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Virtue Ethics
The Ethics of Dilemma

Would you push the fat man
from the bridge?

Would you tell lie
to the murderer, to
save the victim...
Virtue Ethics rejects Ethics of Dilemma
approach:
VIRTUE
Deontological

Consequentialism

Jeremy Bentham

Immanuel Kant

A...
The Elephant & The Rider
‘The image that I came up with for myself,
as I marvelled at my weakness, was that I was
a rider on the back of an elephan...
Most of us are too familiar with situations in which
our Elephant overpowers our Rider. You’ve
experienced this if you’ve ...
The Rider and Ethics
I should act rationally …
Maybe I’ll consider the
maxim by which I’m
acting, universalise it, and
see...
The Elephant and Ethics
What do you think will happen to all
the Rider’s good ideas?

When do I eat next?
I’m tired …
*win...
Agent Centered
(Not Act Centered)
We are not concerned
to know what goodness
is but how to become
good people, since
other...
Aristotle
Arete:translates from the Greek as “excellence,” or
“virtue”.
The Excellence of …

… to fly

… to be brave

… to...
Aristotle

?

How do you think you could become
“excellent” at being human?
Aristotle
• Humanity has an essence or function
• Arete: The function of human beings is to use
their reason in pursuit of...
The Nature of Virtue Ethics
• Virtue Ethics claims that it is important to not
only do the right thing, but also to have t...
Groundhog Day … Again.

Phil gets a lot of time to practice living through
one day … what does he choose to get better at?
Groundhog Day … Again.
And where does it get him in the end?
A Virtuous Character
• We are judged by our character, not specific
actions.
• An individual who has developed excellent
c...
Character?
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Virtue ethics

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A presentation on "Virtue Ethics" for a Year 10 class. Differentiating agent based ethics from act theories (utilitarianism and deontology).

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Virtue ethics

  1. 1. Virtue Ethics
  2. 2. The Ethics of Dilemma Would you push the fat man from the bridge? Would you tell lie to the murderer, to save the victim? Would you pull the lever to save 5? Would you blow up the ferry of prisoners?
  3. 3. Virtue Ethics rejects Ethics of Dilemma approach: VIRTUE Deontological Consequentialism Jeremy Bentham Immanuel Kant ARISTOTLE
  4. 4. The Elephant & The Rider
  5. 5. ‘The image that I came up with for myself, as I marvelled at my weakness, was that I was a rider on the back of an elephant. I’m holding the reins in my hands, and by pulling one way or the other I can tell the elephant to turn, to stop, or to go. I can direct things, but only when the elephant doesn’t have desires of his own. When the elephant really wants to do something, I’m no match for him.’ Jonathan Haidt – The Happiness Hypothesis
  6. 6. Most of us are too familiar with situations in which our Elephant overpowers our Rider. You’ve experienced this if you’ve ever slept in, overeaten, dialed up your ex at midnight, procrastinated, tried to quit smoking and failed, skipped the gym, gotten angry and said something you regretted, abandoned your Spanish or piano lessons, refused to speak up in a meeting because you were scared, and so on. Dan Heath & Chip Heath - Switch
  7. 7. The Rider and Ethics I should act rationally … Maybe I’ll consider the maxim by which I’m acting, universalise it, and see if I reach a contradiction? But hang on, let’s think about this … surely it just makes sense to act in a way which makes most people happy?
  8. 8. The Elephant and Ethics What do you think will happen to all the Rider’s good ideas? When do I eat next? I’m tired … *wink* Hey good lookin Screw you! You want some of this tusk, eh?! Geez I’m scared – run away!!!
  9. 9. Agent Centered (Not Act Centered) We are not concerned to know what goodness is but how to become good people, since otherwise our enquiry would be useless. (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics) The ethical condition is not the condition of having a certain right theory; rather the ethical condition is having a certain character. (Alasdair MacIntryre, After Virtue) In your own words, what is each author saying? How might you relate this to the Rider and the Elephant?
  10. 10. Aristotle Arete:translates from the Greek as “excellence,” or “virtue”. The Excellence of … … to fly … to be brave … to hold liquid
  11. 11. Aristotle ? How do you think you could become “excellent” at being human?
  12. 12. Aristotle • Humanity has an essence or function • Arete: The function of human beings is to use their reason in pursuit of the good life (virtue) • Moral virtues are different from intellectual ones: they require practice! (training the elephant) • By living well, we acquire the right habits • These habits are the virtues • A virtuous life is a happy life
  13. 13. The Nature of Virtue Ethics • Virtue Ethics claims that it is important to not only do the right thing, but also to have the correct disposition, motivation, and emotion in being good and doing right • Virtue Ethics is not only about actions, but having a “moral character” – one which feels the right thing at the right time, and acts accordingly • Practice: Virtues don’t come “built in” – they must be practiced again and again.
  14. 14. Groundhog Day … Again. Phil gets a lot of time to practice living through one day … what does he choose to get better at?
  15. 15. Groundhog Day … Again. And where does it get him in the end?
  16. 16. A Virtuous Character • We are judged by our character, not specific actions. • An individual who has developed excellent character traits (virtues) is judged as a morally good person. • An individual who has developed poor character traits (vices) is judged as a morally bad person • Virtue is about the whole person.
  17. 17. Character?

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