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Virtue Ethics. Return to Virtue. The moral vacuity of duty-following A good person should want to do the right thing not just do their duty The need to motivate moral action Why should we care about doing our duty?. What is Virtue Ethics. The important thing is to be a good person

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Virtue Ethics

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Virtue ethics l.jpg

Virtue Ethics


Return to virtue l.jpg

Return to Virtue

  • The moral vacuity of duty-following

    A good person should want to do the right thing not just do their duty

  • The need to motivate moral action

    Why should we care about doing our duty?


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What is Virtue Ethics

  • The important thing is to be a good person

    (as opposed to doing the right thing or achieving a good outcome)

  • A virtue ethics is interested in finding the characteristics that make someone a good person


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Ends

  • Every action has a goal

    “Every skill and every inquiry, and similarly every action and rational choice, is thought to aim at some good; and so the good has been aptly described as that at which everything aims.”

    (1094a)


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Ends

  • Every action has a goal

    • A hierarchy exists

      Eg.Bridle-maker < bridles < horsemanship < war

    • Most ends are instrumental

    • Some (one) ends are final


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Ends

  • There is one goal for all actions

    “So if what is done has some end that we want for its own sake, and everything else we want is for the sake of this end; and if we do not choose everything for the sake of something else (because this would lead to an infinite progression, making our desire fruitless and vain), then clearly this will be the good, indeed the chief good.”

    (1094a)


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Ends

  • There is one goal for all actions

    • Aristotle can’t prove this, but he believes it

    • He has a candidate final end


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Eudaimonia

  • ‘Happiness’ is the one goal for all actions

    • an overall-condition of a person’s life

    • Not a mental state

    • The end for which everything is pursued

    • unconditionally complete

    • self-sufficient


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Eudaimonia

  • Justified in terms of our characteristic activity

    “But perhaps saying that happiness is the chief good sounds rather platitudinous, and one might want its nature to be specified still more clearly. It is possible that we might achieve that if we grasp the characteristic activity of a human being. For just as the good – the doing well – of a flute-player, a sculptor or any practitioner of a skill, or generally whatever has some characteristic activity or action, is thought to lie in its characteristic activity, so the same would seem to be true of a human being, if indeed he has a characteristic activity.”


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Eudaimonia

  • Justified in terms of our characteristic activity

    • Our capacity to reason sets us apart from all other species.

    • So our characteristic activity (ergon) consists in using reason.

    • Thus our use of reason is the key to our distinctive happiness (eudaimonia).

    • We live a happy (eudaimonic) life only if we use reason with great skill.


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Eudaimonia

  • Justified in terms of our characteristic activity

    • Aristotle’s ideal life - one view

      • Ends by telling us that the best kind of life is the life of contemplation.

        • Not many people think this is so desirable

        • It doesn’t match what he tells us elsewhere – describing a practical and active life.


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Eudaimonia

  • A happy life is a life lived virtuously

    • Happiness requires the excellent use of reason

    • Excellence in the use of reason is virtue

    • Virtues are character traits


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Virtues

  • Arete

    • ‘Excellence’

    • A functionalist concept

      “For just as the good – the doing well – of a flute-player, a sculptor or any practitioner of a skill, or generally whatever has some characteristic activity or action, is thought to lie in its characteristic activity, so the same would seem to be true of a human being, if indeed he has a characteristic activity.”

      (1097b)


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A Virtue: Courage

  • We all recognise and value courage, but there are problems

    • Were the hijackers on 9/11 brave?

    • Is someone reckless of all danger courageous?

  • Bill Maher

    “[s]taying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it’s not cowardly.”


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The Doctrine of the Mean

  • Aristotle

    We can experience fear, confidence, desire, anger, pity, and generally any kind of pleasure and pain either too much or too little, and in either case not properly. But to experience all this at the right time, towards the right objects, toward the right people, for the right reason, and in the right manner – that is the mean and the best course, the course that is the mark of virtue


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The Doctrine of the Mean


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Problems

  • Still can’t tell us what is the right thing to do

  • No idea how to resolve conflicts

  • Doesn’t cover enough cases for a moral theory


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