Learning Objectives To understand what a virtue is. Identify correct virtues using the doctrine of the mean. KEY WORDS Doctrine of the mean Virtue Characteristic KEY QUESTION How do you work out a virtue?
What is a virtue? A Virtue is a moral excellence. a character trait or quality valued as being good. Personal virtues are characteristics valued as promoting individual and collective well-being, and thus good by definition.
What is not a virtue? The opposite of virtue is vice. Vice are characteristics or personality traits that do not promote individual well-being These are negative and should be avoided. You should aim to get rid of them in your life leaving more space for virtuous actions. Examples?
How do you work out what a virtue is? Virtue ethics can be seen as the ethics of the average. It decides which is the correct moral virtue by deciding the middle point between two extremes. For Aristotle there were 12 moral virtues that are qualities of character such as; courage, liberality, temperance and modesty.
How do you work out what a virtue is? These moral virtues lie between two extremes. There are no two situations the same so in each situation you have to work out the middle point between the two extremes. You have to use your reason and thought to make the correct choice.
The Virtues He identified 12 moral virtues which are the middle point between two moral vices. The vices are in EXCESS or DEFICIENCY of the virtue. EXCESS------------VIRTUE-------------DEFICIENCY So courage is one of the virtues. DEFICIENCY If I do not have enough I am coward VICE – if I am excessively courageous then I may become rash.
The Doctrine of the Mean This theory of middle point is called the doctrine of the mean. Because virtue ethics is concerned with personal moral journey it gives the individual the freedom to act and to make the choice. The only person responsible for the moral choice is the individual.
habit Virtues will only develop naturally in a minority of people. Therefore the doctrine of the mean helps people to work out what is the correct action they should take. People need to be EDUCATED in the virtues and the doctrine of the mean. Then they need to practise using the doctrine of the mean to help them work out the correct thing to do.
“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” Aristotle
Four Groups of People Virtuous people: enjoy doing good so face no moral dilemma. Continent people: do the virtuous thing most of the time but have to overcome moral dilemma. Habit is important that Aristotle believed there were four groups of people in society. Incontinent people: face moral conflict but usually choose a vice. Vicious people: do not attempt to be virtuous.
So What? Virtuous people: The virtuous person does not need help The other three groups of people need to practise the virtues. Continent people: Incontinent people: Vicious people:
So What? By using the doctrine of the mean and having the proper education so as to understand the importance of virtues anybody can become virtuous. Because Aristotle assumes the existence of freedom he believes that anyone who puts in the effort (and receives the correct education) can achieve goodness.
Review A virtue is a moral excellence It is the opposite of vice Each situation is different so the virtue in no two situations is the same You work out the virtue by using the doctrine of the mean. This helps you find the middle point between excess and deficiency. There are four groups of people in the world. All groups given the right education and the right effort can achieve goodness.