Essay: Virtue Ethics

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Virtue Ethics

Over the centuries philosophers have argued about the most ethical ways that humankind should interact with the world around them. Where, number of different theories have emerged to help guide everyone as to the most appropriate way to act within a society. In some cases, these theories have often been reliant on rules to set the most appropriate social norms. While at the same time, others have relied on instilling virtue and morals, as the best way for people to interact with the world around them. As a result, this has led to the creation of virtual ethics, as the most appropriate way for someone to live their life and interact within society. To fully understand how this form of ethics has helped to provide the best kinds of guidance requires: a careful understanding of the key terms and the overall weaknesses of this theory. This will provide the greatest insights as to how virtual ethics has helped to shape the world around us and when it can be used to help you determine the most appropriate course of action (in a variety of situations).

Key Terms

Virtue ethics is concerned with the morals of a person and how they are used in a variety of real world situation. This is different from other forms of thinking where various rules or consequences were established to effectively guide the overall actions of individuals. There are several key terms that are included as a part of virtue ethics the most notable would include: virtue, morals and moral principals. A virtue is when there is a particular trait that will help everyone determine the most appropriate way to behave. Where, there is a character trait (commonly called a disposition). ("Virtue Ethics" 194 -- 196) This is when someone is preconceived to act in a particular way towards a given situation, by showing the courage to stand up for what they believe. You must then exercise these amounts of courage consistently. Over the course of time, when someone engages in such actions they will begin to consistently shown the signs of virtue. Once this take place, the person will begin to feel a sense of goodness, as they are able to see that their actions are having a positive impact upon the world around them. A moral standard is when there are preconceived notions, where everyone is taught about what is right and what is wrong. In general, these standards are taught to us by society, friends and family throughout the course of our lives. A moral principal is a socially accepted rule for the most appropriate way to act within a particular social group.

Under the virtue theory of philosophy, everyone must act in the most morally correct way at all times. According the father of this form of thinking Aristotle, the person who exercises this form of moral thought has a sense of enlightenment. Because they know that they are superior to others in many ways. Instead of trying to use this to build their ego, these people focus their strengths on helping to improve the world around them. Where, a detached attitude will develop as the person can be able to see beyond their own personal ambitions. This attitude allows them to be able to have moral clarity because someone will not become caught up in the emotionalism that often accompanies many different situations. A good example of this can be seen when Aristotle said, "A virtuous man will have a moderate attitude towards riches and power and every sort of good and bad fortune, however it turns out." ("Virtue Ethics" 198). What this is saying is that because someone could be disconnected from the emotionalism of particular events, they can be able to make the most morally correct decision. This is because the overall emotions of different situations will not sway their opinion (allowing them to make the most morally correct decision). A second principal that was emphasized by Aristotle was the golden mean. This is when there must be a balance between the different virtues. For example, courage is considered to be a virtue. Yet, not consistently practicing this virtue will lead to spineless traits. While, having to much can mean that you are out of control. The key is to have a balance between both. This is the point that true courage can be realized. (Wattles 37 -- 39) Using some of the different terms from the moral list there are both permissible and impermissible actions within society. A few of the most morally permissible actions would include: honesty, love, integrity and devotion. Some of the most morally impermissible actions would include: lying, corruption, stealing and cheating. Under the theory of virtue ethics, someone who is morally superior will avoid the different positive or negative emotions tied to various events. This detachment allows them to easily see the most correct course of action that will do the greatest amounts of good. This is due to the fact that the different emotions are not allowing someone to be swayed in one direction or the other. As result, this is one of the reasons why I say that the virtue ethics is far superior to other forms of ethical thinking. Where, one can be able to separate themselves from the different emotional events to determine how their actions will impact everyone. When you take a big picture point-of-view, the chances increase dramatically that you are engaging in actions that will be a win-win situation for everyone.

Objections / Weakness of the Virtue Theory

Like all forms of philosophy virtue ethics has its fair share of weaknesses the most notable would include: misinterpretations could apply to different situations, there is a lack of resources / experience to build off of and the different ideas provide a nice general outline but in the real world they conflict. When looking at the first drawback, misinterpretations could apply to different situations, it is clear that this can occur on a regular basis. (Swanton 249 -- 254) The reason why is: someone will assume that they are superior and can apply the principals of detachment. The problem begins when someone might assume that they are superior, yet they do not have the experience to understand the full ramifications of their actions. In this aspect, someone could make incorrect decisions about the most morally correct actions. Where, they assume that they are helping the situation, when in reality they could be making it worse. An example of this can be seen when Aristotle said, "If a person thinks he is superior and is not, he is in vain." ("Virtue Ethics" 197) This underscores the overall weakness of this theory where someone could assume that they have the proper information to make the most correct decision. At which point, their actions will make the situation worse. (Swanton 249 -- 254)

The second drawback of this theory, there is a lack of resources / experience to build off of; highlights how this based upon personal interpretations and experiences. This means that someone could have different situations and events that will shape how they view the overall issues of virtue. This can create different interpretations about what is the most morally correct actions that should take place. Over the course of time, these different interpretations can lead to a difference in moral standards and virtues around the world. An example of this can be seen with the difference between Western and Eastern culture. Where, there is an emphasis on respecting the self-determination of the individual. While, in the various Eastern cultures there is an emphasis on protecting the ideas of the group over the individual. In many ways, one could argue, that these two interpretations highlight how morals and virtues that are seen will vary from society to society. Therefore, it is logical to assume that these different interpretations can only increase the overall amounts of uncertainty because of particular actions. (Swanton 249 -- 254)

The third drawback of this theory, the different ideas provides a nice general outline but in the real world they conflict. This highlights the overall problems of using such an ethical theory in the real world. (Swanton 249 -- 254) This is because there are a number of different situations and variables that could affect a particular outcome. The theory makes determining the right course of action seem rather simple by detaching yourself from a situation, to see the overall big picture. Yet, beneath the surface there could be specific issues or ideas that could alter the outcome of what could occur. These two different philosophies underscore how in virtue ethics, you are provided with a general outline for determine right and wrong. Yet, in the real world it can become more complicated when you consider all of the different variables and working parts involved.

Clearly, virtue ethics is the most appropriate theory for determining the most morally correct course of action. The reason why I believe this is: because of the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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