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Virtue Theory (pt.1). Rels 300 / Nurs 330 18 Sep 2013. What is a virtue?. Virtue = a strength of character that promotes human well-being (self and others) often in a social context

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virtue theory pt 1

Virtue Theory (pt.1)

Rels 300 / Nurs 330

18 Sep 2013

what is a virtue
What is a virtue?

Virtue = a strength of character that promotes human well-being (self and others) often in a social context

Vice = a weakness of character that undermines human well-being (self and others) often in a social context

“A virtue is an admirable character trait or a disposition to habitually act in a manner that benefits ourselves and others.

“The actions of virtuous people stem from a respect and concern for the well-being of themselves and others.”

Brannigan & Boss, 2001

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being virtuous
Being Virtuous

Virtue =a strength of character that promotes human well-being (self and others) often in a social context

Vice =a weakness of character that undermines human well-being (self and others) often in a social context

What count as virtues and vices in being:

  • A parent
  • A lawyer
  • A student
  • A nurse
  • A used-car salesperson

Are there any virtues or vices that all of the above have in common?

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the florence nightingale pledge
The Florence Nightingale Pledge

I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly, to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully. I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession, and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling. With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.

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virtue in aristotle 384 322bce
Virtue in Aristotle (384-322BCE)
  • Virtue is a state of character that undergirds excellence in the human person
  • Virtue in any endeavour lies in the MEAN (the middle ground between not enough and too much)
    • e.g., in a dangerous situation, the person of virtue behaves in a manner that lies between reckless endangerment and fearful inaction

Such a virtue might be


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what else can be said about virtue
What else can be said about virtue?

Aristotle says that virtues move a person toward a GOAL or an AIMthat is inherently valuable

  • For Aristotle, everything that exists has a natural goal or purpose

“it is by the excellence of the eye that we see well”

Virtuous actions move a person towards fulfillment of a natural goal

  • This perspective is called TELEOLOGY

Telos = end in the sense of purpose or goal

The highest human purpose or end, according to Aristotle, is HAPPINESS

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what does he mean by happiness
What does he mean by happiness?
  • Not just pleasure (as in utilitarianism)

For Aristotle, happiness as the ultimate value refers to living well, acting well, and contributing to human flourishing (or well-being)

  • Happiness is “a way of being that requires us to live life fully and actively, in accordance with what reason tells us is the proper purpose of human beings” (p.22)
  • Happiness is the telos(end or purpose) of the human person
  • this teloscan be discerned by the essential aspect of human persons, by reasonor rationality

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virtues are habitual patterns
Virtues are “habitual patterns”
  • Virtues, such as patience, are learned
  • They only become evident as persons exhibit behaviour, in a predictable and characteristic way, that is even-tempered, perseverent, and considerate of others
  • Further, generosity, for example, cannot be satisfied by giving a certain sum of money to a particular charity in order to get a tax deduction
    • Charitable giving is only “generous” if the person gives with an attitude of sharing, without ties or expectations

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what characterizes the good person
What characterizes the good person?

A person’s character becomes evident in his or her attitudes and actions, and develops over time in a habitual way

  • The good person habitually does just acts, speaks truthfully, acts with bravery
  • Whether we act in ways that are virtuous or vicious, our actions become habits that form our character
    • We facilitate human flourishing; OR
    • We undermine human well-being

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virtue ethics asks these questions
Virtue Ethics asks these questions
  • What kind of person should I be? What character traits do I value and want to develop?
  • What kind of community do I want to foster?
    • Family; student body; colleagues; educational or medical institution
  • How can I promote human well-being, or human flourishing, within the context of my life-span?
  • What leads to consistency or integrity within my own experiences of perceptions, feelings and actions?

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the virtuous health care professional
The virtuous health care professional
  • The good colleague
  • The good caregiver
  • The good person

Think of a nurse or nursing professor that you admire; someone whose advice you would value; someone you regard as a good role model.

Describe the characteristics that you admire. What is it about this person that you appreciate most?

Discuss in 2’s or 3’s

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The good colleague is a person who contributes to human well-being by

  • The good caregiver is someone who supports human flourishing by
  • Characteristics that promote well-being in oneself and others include

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