To What Extent Do Modern Versions of Virtue Ethics Address the Weaknesses of Aristotle’s Teachings on Virtue?

1047 Words May 29th, 2013 5 Pages
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
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Elizabeth Anscombe believed that ethical codes laying stress on moral absolute laws are outdated in a society where effectively a belief in God has been abandoned by the majority. She believed that we need to return to a morality which is based on human flourishing. However Anscombe did believe a return to achieving Eudaimonia was required and working from the basis of Aristotle’s work she believed morality is best based on a person (agent) rather than an act or outcome. Similarly Philippa Foot argued that although virtues cannot guarantee happiness, they can go some way to achieving it and she too uses Aristotle’s roots but updates them accordingly. She explains that virtues can only be virtuous when used in the correct way; she used the example of courage when applied to somebody robbing a bank, in this instance courage is therefore not a virtue and cannot be seen as virtuous.
Alasdair MacIntyre encourages a return to the basis of Aristotle’s understanding of virtue and encourages the development of virtues that are relevant to contemporary times. He believed when compared to other ethical theories Virtue Ethics are more realistic and applicable to peoples everyday situations. I would agree with MacIntyre here that a virtue-approach is more suitable in our society. Naturalistic theories of ethics are time consuming and overly complexed and therefore difficult to apply, Virtue Ethics however is not. For…

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