Theories of Socially Acceptable Behaviors: Virtue Theories, Utilitarianism, and Deontological Ethics

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Many approaches have been considered when attempting to determine and define socially acceptable behaviors and how they are formed. Three of these theories include virtue theories, utilitarianism, and deontological ethics. While each of these theories has been analyzed in relationship to the formation of socially acceptable behavior, none have been found to be definitive. Virtue ethics emphasize the importance of one's character and their morals above dutiful behavior. Many virtue theories are built upon Aristotle's teachings that define a virtuous person as "someone who has ideal character traits" (Athanassoulis, 2004). Virtues can be defined as an agreement to standards of right or can refer to particular moral excellence (Merriam-Webster Online, 2013). Virtue theories hold that there are a universal set of principles and virtues that can be applied to various situations. Some virtue theories that have seen recent resurgence are Eudemonism, agent-based theories, and the ethics of care (Athanassoulis, 2004). In Eudemonism, virtues are based in flourishing with flourishing being "equated with performing one's distinctive function well" (Athanassoulis, 2004). Agent-based theories, on the other hand, contend individuals aim to mimic virtuous qualities they see in others based on common-sense concepts, and the ethics of care contends qualities like caring and nurturing should be considered to be virtuous traits as well. On the contrary, utilitarianism defines morality in

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