4-18 virtue ethics
virtue ethics <ul><li>is one of the three major approaches in normative ethics (although it is by far the least popular) <...
three central concepts <ul><li>arete (virtue) </li></ul><ul><li>phronesis (moral or practical wisdom) </li></ul><ul><li>eu...
virtue <ul><li>virtue is not merely a tendency, nor is it (exactly) a desirable or morally valuable character trait </li><...
moral or practical wisdom <ul><li>just because someone has some specific virtue does not make them a morally virtuous pers...
eudaimonia <ul><li>can be translated as “happiness,” “flourishing,” or “well-being.”  each has benefits and drawbacks. </l...
aristotle’s virtue ethics <ul><li>virtues are those things which allow human beings to live well in a society, hence polit...
some general claims <ul><li>“ [ethical cases] do not fall under any art or law, but the actors themselves have always to t...
criticisms of virtue ethics <ul><li>virtue ethics is anti-codifiable.  it does not allow for the expression of specific ru...
responses <ul><li>codifiability:  there simply are no simple rules that guide action.  what we do have are ideas about wha...
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4-18

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4-18

  1. 1. 4-18 virtue ethics
  2. 2. virtue ethics <ul><li>is one of the three major approaches in normative ethics (although it is by far the least popular) </li></ul><ul><li>is different from other ethical systems which concentrate on how one should act, whether in accordance with duty or as determined by the consequence of the action </li></ul><ul><li>virtue ethics concentrates on how one should be </li></ul><ul><li>is teleologically driven; it is concerned with the proper ends of a human being </li></ul><ul><li>what makes someone moral is that they have some virtue, some character trait, that is a disposition to act in a certain kind of way </li></ul>
  3. 3. three central concepts <ul><li>arete (virtue) </li></ul><ul><li>phronesis (moral or practical wisdom) </li></ul><ul><li>eudaimonia (happiness) </li></ul>
  4. 4. virtue <ul><li>virtue is not merely a tendency, nor is it (exactly) a desirable or morally valuable character trait </li></ul><ul><li>it is a trait that “goes all the way down” </li></ul><ul><li>it is multi-track; that is, it is not related to any one certain kind of action. rather it is connected to many other actions as well, with emotions and emotional reactions, choices, values, desires, perceptions, attitudes, interests, expectations and sensibilities. hence, virtue can never be decided based on any single action. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>for example, acting honestly does not guarantee that one is an honest person. one must act honestly because to do otherwise would be dishonest and not because of a rule or consequence </li></ul></ul><ul><li>virtue is often a matter of degree </li></ul>
  5. 5. moral or practical wisdom <ul><li>just because someone has some specific virtue does not make them a morally virtuous person </li></ul><ul><li>virtues can be taken too far: someone can be so generous that their children go hungry; a criminal can be very courageous, thus enabling him to better commit crimes; etc. </li></ul><ul><li>what is needed is the wisdom to know when it is appropriate to exercise particular virtues </li></ul><ul><li>best example is the idea of a moral adult versus (merely) nice children. children are not held accountable the way adults are, and this is precisely because they are not thought of as having the necessary wisdom needed to know how implement virtues. that is why it is not uncommon for children to actually harm those they intend to help </li></ul>
  6. 6. eudaimonia <ul><li>can be translated as “happiness,” “flourishing,” or “well-being.” each has benefits and drawbacks. </li></ul><ul><li>might be thought of as the kind of happiness that is worth having, a “supreme good” </li></ul><ul><li>wisely exercising virtue is necessary for the eudaimon life </li></ul><ul><li>there is debate among v-ethicists as to whether being virtuous is merely necessary or is both necessary and sufficient for eudaimonia </li></ul>
  7. 7. aristotle’s virtue ethics <ul><li>virtues are those things which allow human beings to live well in a society, hence politics is the science of the good for humanity </li></ul><ul><li>while all actions aim at some end, and these ends may often be described as some good, there must be some ultimate Good at which all human action is directed </li></ul>
  8. 8. some general claims <ul><li>“ [ethical cases] do not fall under any art or law, but the actors themselves have always to take account of circumstances, as much as in medicine or navigation” (444). </li></ul><ul><ul><li>the point here is that there are no explicit rules that one can follow that guarantee being virtuous </li></ul></ul><ul><li>too much or too little of anything is bad. hence, we must attempt to find some middle road, the “golden mean.” </li></ul><ul><li>we become virtuous by acting virtuous, that is, we become virtuous out of habit. </li></ul>
  9. 9. criticisms of virtue ethics <ul><li>virtue ethics is anti-codifiable. it does not allow for the expression of specific rules that would guide action. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>as deontologists and utilitarians are concerned with generating universal rules of conduct that can be employed by everyone, they are disdainful of a system of ethics that does not provide any such rules </li></ul></ul><ul><li>there is the problem cultural relativism: as all cultures have different virtues what is virtuous will vary from culture to culture. thus, as a normative system, virtue ethics fails </li></ul><ul><li>there is a problem of conflict. there are cases when different virtues will require different responses. at such a time there is no way to determine what the moral thing to do is. </li></ul><ul><li>how do we ground our ideas of what dispositions are virtues? what is the justification for calling honesty a virtue? </li></ul>
  10. 10. responses <ul><li>codifiability: there simply are no simple rules that guide action. what we do have are ideas about what we shouldn’t do. that is why our language has more words for vices than virtues; it is also why we need moral wisdom </li></ul><ul><ul><li>much invaluable action guidance comes from avoiding courses of action that would be irresponsible, feckless, lazy, inconsiderate, uncooperative, harsh, intolerant, selfish, mercenary, indiscreet, tactless, arrogant, unsympathetic, cold, incautious, unenterprising, pusillanimous, feeble, presumptuous, rude, hypocritical, self-indulgent, materialistic, grasping, short-sighted, vindictive, calculating, ungrateful, grudging, brutal, profligate, disloyal, and on and on. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>cultural relativism: such is a problem for all normative ethics. one proposed solution is that there really are genuine virtues that apply to all, but there is disagreement as to which virtues these are </li></ul><ul><li>conflict: such problems exist for all systems. this is why moral wisdom is of utmost importance </li></ul><ul><li>justification: again, this is problem for all systems. however, there are some v-ethicists who claim that we can find justification for virtue ethics in evolutionary theory and psychology </li></ul>

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