Virtue Theory Shawna Hartman Elisabeth Herman Lisa Zimmer Tuesday 5:30 Ethical Theories Presentation 10/27/09
What are Virtues? • Character traits/Attitudes • There are many different kinds of Virtues. • Virtues can be balanced.
What is Virtue Ethics? • Virtue theory assumes we have an ideal humanity. • Virtues are those strengths of character that enable us to flourish. • Virtue theorists also emphasize the need to break bad habits.
Aristotle • Western theory of virtue comes from Aristotle (384-322 BCE) • He created the platform on which Western Virtue Theory is based.
Greek View of Virtue • Rational Animals • Essential Human Function • Virtues of Temperance, prudence, courage, and justice.
Christianized Greek View • St. Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) • Aquinas borrowed and built on Aristotle's work. • New focus • Adds virtues of faith, hope and charity
Eastern Views of Virtue • Buddhist/Taoist • Siddhartha Gautama (fifth century BCE?) • “Self” is an imagined entity. • Main virtue traits are tranquility, nonattachment, compassion, truthful speech and thought
Tao Te Ching “When you are content to be simply yourselfand don’t compare or compete,everybody will respect you.”
Confucius • 551-479 BCE • How he contributed to Confucian Virtue Theory
Confucian view of virtue • Greatest virtue is humanity (aka humaneness, kindheartedness, or benevolence). • This view focuses on Relationships. • Harmony
Ethical Dilemma • Death Penalty • Does the death penalty deter violent crime?
Virtue Theory Application • Considers morals, reputation, and motivation • Death penalty from a Buddhist virtue perspective: • Nonviolence • Non-Attachment • Compassion
Criticism #1 • Different people, cultures, and societies often have different opinions on what constitutes a virtue. • Virtue theories are too rigid and inflexible because they rely on one rule or principle.
Criticism #2 • It lacks absolute moral rules which can give clear guidance on how to act in specific circumstances such as abortion. • How can we be sure the models proposed are ideal unless we invoke moral rules to evaluate them?
Summary/Final Thoughts • There are several different perspectives about Virtue Ethics. • Virtue isn’t “out there,” or something unobtainable. • “Moral Character is an ongoing project”
Review Questions • How might virtues play a role in your life? • Which viewpoint can you most relate to and why? Eastern? Western? • In your opinion, should we apply the virtue theory when considering the death penalty?