Aristotle: Virtue and Morality - Oxford Scholarship
To get a better sense of the relationships between ethics, morality, and virtue, and how these concepts can be used to strengthen or create a. These are arête (excellence or virtue), phronesis (practical or moral .. the relationship between rightness/wrongness and virtue/vice is close. Virtue (Latin: virtus, Ancient Greek: ἀρετή “arete”) is moral excellence. A virtue is a trait or quality that is deemed to be morally good and thus is.
And like Augustine, Adams takes that perfect good to be God. God is both the exemplification and the source of all goodness. Other things are good, he suggests, to the extent that they resemble God Adams The resemblance requirement identifies a necessary condition for being good, but it does not yet give us a sufficient condition.
This is because there are ways in which finite creatures might resemble God that would not be suitable to the type of creature they are. To rule out such cases we need to introduce another factor. That factor is the fitting response to goodness, which Adams suggests is love. Adams uses love to weed out problematic resemblances: Virtues come into the account as one of the ways in which some things namely, persons could resemble God.
This is one of the reasons Adams offers for conceiving of the ideal of perfection as a personal God, rather than an impersonal form of the Good. Many of the excellences of persons of which we are most confident are virtues such as love, wisdom, justice, patience, and generosity. A Platonistic account like the one Adams puts forward in Finite and Infinite Goods clearly does not derive all other normative properties from the virtues for a discussion of the relationship between this view and the one he puts forward in A Theory of Virtue see Pettigrove Goodness provides the normative foundation.
Virtues are not built on that foundation; rather, as one of the varieties of goodness of whose value we are most confident, virtues form part of the foundation. Obligations, by contrast, come into the account at a different level. Other things being equal, the more virtuous the parties to the relationship, the more binding the obligation.
However, once good relationships have given rise to obligations, those obligations take on a life of their own. Their bindingness is not traced directly to considerations of goodness. Rather, they are determined by the expectations of the parties and the demands of the relationship.
Objections to virtue ethics A number of objections have been raised against virtue ethics, some of which bear more directly on one form of virtue ethics than on others. In this section we consider eight objections, namely, the a application, b adequacy, c relativism, d conflict, e self-effacement, f justification, g egoism, and h situationist problems. At the time, utilitarians and deontologists commonly though not universally held that the task of ethical theory was to come up with a code consisting of universal rules or principles possibly only one, as in the case of act-utilitarianism which would have two significant features: Virtue ethicists maintained, contrary to these two claims, that it was quite unrealistic to imagine that there could be such a code see, in particular, McDowell More and more utilitarians and deontologists found themselves agreed on their general rules but on opposite sides of the controversial moral issues in contemporary discussion.
It came to be recognised that moral sensitivity, perception, imagination, and judgement informed by experience—phronesis in short—is needed to apply rules or principles correctly. Hence many though by no means all utilitarians and deontologists have explicitly abandoned ii and much less emphasis is placed on i. Nevertheless, the complaint that virtue ethics does not produce codifiable principles is still a commonly voiced criticism of the approach, expressed as the objection that it is, in principle, unable to provide action-guidance.
Initially, the objection was based on a misunderstanding. It is a noteworthy feature of our virtue and vice vocabulary that, although our list of generally recognised virtue terms is comparatively short, our list of vice terms is remarkably, and usefully, long, far exceeding anything that anyone who thinks in terms of standard deontological rules has ever come up with.
Much invaluable action guidance comes from avoiding courses of action that would be irresponsible, feckless, lazy, inconsiderate, uncooperative, harsh, intolerant, selfish, mercenary, indiscreet, tactless, arrogant, unsympathetic, cold, incautious, unenterprising, pusillanimous, feeble, presumptuous, rude, hypocritical, self-indulgent, materialistic, grasping, short-sighted, vindictive, calculating, ungrateful, grudging, brutal, profligate, disloyal, and on and on.
