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What is virtue ethics?

It goes back to Plato and Aristotle and does not focus on actions being right or wrong, but on how to be a good person. It looks at what makes a good person and the qualities or virtues that make them good. It is agent-centred morality rather than act0centred.


What is eudaimonia?

The final goal of all human activity- happiness, well-being, human flourishing.


What is virtue?

Habitually doing what is right- being good requires the practice of a certain kind of behaviour.


What is Plato's moral theory?

Plato's moral theory is not one of judging particular actions. It centres around the achievement of man's highest good, which involves the right cultivation of his soul (inner well-being) and the hamonious well-being of his life (eudaimonia) Happiness must be attined through the pursuit of virtue and actions are good when they help to achieve this.


What virtues did Plato seem to consider central?

Temperance, courage, prudence and justice. These later became known as the cardinal virtues. They were later added to with three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. Plato thought that when these virtues are in balance a person's actions will be good.


What is the alternative name for virtue ethics?

Aretaic ethics, from the Greek words arete, which simply means any kind of excellence of virtue.


What quote does Aristotle use to say that the point of engaging in ethics is to become good?

"For we are enquiring not in order to know what virtue is but in order to become good since otherwise our enquiry would be of no use."


What does Aristotle distinguish between?

He distinguishes between things which are good as means (for the sake of something else) and things which are good as ends (for their own sake only)


What does Aristotle see as the purpose of human activity?

He sees one final and overriding end of human activity, one final good- eudaimonia or happiness, human flourishing. He discusses the character traits of a person who is going to achieve eudaimonia.


What is at the centre of Aristotle's virtue ethics?

At the centre of his description of the good are the virtues which shape human character and ultimately human behaviour. He suggests that human well-being and human flourishing is a life characterized by the virtues.


What did Aristotle think a good human life is?

A good human life is one lived in harmony and co-operation with other people, since Aristotle saw people as not only rational beings but also as social beings. We live in groups and he saw the well-being of the group as more important than that of a single member.


What two types of virtues did Aristotle claim existed?

1. Intellectual Virtues, developed by training and education
2. Moral virtues developed by habit.


What are intellectual virtues?

Characteristics of thought and reason- technical skill,scientific knowledge, prudence, intelligence and wisdom.


What are moral virtues?

Qualities of character such as courage, friendliness and truthfulness.


What does Aristotle compare the virtues to?

To skills acquired through practice and habit. To become virtuous then is rather like playing a musical instrument- it needs teaching and practice before it is possible to play well. We are all capable of being virtuous and need to get into the habit of acting virtuously from childhood so that we enjoy being virtuous.


What quote does Aristotle write about how we acquire virtues?

"We acquire virtues by first doing virtuous acts. We acquire skill by practicing the activities involved in the the same way we become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts and courageous by doing acts of courage."


Who did Aristotle believed would develop moral and intellectual virtues?

While all people have the potential to develop moral and intellectual virtues, only a few will actually achieve this- for Aristotle these were the gentlemen philosophers and today we could say that this depends in part on social factors: where we are brought up and the environment in which we live.


What person did Aristotle believe would achieve eudaimonia?

He saw that a person who achieved audaimonia was someone who used their reason well.


How did Aristotle view reason?

He saw reason as the supreme human virtue, but by this he did not only mean an ability to think, but also a moral sense- reason included putting into action what you used your reason to judge as good. Reason is practical and involves both understanding and responding.


Where is virtue to be found?

In the Golden Mean, which involves finding the balance between two means- this is the best way to live in society, as extremes of character are unhelpful Aristotle always said that virtue is to be found between two vices, each of which involves either an excess or a deficiency of the true virtue.


What did Aristotle say that the difference between virtue and vice was a matter of?

He said that the difference between virtue and vice in both emotions and action was a matter of balance and extremes. However, the mean is not the same for everyone and depends on circumstances- you need to apply phronesis (practical wisdom) to decide on the right course of action in each situation.


How is phronesis acquired?

It is acquired as we grow up and move away from rules and the demands of authority figures to a more autonomous, person-centred and virtue-centred morality.


What is the Golden Mean?

The balance of extremes of virtues and vices. A balance between excess (having too much of something) and deficiency (having too little of something)


What is Phronesis?

According to Aristotle, the virtue most needs for any other virtue to be develped. Balancing self-interest with that of others. Needs to be directed by the moral virtues. Is practical wisdom.


How can be become virtuous?

As virtue is acquired through doing, one way to learn how to be virtuous is to follow the example of virtuous people. Most of us learn how to do things by watching others and imitating them. They are not all 'perfect people' but they challenge us to go beyond the minimum, to aspire to 'moral heights' and to see what can be achieved.


Why was there a revival of interest in virtue ethics?

In the 20th century there was a revival of interest in virtue ethics by philosophers who were unhappy with act-centred ethical theories.


What do modern versions of Virtue Ethics argue?

That the assessment of a person's character is an important aspect of our ethical thought and needs to be included in any ethical thoery.


Why does G.E.M. Anscombe criticise modern moral philosophy?

She argued that it is misguided, asking if there can be any moral law if there is no God- what do right and wrong mean without a lawgiver? Both Kantian ethics and Utilitarianism do not depend on God, but they still act-based and ignore the agent; she thought that act-based ethics does not make sense because it ignores a belief people no longer hold, and in stressing the principle of autonomy it neglects the community aspect of morality.


What alternative did G.E.M Anscombe put forward to modern moral philosophy?

She suggests an answer in the idea of eudaimonia, human flourishing which does not depend on any God.


What did Philippa Foot attempt to do?

She attempted to modernise Aristotle's Virtue ethics while still keeping the Aristotelian understanding of character and virtue.