The Ethics of Virtue • Virtue ethics date back to Aristotle (325 B. C. ) in his Nichomachean Ethics. • Aristotle’s central question: “What is the good of man? ”
Supreme Good • Happiness – supreme good chosen for itself and never for something else. • More than a mere truism • What is the nature of happiness? • How do we achieve happiness?
Virtue and Function • Aristotle holds that happiness (or that which makes someone happy) is tied to the proper functioning of a thing. • “good hammer” = that which functions well at hammering • What is the unique function of man?
The Function of Man • Aristotle holds that the unique function of man is his power of thought. • Full development of reason will make man happy • Life of Reason: “activity of the soul in conformity with virtue” – clear judgment that is self-centered • Rational Principle = Golden Mean
The Golden Mean • Virtue is the mean between two extremes relative to the individuals. • Excess-------Mean-------Deficiency Rashness-----Bravery-----Cowardice • The good person is one who habitually follows the mean.
Contemporary Virtue Ethics • Virtue (defined): a trait of character, manifested in habitual action, which is good for a person to have. • Examples of Virtues: (Partial list – no absolute or complete list) Benevolence, Fairness, Self-Discipline Self-Reliance , Honesty, Tolerance Conscientiousness, Loyalty, Justice
Importance of the Virtues? • Virtuous person will fare better in life. • Virtues are needed to live well • We need virtues to live in community with others • Necessary to pursue our own ends and cope with life’s challenges
The Nature of the Virtues • Are the virtues the same for everyone? Yes – All people need virtue just to different degrees – Certain virtues will be necessary for some cultures – Radical Virtues Ethics: get rid of the notion of morally right and morally wrong. Use virtuous and non-virtuous.
Advantages of Virtue Ethics • Moral Motivation – certain situations are handled by an appeal to virtue rather than right action or duty. – Example: Visiting a friend in the hospital – Virtue: Friendship, Love, Loyalty • Doubts about the ideal of impartiality – relationships with family and friends are difficult to account for in other moral approaches.
Problems with Virtue Ethics • Problem of Incompleteness • Lie/Don’t Lie → • Honesty is a virtue → • What does it mean to be honest? → • One who follows rules such as “Do not lie” → • Why this rule? → Non-virtue consideration
Problems with Virtue Ethics (Continued) • Problem of Conflicting Virtues – Friendship vs. Justice • Is there a virtue to cover every situation? For any good reason given in favor of doing an action, there is a corresponding virtue consists of a disposition to accept and act on that reason.