To what extent do modern versions of Virtue Ethics address the weaknesses of Aristotle’s teachings on virtue?
Aristotle’s idea of Virtue Ethics was influenced by his belief that all things and all humans have a purpose (a telos). For him a complete explanation of something has to include its final cause or purpose which essentially is to realise its potential. Virtue Ethics itself is concerned with the characteristics of a person rather than how a person behaves and it is this he outlined in his book Nicomachean Ethics. A ‘’virtue’’ are qualities that lead to a good life e.g. courage and honesty. Aristotle explains for a person to adopt these qualities into their own lives is to maximise their potential to achieve a happy life and he goes on to explain Eudaimonia as being a quality of this happiness.
However Aristotle then explains that a person should not act virtuously just to achieve a particular end because he believes this to be a subordinate aim. A person that acts in a way to achieve goodness Aristotle explains is a superior aim and it is these people that act ‘’good’’ because it is the right way to act not because they ought to. Following on from this Aristotle goes on to explain the key to goodness and virtue is to follow the ‘’golden mean’’. This is when as a person we act between two extreme vices for example the midpoint between shamelessness and shyness is modesty, this therefore is the golden mean. Aristotle also distinguished between two types of virtue, moral virtues and intellectual virtues. The first being those cultivated through habit whilst intellectual virtues are those cultivated through instruction. In the later twentieth century Virtue Ethics suffered a revival. It was questioned whether Aristotle’s teachings on Virtue Ethics had any weaknesses and some modern perspectives on Virtue Theory can be seen to highlight these flaws.
Although not to a great extent, I do believe some modern versions of Virtue Ethics address the...