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Virtue Ethics

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Mike Bailey

on 4 October 2018

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Transcript of Virtue Ethics

Tragic dilemmas:
Are there situations in which there is no morally praiseworthy action?

Problems for Virtue Ethics
Moral understanding requires emotional maturity:
Emotions help us see what is morally relevant.
Emotions help us to tell what is right and wrong.
Emotions motivate us to do the right thing.

Moral Understanding and Moral Education
Virtue ethics is a form of
ethical pluralism
: There is a moral rule corresponding to each virtue.

There are many moral rules of thumb, but strict obedience to rules is bound to lead us into error.

Morality is an imprecise discipline.

Moral Complexity
Are actions morally right because virtuous people perform them?

Or do virtuous people perform actions because those actions are right?

The Priority Problem
To avoid contradictions, virtue ethicists should say:
Avoiding Contradiction

Virtues are complex character traits that affect a person's perceptions, thoughts, motives, and behavior.
The Nature of Virtue
According to virtue ethics:
An act is morally right just because it is the one that a virtuous person, acting in character, would do in that situation.

Virtue Ethics
Most moral theories
: What is the right thing to do?
A Different Starting Point for Ethics

Virtue Ethics
Nicomachean Ethics
(384BCE - 322BCE)
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."
A similar problem faced the Divine Command Theory.
If we accept the second option, we must give up on virtue ethics.

"Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right."
- Isaac Asimov

The aim of these theories is to discover the conditions and character traits that contribute to human flourishing.
The virtuous person is a
moral exemplar
, someone who sets a fine example and serves as a role model for the rest of us.

Virtue can be acquired only by training, experience, and practice.
Aristotle thought that the virtues are the character traits that are necessary to achieve
—happiness or flourishing.
Virtue ethics and moral guidance:
Does virtue ethics give us sufficient advice about how to live?
Virtue ethics can be demanding.
Does morality really require the enormous sacrifices made by virtuous people?
Virtue ethics and moral role models.
How do we choose a person who is to serve as a moral exemplar?
An act in a given situation is
morally permitted
just because some but not all virtuous people, acting in character, would perform it.
An act in a given situation is
morally required
just because all virtuous people, acting in character, would perform it.
An act in a given situation is
morally forbidden
just because no virtuous person would perform it.
How virtue is acquired
Know which action is right.
To be a virtuous person, one must:
Do the right action for its own sake.
Do the right action from a “firm and unchangeable character.”
A state of character.
Characterized by taking pleasure in performing right actions.
Concerned with choosing the mean between extremes.
[Extreme of deficiency]
[Extreme of excess]
virtuous by performing virtuous acts, but performing virtuous acts is
not enough
to be virtuous.
Virtue is not:
contrary to nature
Virtue is learned
Virtue ethics
: What kind of person should I be?
from the Greek - "to make sharp"
Full transcript