Aristotelian Virtue Ethics And The Recommendations Of Morality

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Aristotelian Virtue Ethics and the Recommendations of Morality

Aristotelian Virtue Ethics and the Recommendations of Morality


Both teleological and deontological ethical theories are called deontic or action-based theories of morality because they focus entirely upon the actions which a person performs. Those theories focus on the question, "Which action should I choose?" Virtue ethics, however, take a very different perspective.

Aristotelian Virtue Ethics and the Recommendations of Morality

Virtue-based ethical theories place less emphasis on which rules people should follow and instead focus on helping people develop good character traits, such as kindness and generosity. These character traits will, in turn, allow a person to make the correct decisions later on in life. Virtue theorists also emphasize the need for people to learn how to break bad habits of character, like greed or anger. These are called vices and stand in the way of becoming a good person.

Recently virtue ethics has not been a very common topic for study, but it dates back to the ancient Greek thinkers and is thus the oldest type of ethical theory in Western philosophy. Plato discussed four key virtues: wisdom, courage, temperance and justice. The first systematic description of virtue ethics was written down by Aristotle in his famous work Nichomachean Ethics. According to Aristotle, when people acquire good habits of character, they are better able to regulate their emotions and their reason. This, in turn, helps us reach morally correct decisions when we are faced with difficult choices.

One reason why virtue ethics can be popular and why they make an important contribution to our understanding of morality is that they emphasize the central role played by motives in moral questions. To act from virtue is to act from some particular motivation; thus to say that certain virtues are necessary for correct moral decisions is to say that correct moral decisions require correct motives.

Neither teleological nor deontological moral theories require motives to play a role in our evaluation of moral decisions — but encouraging correct motivations is very often a key component of the moral education of young people. We are taught that we should desire certain outcomes and that we should want to accomplish certain goals by our actions.

Another reason why virtue theories are so attractive is that the other moral theories share in common the difficulty in dealing with complicated moral calculations over what actions to take or which moral duties to emphasize. Virtue theories promise that once we are successful in creating the sort of person we want to be, arriving at the correct moral decisions will come naturally.

The reality of virtue ethics isn't as neat and simple as some might imagine. Although many common moral decisions may indeed come more easily to a person of the “right” moral character, the fact of the matter is that many moral dilemmas require a great deal of careful reasoning and thinking — simply having the right character cannot be enough to even make the right decision likely, much less ...
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