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Virtue Ethics

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Virtue ethics is a broad term for theories that emphasize the role of character and virtue in moral philosophy rather than either doing one’s duty or acting in order to bring about good consequences. A virtue ethicist is likely to give you this kind of moral advice: “Act as a virtuous person would act in your situation.” Most virtue ethics theories take their inspiration from Aristotle who declared that a virtuous person is someone who has ideal character traits. These traits derive from natural internal tendencies, but need to be nurtured; however, once established, they will become stable. For example, a virtuous person is someone who is kind across many situations over a lifetime because that is her character and not because she wants to maximize utility or gain favours or simply do her duty. Unlike deontological and consequentiality theories, theories of virtue ethics do not aim primarily to identify universal principles that can be applied in any moral situation.

And virtue ethics theories deal with wider questions “How should I live?” and “What is the good life?” and “What are proper family and social values?” Since its revival in the twentieth century, virtue ethics has been developed in three main directions: Eudemonism, agent-based theories, and the ethics of care. Eudemonism bases virtues in human flourishing, where flourishing is equated with performing one’s distinctive function well. In the case of humans, Aristotle argued that our distinctive function is reasoning, and so the life “worth living” is one which we reason well. An agent-based theory emphasizes that virtues are determined by common-sense intuitions that we as observers judge to be admirable traits in other people. The third branch of virtue ethics, the ethics of care, was proposed predominately by feminist thinkers.

It challenges the idea that ethics should focus solely on justice and autonomy; it argues that more feminine traits, such as caring and nurturing, should also be considered (Nafsika, 2012). Its theories provide a self-centred conception of ethics because human flourishing is seen as an end in itself and does not sufficiently consider the extent to which our actions affect other people. Virtue ethics also does not provide guidance on how we should act, as there are no clear principles for guiding action other than “act as a virtuous person would act given the situation.” In other words, the ability to cultivate the right virtues will be affected by a number of different factors beyond a person’s control due to education, society, friends and family. Honesty

There are lists of traits of characters which consist of virtue. For instance, there are generosity, justice, thoughtfulness, tolerance, patience, self-discipline, self-reliance, loyalty, honesty, and many more. One of the most significant virtue character traits is honesty. The virtue of honesty this does not simply mean always telling the truth or not committing crimes. Certainly, if someone has the virtue of honesty we would expect them to be reliable in their honest actions, but there is more to it than that. The honest person behaves honestly for the right reason not simply because it will get them admired, or win them some praise, or make them feel good about themselves yet they are honest because this is part of the way to eudemonia. In other words, the honest person we can expect to censure others who perform acts of dishonesty and to praise those who behave honestly. Furthermore, we would expect their emotions to be involved too to be distressed by dishonesty, satisfied by witnessing acts of honesty. Finally, honest people are mainly used to the circumstances in which honesty is at issue as they care about it. In my life, honesty had been always an issue which I really concerned about.

My father always tells me a lot of real story about honesty with me and my family. I would like to share one of the most inspiring stories in this coursework. Once there was a poor boy in a town, his father had died. He had a widow mother and three younger sisters. There was no source of income to support them. He tried much to get a job but in vain. One day he was walking on road. He saw a Money bag lying beside. He picked and opened it. There was a huge amount of rupees 1 Lac in the purse and address card was also there in the purse. He went to his mother and told her the fact. His mother strictly ordered him to give the purse to the owner at his address. The boy reached before the owner of the purse and handed over it to him. The owner was a big mill owner. He was very glad and thankful to see the honesty of the boy. The mill Owner asked him as to where he is was working. The boy told the whole story of problem. The rich man was too much impressed and gave him a good job in his factory. Thus the poor boy got the reward of his honesty and passed happy days of life.

Aristotle linked the exercise of a virtue with what he called phronesis, or practical wisdom. Thus, an honest person will not have his honesty called into question if he is dishonest when circumstances are such that this is the wisest option. In other words, the honest person will regret having to lie will not feel good about the lie, will point out that they have justification for lying. This is in contrast to the other ethical systems where you can feel good either about not lying or about telling a lie. Virtue ethics, because of its prominence on character rather than actions, is thus more attractive in that it does allow for something more complex to be involved in our behaviour than a simple analysis of a single act as being right or wrong according to whether it is obeying a duty or makes more happiness.

Having indicated that honesty is sometimes not desirable, how can we still call it a virtue? This indicates that, perhaps like deontology where, on occasion, we are required to choose between conflicting duties, there might be a limitation to the concept of virtue which means that it is not always something which makes the person good. Perhaps the only virtue that might fit this bill is wisdom, and maybe being just. That said, we do have ways of qualifying characteristics to indicate that the underlying virtue is being overstretched such as being brutally honest when telling someone that they are too ugly to be a model, or being too generous when giving a wastrel all one’s disposable income (Stanford, 2009). An honest person cannot be identified simply as one who, for instance, practices honest dealing, and does not cheat. If such actions are done merely because the agent thinks that honesty is the best policy, or because they fear being caught out, rather than through recognising to do otherwise would be dishonest as the relevant reason, they are not the actions of an honest person.

An honest person cannot be identified simply as one who, for example, always tells the truth, nor even as one who always tells the truth because it is the truth, for one can have the virtue of honesty without being tactless or indiscreet (Annas, 2011). In conclusion, if someone has developed honesty as a characteristic your motivation to tell the truth in a given situation is deeply well-established in you and does not have to be referred immediately to cause or motivation. An honest person’s reasons and choices with respect to honest and dishonest actions reflect her or his views about honesty and truth but of course such views manifest themselves with respect to other actions and to emotional reactions as well. Valuing honesty as the person does chooses, where possible to work with honest people, to have honest friends, to bring up their children to be honest.

Reference List:
NA. 2011. Philosophy-Ethics. [Online] Retrieved from: http://www.sevenoaksphilosophy.org/ethics/virtue.html [Accessed on 23th July 2013] Nafsika. 2012. Virtue Ethics. [Online] Retrieved from: http://www.iep.utm.edu/virtue/ [Accessed on 23th July 2013] Stanford. 2009. Virtue Ethics. [Online] Retrieved from: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-virtue/ [Accessed on 23th July 2013]

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