This worry can take two forms. It is possible to perform a right action without being virtuous and a virtuous person can occasionally perform the wrong action without that calling her virtue into question. Some virtue ethicists respond to the adequacy objection by rejecting the assumption that virtue ethics ought to be in the business of providing an account of right action in the first place. Following in the footsteps of Anscombe and MacIntyreTalbot Brewer argues that to work with the categories of rightness and wrongness is already to get off on the wrong foot.
Contemporary conceptions of right and wrong action, built as they are around a notion of moral duty that presupposes a framework of divine or moral law or around a conception of obligation that is defined in contrast to self-interest, carry baggage the virtue ethicist is better off without. Other virtue ethicists wish to retain the concept of right action but note that in the current philosophical discussion a number of distinct qualities march under that banner.
In others, it designates an action that is commendable even if not the best possible. In still others, it picks out actions that are not blameworthy even if not commendable.
A virtue ethicist might choose to define one of these—for example, the best action—in terms of virtues and vices, but appeal to other normative concepts—such as legitimate expectations—when defining other conceptions of right action.
As we observed in section 2, a virtue ethical account need not attempt to reduce all other normative concepts to virtues and vices. What is required is simply i that virtue is not reduced to some other normative concept that is taken to be more fundamental and ii that some other normative concepts are explained in terms of virtue and vice.
Appealing to virtues and vices makes it much easier to achieve extensional adequacy. Making room for normative concepts that are not taken to be reducible to virtue and vice concepts makes it even easier to generate a theory that is both extensionally and explanatorily adequate.
Whether one needs other concepts and, if so, how many, is still a matter of debate among virtue ethicists, as is the question of whether virtue ethics even ought to be offering an account of right action. Either way virtue ethicists have resources available to them to address the adequacy objection. Insofar as the different versions of virtue ethics all retain an emphasis on the virtues, they are open to the familiar problem of c the charge of cultural relativity.
Is it not the case that different cultures embody different virtues, MacIntyre and hence that the v-rules will pick out actions as right or wrong only relative to a particular culture?
Virtue Ethics | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Different replies have been made to this charge. They admit that, for them, cultural relativism is a challenge, but point out that it is just as much a problem for the other two approaches. The putative cultural variation in character traits regarded as virtues is no greater—indeed markedly less—than the cultural variation in rules of conduct, and different cultures have different ideas about what constitutes happiness or welfare.
That cultural relativity should be a problem common to all three approaches is hardly surprising. A bolder strategy involves claiming that virtue ethics has less difficulty with cultural relativity than the other two approaches. Much cultural disagreement arises, it may be claimed, from local understandings of the virtues, but the virtues themselves are not relative to culture Nussbaum Charity prompts me to kill the person who would be better off dead, but justice forbids it.
Honesty points to telling the hurtful truth, kindness and compassion to remaining silent or even lying. What shall I do? Of course, the same sorts of dilemmas are generated by conflicts between deontological rules. Deontology and virtue ethics share the conflict problem and are happy to take it on board rather than follow some of the utilitarians in their consequentialist resolutions of such dilemmas and in fact their strategies for responding to it are parallel.
Both aim to resolve a number of dilemmas by arguing that the conflict is merely apparent; a discriminating understanding of the virtues or rules in question, possessed only by those with practical wisdom, will perceive that, in this particular case, the virtues do not make opposing demands or that one rule outranks another, or has a certain exception clause built into it.
Whether this is all there is to it depends on whether there are any irresolvable dilemmas. If there are, proponents of either normative approach may point out reasonably that it could only be a mistake to offer a resolution of what is, ex hypothesi, irresolvable. Another problem arguably shared by all three approaches is ethat of being self-effacing.
Michael Stocker originally introduced it as a problem for deontology and consequentialism. He pointed out that the agent who, rightly, visits a friend in hospital will rather lessen the impact of his visit on her if he tells her either that he is doing it because it is his duty or because he thought it would maximize the general happiness. In its particular versions, for deontology there is the question of how to justify its claims that certain moral rules are the correct ones, and for utilitarianism of how to justify its claim that all that really matters morally are consequences for happiness or well-being.
