Virtue Ethics Essay

1199 words - 5 pages

Virtue Ethics—Analysis of the Virtue Expected | Virtue ethics draws its inspiration from the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 B. C.). In Th e Nicomachean Ethics he explored the nature of a good life. He thought that the goal of life is happiness. Th is is not happiness in a hedonistic sense. Instead, happiness, for Aristotle, is an activity of the soul. We fulfi ll our goal of being happy by living a virtuous life, a life in accordance with reason. Now, virtue is a character of the soul that is demonstrated only in voluntary actions (i.e., in acts that are freely chosen after deliberation). So, we become virtuous by regularly performing virtues acts. But Aristotle also felt that there is ...view middle of the document...

Each of us has a variety of character traits that are developed as we mature emotionally and ethically. Once these character traits are formed, they tend to remain fairly stable. Our personalities are multifaceted and our behavior is reasonably consistent. Although we all have numerous, and often similar, virtues, we demonstrate them in varying degrees, despite similar situations. By focusing on the whole person, who has a unique combination of virtues, this theory avoids false dichotomies. It denies that the consequences of actions are either right or wrong, or that the motivation of the decision maker was either good or bad. In a business setting, virtue ethics eschews the notion that executives wear two hats; one hat representing personal values, and the other corporate values, believing that an executive can only wear one hat at a time. In 1988 two executives at Beech-Nut Nutrition Corporation were convicted of selling millions of bottles of apple juice that they knew contained little or no apples. Neils Hoyvald and John Lavery argued that they were being loyal corporate executives, making decisions that were necessary for the survival of the fi rm. Th eir crime, they contended, was at worst an error in judgment. At the same time as they were orchestrating a cynical and reckless fraud against babies, who were the consumers of their bogus apple juice, they were model citizens with impeccable records. Th e lawyer for Hoyvald described him as “a person we would be proud to have in our family.” How many executives erroneously see themselves as wearing two hats; one for corporate values and the other for personal values? Th ey forget it is the same head under each of the hats. Virtues ethics denies false dichotomies such as: it is either business or ethics; you can do good or be profi table; check your personal values at the door when you show for work. Th e advantage of virtue ethics is that it takes a broader view recognizing that the decision maker has a variety of character traits.

Weaknesses with Virtue Ethics | Th ere are two interrelated problems with virtue ethics. What are the virtues that businesspeople should have, and how is virtue demonstrated in the workplace? A key virtue in business is integrity. Nearly one-third of the CFOs polled by Robert Half Management Resources28 said that integrity was the most important quality for a business leader to possess. Integrity involves being honesty and upstanding. For a fi rm it means that the fi rm’s actions are consistent with its principles. It is demonstrated by not compromising on core values even when there is strong pressure to do so. Consider the case of fundraising by nonprofi t organizations. Most organizations in the not-for-profi t sector have very clear objectives:...

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