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Virtue Ethics

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Virtue Ethics


Virtue ethics is a theory used to make moral decisions. It does not

rely on religion, society or culture; it only depends on the

individuals themselves. The main philosopher of Virtue Ethics is

Aristotle. His theory was originally introduced in ancient Greek

times. Aristotle was a great believer in virtues and the meaning of

virtue to him meant being able to fulfil one's functions. Virtue

ethics is not so much interested in the question 'What should I do?'

but rather in the question 'what sort of person should I become?' It

has more to do with character and the nature of what it is to be

human, than with the rights and wrongs of actions. Instead of

concentrating on what is the right thing to do, virtue ethics asks how

you can be a better person. Aristotle says that those who do lead a

virtuous life are very happy and have sense of well-being. Happiness

is the ultimate goal for everyone in life. Aristotle's definition of

happiness is, 'happiness is the activity of the soul in accord with

perfect virtue'.

To become a better person, we must practice virtuous acts regularly.

After a while, these acts will become a habit and so the virtuous acts

part of our every day life and the person will be leading a virtuous

life. For example, if a singer practices singing everyday, they will

become better at it and used to doing it. People who practice their

virtues improve their skills and therefore becoming happier. According

to Aristotle the person who struggles to acquire virtues is in the

long run a better person and is much happier as they feel that they

deserve that happiness as they have worked very hard for it. By

continuously practicing their virtues people will soon be acting in

the right way. Aristotle says that virtues are something that we

acquire and are not just born with; people are not intrinsically good

or bad, but become good or bad according to their habits they develop

throughout their lives. When a person learns how to use the virtues,

they become the characteristic of the person. For example, a person

who has learnt the virtue of generosity is often called a generous

person because he or she is generous in all situations. Aristotle says

we are most likely to acquire virtues by observing others in our

society. If we experience other people being kind to us and see the

happiness it creates we are more likely to practice this virtue then

if we were just told to practice it. Aristotle said that the best way

of becoming virtuous was to follow in the footsteps of a virtuous

person, e.g. Mother Theresa.

Aristotle said that a virtue was a 'Golden Mean' in between two vices.

These Vices are two extremes of the scale; one vice of excess and one

vice of deficiency. For example, for the virtue 'modesty', the vice of

excess would be bashfulness and the vice of deficiency would be

shamelessness. Aristotle mentions 12 virtues that all fall between two

vices. Some examples of these virtues are honesty, courage,

compassion, generosity, fidelity, integrity, fairness, self-control,

and prudence. Such virtues must be refined; we must learn when to use


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