For virtue ethics, the problem concerns the question of which character traits are the virtues. Some believe that their normative ethics can be placed on a secure basis, resistant to any form of scepticism, such as what anyone rationally desires, or would accept or agree on, regardless of their ethical outlook; others that it cannot. Virtue ethicists have eschewed any attempt to ground virtue ethics in an external foundation while continuing to maintain that their claims can be validated.
A misunderstanding of eudaimonia as an unmoralized concept leads some critics to suppose that the neo-Aristotelians are attempting to ground their claims in a scientific account of human nature and what counts, for a human being, as flourishing.
Others assume that, if this is not what they are doing, they cannot be validating their claims that, for example, justice, charity, courage, and generosity are virtues. Eudaimonia in virtue ethics, is indeed a moralized concept, but it is not only that. Claims about what constitutes flourishing for human beings no more float free of scientific facts about what human beings are like than ethological claims about what constitutes flourishing for elephants.
In both cases, the truth of the claims depends in part on what kind of animal they are and what capacities, desires and interests the humans or elephants have. The best available science today including evolutionary theory and psychology supports rather than undermines the ancient Greek assumption that we are social animals, like elephants and wolves and unlike polar bears.
No rationalizing explanation in terms of anything like a social contract is needed to explain why we choose to live together, subjugating our egoistic desires in order to secure the advantages of co-operation. Like other social animals, our natural impulses are not solely directed towards our own pleasures and preservation, but include altruistic and cooperative ones. This basic fact about us should make more comprehensible the claim that the virtues are at least partially constitutive of human flourishing and also undercut the objection that virtue ethics is, in some sense, egoistic.
One is a simple confusion. A related version ascribes bizarre reasons to the virtuous agent, unjustifiably assuming that she acts as she does because she believes that acting thus on this occasion will help her to achieve eudaimonia. On the view that the exercise of the virtues is necessary but not sufficient for eudaimonia, such cases are described as those in which the virtuous agent sees that, as things have unfortunately turned out, eudaimonia is not possible for them Foot Either way, such heroic acts can hardly be regarded as egoistic.
This is a mistake on two counts. Firstly, justice and benevolence do, in general, benefit their possessors, since without them eudaimonia is not possible. There have been other responses as well summarized helpfully in Prinz and Miller But giving up the idea that practical wisdom is the heart of all the virtues, as Adams has to do, is a substantial sacrifice, as Russell and Kamtekar argue.
Future Directions Over the past thirty-five years most of those contributing to the revival of virtue ethics have worked within a neo-Aristotelian, eudaimonist framework. However, as noted in section 2, other forms of virtue ethics have begun to emerge. Theorists have begun to turn to philosophers like Hutcheson, Hume, Nietzsche, Martineau, and Heidegger for resources they might use to develop alternatives see Russell ; Swanton and ; Taylor ; and Harcourt These explorations promise to open up new avenues for the development of virtue ethics.
Although virtue ethics has grown remarkably in the last thirty-five years, it is still very much in the minority, particularly in the area of applied ethics.
However, the last decade has seen an increase in the amount of attention applied virtue ethics has received Walker and Ivanhoe ; Hartman ; Austin ; Van Hooft ; and Annas This area can certainly be expected to grow in the future, and it looks as though applying virtue ethics in the field of environmental ethics may prove particularly fruitful Sandler ; Hursthouse; Zwolinski and Schmidtz ; Cafaro That suggests that at least those virtue ethicists who take their inspiration from Aristotle should have resources to offer for the development of virtue politics.
But, while Plato and Aristotle can be great inspirations as far as virtue ethics is concerned, neither, on the face of it, are attractive sources of insight where politics is concerned.
Difference between Morality and Virtue?
However, recent work suggests that Aristotelian ideas can, after all, generate a satisfyingly liberal political philosophy Nussbaum ; LeBar a. Moreover, as noted above, virtue ethics does not have to be neo-Aristotelian. It may be that the virtue ethics of Hutcheson and Hume can be naturally extended into a modern political philosophy Hursthouse —91; Slote Following Plato and Aristotle, modern virtue ethics has always emphasised the importance of moral education, not as the inculcation of rules but as the training of character.
