Essay on The Strengths and Weaknesses Of Virtue Ethics

767 Words 4 Pages
The Strengths and Weaknesses Of Virtue Ethics

The virtue ethicist suggests that his theory avoids the complicated tasks of using a formula to figure out what we ought to do, by instead focusing on the kinds of persons we ought to be. The trouble lies in determining just how we know what kinds of persons we ought to be. Or, we might put it this way: how are we to determine just what the virtues are? Obviously, if we do not know what the virtues are, then telling people to "Live virtuously!" becomes an empty imperative. So, if we ask the virtue ethicist what the virtues are, what will he tell us?

Virtue theorists answer this question in at least five different ways. Firstly, some virtue
…show more content…
Then however, if you ask what the virtues are, it is likely you would be told that we can determine that by appealing to this notion of a flourishing life--only it turns out that the flourishing life assumes a set of values, a set of standards already!

So, appealing to the flourishing life only returns us to the original question: which moral standards should we adopt?

There are still two other ways that the virtue theorist might try to determine what the virtues are. Fourthly, he might simply appeal to a formula like the categorical imperative or the utilitarian calculus. On this theory, he might argue that if we want to know what character traits are the moral ones, we just ask which ones maximise happiness and minimise harm for the greatest number. But this answer, only returns the virtue theorist to the very rule-based theories he tried to resist earlier. On this account virtue ethics just collapses into the rule-based systems.

The final way in which the virtue theorist might try to determine what the virtues are that the good man can tell what to do in a morally complicated situation. This is because his habits not only internalise the rules but also give him a special ability to know what is morally appropriate independent of any rational calculus like Kant's.

This could be called a form of
Open Document