• 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
• Virtue can sound old fashion but
the Greek word ‘Arête’ means
• Being Virtuous is the achievement of
man’s highest good
• Right cultivation of the soul
• Happiness gained through pursuing
• Temperance, courage, wisdom and
justice (Cardinal Virtues) are the
• These virtues work together: not
enough to have just one alone.
• When these virtues are in balance =
• Central philosopher of virtue ethics
• Final end of human activity is to
achieve happiness – eudaimonia
• Discusses the character traits of a
person going to achieve eudaimonia.
• Virtues which shape human character
and ultimately human behaviour –
• Aretaic Ethics – based on excellence
of person’s character
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
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
1. Have a sly glance at someone
2. Send a naughty text message
3. Have a cheeky kiss
4. Extra marital affair
• Intellectual virtues:
• To become virtuous
is like playing a
= needs teaching
• Moral Virtues: habit.
• E.g. habit of being
generous rather than
just being told to be
• 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
• Virtue is to be found in the Golden Mean
• This involves finding the balance between
• This is best way to live in society
(polis) as extremes of character are
• Virtues are to be
found between two
• Both involves a
deficiency and excess
• Mean is not the same for
everyone and depends on
• You need to apply
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
• 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.
• Paper (1958) ‘Modern Moral
• 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
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
courage to kill
• Make the
world a better
place (one of
• 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.
•What it is to be
• Evaluate actions according to inner
life and motive of people that do
• 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
describe an action
rather than ‘good’ or
‘excellent’ which need
inner trait or
• 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
• Being virtuous is most reliable path
• Problem with Aristotle's VE =
ignores his other views towards
• Utilitarian Virtue
• Try to bring greatest
good for the greatest
• Best way to bring
about the greatest
good by developing
• 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
• Every aspect of our lives is involved e.g. family,
friends, community, emotions, responsibilities – so
is more intune with how people react in ethical
• Virtue ethics does not give us concrete answers so
is hard to apply to situations like: stem cell research
• Robert Louden argues that virtue ethics does not
help people facing a crisis because no clear set rules
• 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
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