There is now a growing movement towards virtues education, amongst both academics Carr ; Athanassoulis ; Curren and teachers in the classroom. One exciting thing about research in this area is its engagement with other academic disciplines, including psychology, educational theory, and theology see Cline ; and Snow Finally, one of the more productive developments of virtue ethics has come through the study of particular virtues and vices.
There are now a number of careful studies of the cardinal virtues and capital vices Pieper ; Taylor ; Curzer ; Timpe and Boyd Others have explored less widely discussed virtues or vices, such as civility, decency, truthfulness, ambition, and meekness Calhoun ; Kekes ; Williams ; and Pettigrove and Others have been concerned that such an open-handed approach to the virtues will make it difficult for virtue ethicists to come up with an adequate account of right action or deal with the conflict problem discussed above.
The apparent proliferation of virtues can be significantly reduced if we group virtues together with some being cardinal and others subordinate extensions of those cardinal virtues. Possible conflicts between the remaining virtues can then be managed if they are tied together in some way as part of a unified whole Russell This highlights two important avenues for future research, one of which explores individual virtues and the other of which analyses how they might be related to one another.
Oxford University Press, pp. Oxford University Press, — Happiness in a Worthwhile Life, New York: Bloomfield, Paul,The Virtues of Happiness: Special edition on environmental virtue ethics. Carr, David and Jan Steutel eds. Cline, Erin,Families of Virtue: Crisp, Roger and Michael Slote eds. DePaul, Michael and Linda Zagzebski eds. Perspectives from Ethics and Epistemology, New York: Conventional Truth in Buddhist Philosophy, Oxford: Foot, Philippa,Virtues and Vices, Oxford: Goldie, Peter,On Personality, London: Halwani, Raja,Virtuous Liaisons, Chicago: De Gruyter Verlag, pp.
Canadian Journal of Philosophy Supplementary, Alberta: University of Calgary Press, pp. Miller, Christian,Moral Character: An Empirical Theory, New York: Nussbaum and Amartya Sen eds. University of Notre Dame Press. It developed from dissatisfaction with the notions of duty and obligation and their central roles in understanding morality. It also grew out of an objection to the use of rigid moral rules and principles and their application to diverse and different moral situations.
Characteristically, virtue ethics makes a claim about the central role of virtue and character in its understanding of moral life and uses it to answer the questions "How should I live?
Virtue ethics is character-based. Virtue Ethical Theories Raising objections to other normative theories and defining itself in opposition to the claims of others, was the first stage in the development of virtue ethics. Virtue ethicists then took up the challenge of developing full fledged accounts of virtue that could stand on their own merits rather than simply criticize consequentialism and deontology.
These accounts have been predominantly influenced by the Aristotelian understanding of virtue. While some virtue ethics take inspiration from Plato's, the Stoics', Aquinas', Hume's and Nietzsche's accounts of virtue and ethics, Aristotelian conceptions of virtue ethics still dominate the field. There are three main strands of development for virtue ethics: Eudaimonism, agent-based theories and the ethics of care. Eudaimonism "Eudaimonia" is an Aristotelian term loosely and inadequately translated as happiness.
To understand its role in virtue ethics we look to Aristotle's function argument. Aristotle recognizes that actions are not pointless because they have an aim. Every action aims at some good. For example, the doctor's vaccination of the baby aims at the baby's health, the English tennis player Tim Henman works on his serve so that he can win Wimbledon, and so on.
Furthermore, some things are done for their own sake ends in themselves and some things are done for the sake of other things means to other ends. Aristotle claims that all the things that are ends in themselves also contribute to a wider end, an end that is the greatest good of all. That good is eudaimonia. Eudaimonia is happiness, contentment, and fulfillment; it's the name of the best kind of life, which is an end in itself and a means to live and fare well.
Aristotle then observes that where a thing has a function the good of the thing is when it performs its function well. For example, the knife has a function, to cut, and it performs its function well when it cuts well. This argument is applied to man: Man's function is what is peculiar to him and sets him aside from other beingsreason.
