Virtue ethics is an ethical theory that places focus on the moral character of an individual who performs a particular action rather than the ethical guidelines or repercussions of various actions. The issue with virtue ethics is not whether the consequence of an action is good or the intention of the action is right. It instead focuses on whether the individual performing that particular action is expressing good traits or not. Virtue ethics establishes the appropriateness and inappropriateness of actions of individuals by relating the choice to admirable character traits. In addition, it concentrates on aiding individuals to develop excellent character traits such as honesty and kindness. Virtue theorists believe that when one develops admirable characters traits, he or she will in a position to make right decisions on various issues of life. Moreover, virtue ethics emphasizes the need for individuals to break bad habits of character that prevent them from becoming incredibly great people. Virtue ethics theory is of great significance because when people develop the right character traits, the world becomes a safer and better place to be.
The Origins of Virtue Ethics
The roots of the virtue ethics theory lie in the work of Plato and Aristotle who were great ancient Greek philosophers. Virtue ethics theory is said to be the oldest ethical theory in the western philosophy. Plato discusses wisdom, fortitude, justice, and temperance as the cardinal virtues (Cline, 2017). Aristotle, on the other hand, provides a vivid and systematic description of virtue ethics in his renowned work “Nichomachean Ethics.” According to the philosophers, individuals with good character traits are always in a position to make morally appropriate decisions when they are facing challenging choices (Moore, 2017). The two believe that a virtuous character leads to virtuous decisions. The virtue ethics theory has however being criticized by other virtue theorists who state that the theory is culturally relative.
Concepts of Virtue Ethics
Virtue ethics theory has there concepts that is ethics of care, agent-based theories and Eudaimonism. Ethics of care concept is termed as the ideas regarding morality nature. Agent-based theories entail virtues based on the intuition that employs common sense (Cline, 2017). Eudaimonism, on the other hand, can be termed as happiness that can be accomplished by practicing the values of an individual and in resolving conflicts
Strengths of Virtue Ethics
One of the most significant strengths of virtue ethics theory is that it makes it feasible for individuals to be better individuals in life. It instills individuals with characters that prompt them to act appropriately and treat others with respect and compassion. The second strength of this theory is that it is broad and holistic (Remtulla, 2017). Virtue ethics theory takes a holistic approach that takes into consideration the totality of a person including the skills, feelings, and character traits. The third strength attributed to the virtue ethics theory is that it is agent-centered. The theory focuses on the character of the moral agent and therefore it is not concerned about consequence or duty (Moore, 2017). Its centeredness on the character of the moral agent makes it flexible since it enables individuals to make decisions depending on their moral values rather than adhering to the law.
Moreover, the theory creates a sense of community since it motivates individuals to regard personal relationships, be sensitive, and take care of others. In addition, the theory aid in preserving goodness in a society since it shields individuals from becoming morally corrupt people.
Weaknesses of Virtue Ethics
Critics of virtue ethics state that the theory lacks focus in the determination of those characters that are acceptable and those that should be avoided. The theory mainly focuses on the characters individuals need to enhance so that they can become great and good people. (Remtulla, 2017). The second weakness attributed to the theory includes the difficulty in establishing the nature of virtues. The difficulty is as a result of the differences in opinions of individuals who are inherently distinct from each other and come from different cultures and communities. Self-centeredness is also a weakness of the theory. Critics state that the theory deals with the character of an individual yet it is supposed to deal with how the actions of individuals affect other people.
Moreover, the theory is said to be misguiding when educating and encouraging since it leads individuals to depend on luck when attaining moral maturity. Finally, the theory is said to be limited since it concentrates on only a number of virtues. Critics state that the theory does not concentrate on the bigger picture.
It is therefore conclusive to state that virtue ethics theory focuses on the moral character of an individual rather than the intention or the consequence of that particular action. The roots of the theory lie in the work of two great philosophers that is Plato and Aristotle. The theory aid individuals to develop character traits make them morally upright people. It also promotes unity and harmony because it requires individuals to treat each other with respect and love.
- Cline, A. (2017). Virtue ethics: Morality and character. Retrieved October 4, 2017, from https://www.thoughtco.com/virtue-ethics-morality-and-character-249866
- Moore, G. (2017). Virtue ethics and organizational ethics. Oxford Scholarship Online. doi:10.1093/oso/9780198793441.003.0003
- Remtulla, S. (2017). Strengths & weaknesses of virtue ethics – advantages and disadvantages table in A Level and IB Ethics. Retrieved October 4, 2017, from https://getrevising.co.uk/grids/strengths_and_weaknesses_of_virtue_ethics