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Virtue Ethics Essay

Virtue ethics belongs to the branch of philosophy called ethics. Virtue ethics is also a sub branch of normative ethics and it contrasts with disteleology because normative ethics is more concerned about characteristics of a person rather than the moral duties and laws they must abide, so Natural Moral Law, Kantian ethics and Divine Command are usually dismissed by Virtue Ethics. This ethical theory also contrasts with consequentialism e.g. Utilitarianism which is more focused on results and outcomes. Virtue ethics was first introduces by Plato and was further developed by Aristotle. Virtue ethics is based on the focus of characteristics, also known as virtues. This means the good character traits an individual has- and the opposite of a virtue (a vice) which are the negatives traits of an individual. Virtue ethics can be seen as an anti-theory because it is not concerned about the theory aspect but rather it is about the practice of it.

In other words Virtue ethics focuses upon what kind of human being you ought to be rather than the actions of a human being. Plato, in his book “Republic”, focused on justices and further on argues that, with his beliefs about the soul, that there is a virtue connected to such part of the soul. These different parts of the soul, are called imperative and it is divided into three parts, with a virtue connected to it. These virtues are the cardinal virtues; thus reason and wisdom are one, the human spirit performing well is paired with courage and destiny which is paired with temperance or otherwise known as moderation (self-control). If we have all these virtues we can obtain justice, the fourth virtue. According to Plato, justice is an important virtue because it balances out the interrelationship between the parts of the soul. There is justice when reason rules over spirit and desires. Wisdom is the knowledge of Forms especially the knowledge of the Form of God, having to know what goodness is itself.

The forms are the fixed, unities and unchanging concepts that are ultimately real. This type of thinking presupposes both anthropological dualism and ontological dualism. The problems with Plato is that he has based his argument on a questionable metaphysic cleansing that we cannot prove something we have little to no experience to. The concept about the soul and the priparte are criticised because there is no empirical evidence to support it, it is only logic and reason. A fortiori is the criticism of the preparative soul because there is no solid empirical evidence to support it. Furthermore there is no evidence to support the claim that there are forms, again it is only a concept based on reasoning.

Lace Wing presents the argument that even if ontology accepted Virtue Ethics, then it is unclear what the practical implications are. If Virtue Ethics is an anti-ethical theory then to how would you practice it? What would you do afterwards? How would knowing these virtues and forms affect you? In the hope of rescuing Virtue Ethics, Aristotle (Plato’s student) delivers his interpretation of this ethical theory. Aristotle does not necessarily agree into Plato’s metaphysic, epistemology or ontology but he does agree with Plato that reason is vital to virtue’s. This is because human’s are rational animals and agrees that virtue’s are vital to human flourishing otherwise known as “eudsimonia”. Unlike Plato, Aristotle believes that there are only two kinds of virtues; intellectual virtues and moral virtues.

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