Therefore, the function of man is reason and the life that is distinctive of humans is the life in accordance with reason. If the function of man is reason, then the good man is the man who reasons well. This is the life of excellence or of eudaimonia. Eudaimonia is the life of virtueactivity in accordance with reason, man's highest function.
The importance of this point of eudaimonistic virtue ethics is that it reverses the relationship between virtue and rightness.
A utilitarian could accept the value of the virtue of kindness, but only because someone with a kind disposition is likely to bring about consequences that will maximize utility. So the virtue is only justified because of the consequences it brings about.
In eudaimonist virtue ethics the virtues are justified because they are constitutive elements of eudaimonia that is, human flourishing and wellbeingwhich is good in itself. Rosalind Hursthouse developed one detailed account of eudaimonist virtue ethics. Hursthouse argues that the virtues make their possessor a good human being.
Like Aristotle, Hursthouse argues that the characteristic way of human beings is the rational way: Acting virtuouslythat is, acting in accordance with reasonis acting in the way characteristic of the nature of human beings and this will lead to eudaimonia. This means that the virtues benefit their possessor.
One might think that the demands of morality conflict with our self-interest, as morality is other-regarding, but eudaimonist virtue ethics presents a different picture.
Human nature is such that virtue is not exercised in opposition to self-interest, but rather is the quintessential component of human flourishing. The good life for humans is the life of virtue and therefore it is in our interest to be virtuous. It is not just that the virtues lead to the good life e. It is important to note, however, that there have been many different ways of developing this idea of the good life and virtue within virtue ethics. Philippa Foot, for example, grounds the virtues in what is good for human beings.
The virtues are beneficial to their possessor or to the community note that this is similar to MacIntyre's argument that the virtues enable us to achieve goods within human practices. Rather than being constitutive of the good life, the virtues are valuable because they contribute to it.
Another account is given by perfectionists such as Thomas Hurka, who derive the virtues from the characteristics that most fully develop our essential properties as human beings.
Individuals are judged against a standard of perfection that reflects very rare or ideal levels of human achievement. The virtues realize our capacity for rationality and therefore contribute to our well-being and perfection in that sense. Michael Slote has developed an account of virtue based on our common-sense intuitions about which character traits are admirable. Slote makes a distinction between agent-focused and agent-based theories.
Virtue Ethics (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Agent-focused theories understand the moral life in terms of what it is to be a virtuous individual, where the virtues are inner dispositions.
Aristotelian theory is an example of an agent-focused theory. By contrast, agent-based theories are more radical in that their evaluation of actions is dependent on ethical judgments about the inner life of the agents who perform those actions.
There are a variety of human traits that we find admirable, such as benevolence, kindness, compassion, etc. Developed mainly by feminist writers, such as Annette Baier, this account of virtue ethics is motivated by the thought that men think in masculine terms such as justice and autonomy, whereas woman think in feminine terms such as caring.
These theorists call for a change in how we view morality and the virtues, shifting towards virtues exemplified by women, such as taking care of others, patience, the ability to nurture, self-sacrifice, etc. These virtues have been marginalized because society has not adequately valued the contributions of women.
Writings in this area do not always explicitly make a connection with virtue ethics. There is much in their discussions, however, of specific virtues and their relation to social practices and moral education, etc. Conclusion There are many different accounts of virtue ethics. The three types discussed above are representative of the field.
There is a large field, however, of diverse writers developing other theories of virtue. For example, Christine Swanton has developed a pluralist account of virtue ethics with connections to Nietzsche. Nietzsche's theory emphasizes the inner self and provides a possible response to the call for a better understanding of moral psychology.
