Features of Aristotle's Virtue Ethics

Features of Aristotle's Virtue Ethics

The main features of Aristotle’s virtue ethics

Virtue comes from the Latin ‘virtus’ meaning ‘strength’ and is also related to the Greek word for ‘excellence’. Virtue theory is a branch of moral philosophy that emphasizes character, rather than rules or consequences, as the key element of ethical thinking. This ethical theory was developed by Aristotle.

Aristotle argued that whenever we do something we do it to gain an end and the ultimate of all ends is the chief good, the greatest good. However to achieve that end we must practice and by practicing we improve our skills and so become happy and live good lives. This final good is called eudaimonia or happiness and human flourishing. This supreme happiness that Aristotle talks about is one for the community not just an individual. Since Aristotle saw people as not only rational beings but also as social beings. We live in groups for example family’s schools and villages. He saw the well being of the group as more important than that of a single member.

A virtuous person is one who developed the different virtues or character qualities that people generally admire. Aristotle distinguished between moral virtues such as courage and intellectual virtues such as knowledge. There are twelve moral virtues but they fall between to vices that of excess and that of deficiency. For example courage is a virtue but if you are excessively courageous then you may become rash but if you don’t have enough courage you become a coward.

Aristotle also believed that moral virtues are connected to the desiderative and irrational part of the soul they can be cultivated through habit. He also said there were 9 intellectual virtues compromising 5 main primary virtues and four secondary virtues. These are connected to the rational half of the soul which is cultivated through instruction.

Aristotle believed that all virtues lay at the mid-point between two vices. Although all of us could develop these virtues, only a few...

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