Features Of Aristotle's Virtue Ethics Essay

544 words - 3 pages

The main features of Aristotle’s virtue ethics

Virtue comes from the Latin ‘virtus’ meaning ‘strength’ and is also related to the Greek word for ‘excellence’. Virtue theory is a branch of moral philosophy that emphasizes character, rather than rules or consequences, as the key element of ethical thinking. This ethical theory was developed by Aristotle.

Aristotle argued that whenever we do something we do it to gain an end and the ultimate of all ends is the chief good, the greatest good. However to achieve that end we must practice and by practicing we improve our skills and so become happy and live good lives. This final good is called eudaimonia or happiness and human flourishing. This supreme happiness that Aristotle talks about is one for ...view middle of the document...

There are twelve moral virtues but they fall between to vices that of excess and that of deficiency. For example courage is a virtue but if you are excessively courageous then you may become rash but if you don’t have enough courage you become a coward.

Aristotle also believed that moral virtues are connected to the desiderative and irrational part of the soul they can be cultivated through habit. He also said there were 9 intellectual virtues compromising 5 main primary virtues and four secondary virtues. These are connected to the rational half of the soul which is cultivated through instruction.

Aristotle believed that all virtues lay at the mid-point between two vices. Although all of us could develop these virtues, only a few will do so and to cultivate them we must find the mean, we must try to ensure that we veer way from either the excess or deficiency and so hit the ‘mean’ this is the doctrine of the mean. Aristotle believed that virtuous behaviour could become a habit, but we shouldn’t forget that we’re behaving virtuously because it’s right. By doing virtuous things we become virtuous.

Aristotle believed that every action is directed towards an aim, For example getting up in the morning to go to work. The aim is to earn a living and have a good career so that you can live well. There are superior and subordinate aims. Getting up in the morning is subordinate to earning a living which is superior. We do one thing to accomplish a greater thing. Ultimately everything is subordinate to the supreme good which is happiness. However people have different ideas of happiness and Aristotle acknowledged that the virtues of one city or culture may differ from those of another. He didn’t believe in an absolute platonic good beyond our world, he thought that good was found within this world.

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