Swanton develops an account of self-love that allows her to distinguish true virtue from closely related vices, e. She also makes use of the Nietzschean ideas of creativity and expression to show how different modes of acknowledgement are appropriate to the virtues. Historically, accounts of virtue have varied widely. Homeric virtue should be understood within the society within which it occurred. The standard of excellence was determined from within the particular society and accountability was determined by one's role within society.What is Virtue Ethics? (Philosophical Definition)
Also, one's worth was comparative to others and competition was crucial in determining one's worth. Other accounts of virtue ethics are inspired from Christian writers such as Aquinas and Augustine see the work of David Oderberg. Aquinas' account of the virtues is distinctive because it allows a role for the will.
One's will can be directed by the virtues and we are subject to the natural law, because we have the potential to grasp the truth of practical judgments. To possess a virtue is to have the will to apply it and the knowledge of how to do so. Humans are susceptible to evil and acknowledging this allows us to be receptive to the virtues of faith, hope and charityvirtues of love that are significantly different from Aristotle's virtues.
The three types of theories covered above developed over long periods, answering many questions and often changed in response to criticisms. For example, Michael Slote has moved away from agent-based virtue ethics to a more Humean-inspired sentimentalist account of virtue ethics. Humean accounts of virtue ethics rely on the motive of benevolence and the idea that actions should be evaluated by the sentiments they express.
Admirable sentiments are those that express a concern for humanity. The interested reader must seek out the work of these writers in the original to get a full appreciation of the depth and detail of their theories. Objections to Virtue Ethics Much of what has been written on virtue ethics has been in response to criticisms of the theory. The following section presents three objections and possible responses, based on broad ideas held in common by most accounts of virtue ethics.
Self-Centeredness Morality is supposed to be about other people. It deals with our actions to the extent that they affect other people.
Moral praise and blame is attributed on the grounds of an evaluation of our behavior towards others and the ways in that we exhibit, or fail to exhibit, a concern for the well-being of others.
Virtue ethics, according to this objection, is self-centered because its primary concern is with the agent's own character. Virtue ethics seems to be essentially interested in the acquisition of the virtues as part of the agent's own well-being and flourishing. Morality requires us to consider others for their own sake and not because they may benefit us. There seems to be something wrong with aiming to behave compassionately, kindly, and honestly merely because this will make oneself happier.
Related to this objection is a more general objection against the idea that well-being is a master value and that all other things are valuable only to the extent that they contribute to it. This line of attack, exemplified in the writings of Tim Scanlon, objects to the understanding of well-being as a moral notion and sees it more like self-interest. Furthermore, well-being does not admit to comparisons with other individuals.
Thus, well-being cannot play the role that eudaimonists would have it play. This objection fails to appreciate the role of the virtues within the theory. The virtues are other-regarding. Kindness, for example, is about how we respond to the needs of others. The virtuous agent's concern is with developing the right sort of character that will respond to the needs of others in an appropriate way.
The virtue of kindness is about being able to perceive situations where one is required to be kind, have the disposition to respond kindly in a reliable and stable manner, and be able to express one's kind character in accordance with one's kind desires. The eudaimonist account of virtue ethics claims that the good of the agent and the good of others are not two separate aims. Both rather result from the exercise of virtue.
Rather than being too self-centered, virtue ethics unifies what is required by morality and what is required by self-interest. Action-Guiding Moral philosophy is concerned with practical issues. Fundamentally it is about how we should act. Virtue ethics has criticized consequentialist and deontological theories for being too rigid and inflexible because they rely on one rule or principle. One reply to this is that these theories are action guiding. The existence of "rigid" rules is a strength, not a weakness because they offer clear direction on what to do.
As long as we know the principles, we can apply them to practical situations and be guided by them. Virtue ethics, it is objected, with its emphasis on the imprecise nature of ethics, fails to give us any help with the practicalities of how we should behave. A theory that fails to be action-guiding is no good as a moral theory. The main response to this criticism is to stress the role of the virtuous agent as an exemplar.
Virtue ethics reflects the imprecise nature of ethics by being flexible and situation-sensitive, but it can also be action-guiding by observing the example of the virtuous agent. The virtuous agent is the agent who has a fully developed moral character, who possesses the virtues and acts in accordance with them, and who knows what to do by example.
