiness – eudaimonia (human flourishing) • Discusses the character traits of a person going to achieve eudaimonia. • Virtues which shape human character and ultimately human behaviour – agent centred • Aretaic Ethics – based on excellence of person’s character
  5. 5. Pattern of Behaviour • Pattern of behaviour: start with a simple unrelated action leads to a pattern of behaviour – repeatedly doing wrong actions that escalate and become worse – • This leads to a pattern of un-virtuous actions Example: 1. Put your can in the recycle bin 2. Buy low energy light bulbs 3. Walk to work instead of catching the bus 4. Donate money to environmental charities Or 1. Have a sly glance at someone 2. Send a naughty text message 3. Have a cheeky kiss 4. Extra marital affair
  6. 6. Aristotle’s Virtues Intellectual Virtues • Intellectual virtues: training/ education • To become virtuous is like playing a musical instrument = needs teaching and practise Moral virtues • Moral Virtues: habit. • E.g. habit of being generous rather than just being told to be generous • All people have the potential to develop moral and intellectual virtues only a few actually achieve this. • Depends on social factors: where brought up and live. • Eudaimonia is reached when someone uses their reason well • REASON is the supreme human virtue. • Reason is practical and involves both understanding and responding.
  7. 7. Golden Mean • Virtue is to be found in the Golden Mean • This involves finding the balance between two means • This is best way to live in society (polis) as extremes of character are unhelpful • Virtues are to be found between two vices • Both involves a deficiency and excess • Mean is not the same for everyone and depends on circumstance. • You need to apply phronesis (practical wisdom) to decide on right course of action • Phronesis is acquired as we grow up and move away from rules and the demands of authority figures to a more autonomous, person centred and virtue centred morality.
  8. 8. Virtuous People • Virtue acquired through doing. • One way to learn how to be virtuous is to follow the example of virtuous people. • Watching others and imitating them = best way to learn. Not all ‘perfect people’ but they challenge us to go beyond the minimum – to aspire to ‘moral heights’ to see what can be achieved. Jesus, Gandhi, Socrates, Nelson Mandela possible examples of moral excellence.
  9. 9. G.E.M. Anscombe • Paper (1958) ‘Modern Moral Philosophy.’ • Modern moral philosophy misguided • Ethics often based on moral laws set down by God. • She suggests that the idea of eudaimonia does NOT need lawgiver. • Both Kantian Ethics and Utilitarianism do not depend on God but they are still act based and ignore the person who acts • Act based ethics do not make sense because ignores a belief people no longer hold (that God exists as the Lawgiver who rewards and punishes actions).
  10. 10. Philippa Foot Modernise Aristotle's Virtue Ethics whilst maintaining Aristotelian understanding of character/ applying reason/ benefiting the community as well as individual. • A Virtue is not a virtue if is used to a bad end e.g. honesty to hurt someone’s feelings or courage to kill someone. • Virtuous person does far more than conform to the convention s of society. (E.g. Rosa Parks/ Oscar Schindler) • Make the world a better place (one of the founders of Oxfam)
  11. 11. MacIntyre • Book ‘After Virtue’ • Ethical theories just result in ethical disagreements • Now people believe there are no moral truths • Wants to restore idea that morality should be seen in terms of human purpose • Virtues improve and evolve over time • Different societies have different values. • For example: Difference between Homeric virtues (strength, courage, honour) and Aristotelian ( courage, justice, temperance) • He believes that today’s attitudes based on Emotivism: moral statements are not true or false but simple express the feelings and attitudes of speaker.
  12. 12. Michael Slote Agent focused: •What it is to be a virtuous person/ inner dispositions (Aristotelian Ethics.) Agent based: • Evaluate actions according to inner life and motive of people that do such actions. • We can identify virtues like compassion by looking at people we admire = role models Made a distinction between: • Based on common sense ideas and intuitions about what counts as a virtue. • Prefers to use word ‘admirable’ to describe an action rather than ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ which need qualifying and explaining. Virtue “an inner trait or disposition of the individual.”
  13. 13. Rosalind Hursthouse • Virtues are virtues if they help that person reach eudaimonia • So living a good life is a good thing for a human being • Virtuous person's practical reasoning shapes characteristics rather than simple actions or attitudes. • Being virtuous is most reliable path to flourishing • Problem with Aristotle's VE = ignores his other views towards women/ slaves.
  14. 14. Benjamin Franklin • Utilitarian Virtue Theorist • Try to bring greatest good for the greatest number • Best way to bring about the greatest good by developing virtues.
  15. 15. Strengths • Avoids use of a formula (e.g. hedonic calculus) = focuses instead on what kind of person ought I be • Distinguishes between people that are good and people that just follow the law. • Motivating people to be good • Stresses importance of education in showing that good can be taught/ learnt • Involves our entire lives – whole life process • Even mundane opportunities gives us chance to practise virtues • Every aspect of our lives is involved e.g. family, friends, community, emotions, responsibilities – so is more intune with how people react in ethical dilemmas.
  16. 16. Weaknesses • Virtue ethics does not give us concrete answers so is hard to apply to situations like: stem cell research or abortion. • Robert Louden argues that virtue ethics does not help people facing a crisis because no clear set rules for action. • Virtue ethics seems to praise some virtues that we might see as immoral e.g. soldier fighting unjust wars may be courageous but not morally good. • Louden also points out that it is difficult to decide who is virtuous, as acts which appear virtuous on the outside may not necessarily have good motives e.g Bono (??)
  17. 17. HTTPS://ITHINKTHEREF OREITEACH.WORDPRES S.COM/ If you would like further information please follow the link below to my blog: