Virtue Ethics Flashcards Preview

Ethics > Virtue Ethics > Flashcards

Flashcards in Virtue Ethics Deck (43):

What is virtue theory?

Virtue theory is concerned with human character and how to define good people and the qualities which make them good. Unlike most ethical theories, it is right character before right behaviour. Once you have become a moral character, you will do the right thing.


When and where was Aristotle writing about virtue ethics?

350 BCE in Athens


What is Aristotle's work called?

Nicomachean Ethics


What did Aristotle argue?

Whenever we do something, we do it to gain an end, and that the ultimate end of all ends is the chief good, the greatest good.


What is eudaimonia?

Human flourishing. The goal of life thar everyone should pursue, achieved through a life of virtuous action.


What is Greek for virtue?



How many moral virtues are there?



What are the two vices?

Excess and deficiency


What is the mid point?

Where all the virtues lie. The golden mean. To cultivate them we must find the mean.


How do we know how virtuous we are?

By how we spontaneously respond to situations


What are the vices of courage?

Cowardice and rashness. Eg if an old woman was being mugged by someone bigger and stronger than you, it would be rash to confront them and cowardly to do nothing. Calling for help would be the golden mean.


What are the vices of liberality?

Illiberality and prodigality. Eg prodigality would be buying a whole pub drinks when you need that money to pay rent. The golden mean is giving when you can to those in need


What are the vices of civility?

Surliness and obsequiousness. (Attentive to a excessive degree)


What are the vices of good temper?

Spiritlessness and irascibility.


What are the superior and subordinate aims?

Aristotle beloved every action is directed towards an aim. Getting up in the morning is subordinate to earning a living. We do one thing to accomplish a greater thing. Ultimately, everything is subordinate to supreme good,happiness


What did Aristotle believe the best happiness was?



How can virtues differ?

He did not believe in a platonic good beyond our world. Different cities had different ideas of the ends to which they aimed. The supreme happiness or eudaimonia is one for the community, not just an individual.


What are the cardinal virtues?

Created in Christian writing. Prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. They are related to each other and are needed for each other.


What are the five intellectual virtues?

Prudence, intuitive excellence, wisdom, scientific knowledge and craft.


What did Aristotle say about putting your character first?

"If we can just focus on being good people, the right actions will follow, effortlessly"


What did Aristotle say your character is developed through?



Who is Elizabeth Anscombe?

She initiated the modern revival of the virtue theory. She challenges both deontological and teleological ethics because they take no account of emotions or moral psychology. She was critical of moral theories which seemed prepared to allow any moral act of any kind if it brought about some good end.


Why does Anscombe criticise other moral theories?

They are part of an idea of ethics that no longer survived, from a time when people still believed in a law giver (God). Thinking about ethics in terms of obligations to such rules was no longer necessary.


What did Anscombe propose instead?

We should think about the idea of virtue and human flourishing. Some further research is necessary to understand what we really mean by virtue.


What did Alasdair MacIntyre think about modern morality?

It has suffered a catastrophe and has lost sights of its roots. Modern philosophers have thrown the baby out with the bath water. We have lost moral wisdom


Quote from MacIntyre about modern ethics?

"We have... lost our comprehension... of morality"


What writings did MacIntyre turn to?

Ancient Greek. Great heroes like Achilles and Odysseus show a vision of morality, you are what you do. To judge a man is to judge his actions.


What three questions does Keenan summarise virtue theory as?

Who am I?
Who ought I to become?
How do I get there?
Virtues provide a way of estimating character, and suggest a direction in which you should go in order to become a better person.


Why is self knowledge central?

By knowing and understanding ourselves, we can practise to be better. Keenan likens this to good parenting.


What are more important than moral laws?

The judgements of virtuous people.


What does MacIntyre say about community?

Virtues are understood from within a community who live in a certain way. Took this idea from the idea of the Christian community, a community developing and learning to walk in Jesus' footsteps. Like the Buddhist Sangha where monks seek to live good and virtuous lives.


Why was prudence important to both Aristotle and Aquinas?

We must think practically and realistically. Our goals must be achievable.


How does MacIntyre intend to understand the good life?

Understanding the people of the modern world- the manager, the aesthete and the therapist.


What does Philippa Foot think?

Philosophers have neglected the subject of virtues and vices. She argues virtues are beneficial in as much as human beings do not seem to get on well without them. Just as people need strength and health, they need virtues. Virtues are a corrective against temptations.


How do virtues relate to a person's innermost desires?

Foot uses the example from the novel 'a single pebble'. "His action, which could have been mulled over in his mind, showed a deep, instinctive love of life"


What examples does foot use to describe being virtuous as demanding?

If you are tempted to steal it shows your weakness in lack of virtue. If you are tempted to steal to save your impoverished family, you are virtuous by resisting it.


How can the virtues be seen in practise with the allegory of the good and bad government in Siena?

The city of Siena was governed by secular authorities distinct from the church, so it reflects an idea relevant to secular ethical thinking in the modern world. Both scenes have a corresponding government which is depicted through figures of the virtues and vices and some scenes of governance. The virtues are shown to be not just for those in government, but every citizen. Dire consequences follow if people's hearts are governed by vices rather than virtues.


How can we apply virtue theory?

You must look at the upbringing, education and general behaviour of people on a day to day basis. To simply look at a moral dilemma is to miss a crucial element of the work of the theory. Nevertheless, it is thought that good actions will come from the virtuous person:that charitable acts follow from charity


What are the strengths of virtue theory?

Virtue theory encompasses all aspects rather than particular actions. Virtue theory provides an alternative route for drawing on the tradition of moral philosophy. It avoids the pitfalls of ethical systems that adopt moral absolutes without indicating his people can learn to be moral in the way the absolutes suggest. It is an alternative ethical model that fits Christian ethics as it focuses on the kind of person we should be


How is virtue ethics criticised?

-Romantic nostalgia of ancient values. MacIntyre is in danger of misplaced nostalgia. Modern philosophers have more to contribute to ethics than MacIntyre suggests
-Virtue theory does not provide answers to specific moral dilemmas such as euthanasia, nor does it provide a list of intolerable acts such as murder which we might want to condemn outright. Ethical theories are though to provide such guidance but virtue theory does not do that.


How is virtue ethics different from teleological and deontological ethics?

Virtue theory brings a focus on human growth rather than a focus on legislation and judiciary of morality, the focus on what is right or wrong. It is concerned with how people can become moral, rather than simply what is moral an immoral. Other theories might judge actions or choices, but they do not offer suggestions about hope people may become better at being good.
Although arguably virtues supplement rather than replace deontological ethics


What problems are there with virtue ethics as a view of human nature?

Virtue theory requires some sense of an idea about what human beings should be like, what they should be becoming, and from that idea the virtues are drawn. If human nature is more diverse than virtue theorists suggest then there is a difficulty. Just as MacIntyre tends to think in terms of the importance of community and tradition in agreeing on the virtues, in an increasingly diverse society with more attention being paid to different lifestyles and distinct personality types, it might be that a single list of virtues and vices is not suitable. They are flourishing in different ways. The kind of community in which people are united in a common project of character development envisaged by MacIntyre might be unrealistic in a modern diverse world.


Virtue ethics and religion?

Virtue ethics is closely associated with religious traditions. Aristotle's idea of virtue ethics was embraced by Aquinas and has gone on to remain prominent in current Christian thinking.
Both Buddhism and Hinduism are concerned about the nature of the person, their motivations and intentions as much as their acts