Further, virtue ethics places considerable of emphasis on the development of moral judgment. Knowing what to do is not a matter of internalizing a principle, but a life-long process of moral learning that will only provide clear answers when one reaches moral maturity. Virtue ethics cannot give us an easy, instant answer.
This is because these answers do not exist. Nonetheless, it can be action-guiding if we understand the role of the virtuous agent and the importance of moral education and development. If virtue consists of the right reason and the right desire, virtue ethics will be action-guiding when we can perceive the right reason and have successfully habituated our desires to affirm its commands.
Moral Luck Finally, there is a concern that virtue ethics leaves us hostage to luck. Morality is about responsibility and the appropriateness of praise and blame.
However, we only praise and blame agents for actions taken under conscious choice. The road to virtue is arduous and many things outside our control can go wrong. Just as the right education, habits, influences, examples, etc. Some people will be lucky and receive the help and encouragement they need to attain moral maturity, but others will not. If the development of virtue and vice is subject to luck, is it fair to praise the virtuous and blame the vicious for something that was outside of their control?
Further, some accounts of virtue are dependent on the availability of external goods. Friendship with other virtuous agents is so central to Aristotelian virtue that a life devoid of virtuous friendship will be lacking in eudaimonia.
However, we have no control over the availability of the right friends. How can we then praise the virtuous and blame the vicious if their development and respective virtue and vice were not under their control?
Some moral theories try to eliminate the influence of luck on morality primarily deontology. Virtue ethics, however, answers this objection by embracing moral luck. Rather than try to make morality immune to matters that are outside of our control, virtue ethics recognizes the fragility of the good life and makes it a feature of morality. It is only because the good life is so vulnerable and fragile that it is so precious.
Many things can go wrong on the road to virtue, such that the possibility that virtue is lost, but this vulnerability is an essential feature of the human condition, which makes the attainment of the good life all the more valuable. Virtue in Deontology and Consequentialism Virtue ethics offers a radically different account to deontology and consequentialism. Virtue ethics, however, has influenced modern moral philosophy not only by developing a full-fledged account of virtue, but also by causing consequentialists and deontologists to re-examine their own theories with view to taking advantage of the insights of virtue.
The emergence of virtue ethics caused many writers to re-examine Kant's other works. Kantian virtue is in some respects similar to Aristotelian virtue. In the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant stresses the importance of education, habituation, and gradual developmentall ideas that have been used by modern deontologists to illustrate the common sense plausibility of the theory.
For Kantians, the main role of virtue and appropriate character development is that a virtuous character will help one formulate appropriate maxims for testing. In other respects, Kantian virtue remains rather dissimilar from other conceptions of virtue. Differences are based on at least three ideas: First, Kantian virtue is a struggle against emotions.
Whether one thinks the emotions should be subjugated or eliminated, for Kant moral worth comes only from the duty of motive, a motive that struggles against inclination. This is quite different from the Aristotelian picture of harmony between reason and desire.
Second, for Kant there is no such thing as weakness of will, understood in the Aristotelian sense of the distinction between continence and incontinence. Kant concentrates on fortitude of will and failure to do so is self-deception. Consequentialists have found a role for virtue as a disposition that tends to promote good consequences. Virtue is not valuable in itself, but rather valuable for the good consequences it tends to bring about.
We should cultivate virtuous dispositions because such dispositions will tend to maximize utility. This is a radical departure from the Aristotelian account of virtue for its own sake. Some consequentialists, such as Driver, go even further and argue that knowledge is not necessary for virtue. Rival accounts have tried to incorporate the benefits of virtue ethics and develop in ways that will allow them to respond to the challenged raised by virtue ethics. This has led to very fruitful and exciting work being done within this area of philosophy.
References and Further Reading a. The original call for a return to Aristotelian ethics. His first outline of his account of the virtues. Ark, Williams, B. Especially Chapter 10 for the thoughts discussed in this paper. Overviews of Virtue Ethics Oakley, J. Edinburgh University Press, c. Varieties of Virtue Ethics Adkins, A. Chatto and Windus, An account of Homeric virtue.