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A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men. Bertrand Russell , —, philosopher, mathematician, social reformer and pacifist. The fact that a believer is happier than a sceptic is no more to the point than the fact than a drunken man is happier than a sober one.

Reason, Observation and Experience — the Holy Trinity of Science — have taught us that happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. Still others argue that it is possible to base a judicial system on the moral notion of virtues rather than rules. Some virtue theorists might respond to this overall objection with the notion of a "bad act" also being an act characteristic of vice.

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Although not all virtue ethicists agree to this notion, this is one way the virtue ethicist can re-introduce the concept of the "morally impermissible". One could raise objection with Foot that she is committing an argument from ignorance by postulating that what is not virtuous is unvirtuous. In other words, just because an action or person 'lacks of evidence' for virtue does not, all else constant , imply that said action or person is unvirtuous. Martha Nussbaum has suggested that while virtue ethics is often considered to be anti- Enlightenment , "suspicious of theory and respectful of the wisdom embodied in local practices", [19] it is actually neither fundamentally distinct from, nor does it qualify as a rival approach to deontology and utilitarianism.

She argues that philosophers from these two Enlightenment traditions often include theories of virtue. She pointed out that Kant's "Doctrine of Virtue" in The Metaphysics of Morals "covers most of the same topics as do classical Greek theories", "that he offers a general account of virtue, in terms of the strength of the will in overcoming wayward and selfish inclinations; that he offers detailed analyses of standard virtues such as courage and self-control, and of vices, such as avarice, mendacity, servility, and pride; that, although in general he portrays inclination as inimical to virtue, he also recognizes that sympathetic inclinations offer crucial support to virtue, and urges their deliberate cultivation.

Nussbaum also points to considerations of virtue by utilitarians such as Henry Sidgwick The Methods of Ethics , Jeremy Bentham The Principles of Morals and Legislation , and John Stuart Mill , who writes of moral development as part of an argument for the moral equality of women The Subjection of Women. She argues that contemporary virtue ethicists such as Alasdair MacIntyre , Bernard Williams , Philippa Foot , and John McDowell have few points of agreement, and that the common core of their work does not represent a break from Kant.

Robert B. Louden criticises virtue ethics on the basis that it promotes a form of unsustainable utopianism. Trying to come to a single set of virtues is immensely difficult in contemporary societies as, according to Louden, they contain "more ethnic, religious, and class groups than did the moral community which Aristotle theorized about" with each of these groups having "not only its own interests but its own set of virtues as well". Louden notes in passing that MacIntyre, a supporter of virtue-based ethics, has grappled with this in After Virtue but that ethics cannot dispense with building rules around acts and rely only on discussing the moral character of persons.

Virtue ethics can be contrasted to deontological ethics and consequentialist ethics by an examination of the other two the three being together the most predominant contemporary normative ethical theories. Deontological ethics , sometimes referred to as duty ethics, places the emphasis on adhering to ethical principles or duties.

How these duties are defined, however, is often a point of contention and debate in deontological ethics. One of the predominant rule schemes utilized by deontologists is the Divine Command Theory. Deontology also depends upon meta-ethical realism , in that it postulates the existence of moral absolutes that make an action moral, regardless of circumstances. For more information on deontological ethics refer to the work of Immanuel Kant.

The next predominant school of thought in normative ethics is consequentialism. While deontology places the emphasis on doing one's duty, which is established by some kind of moral imperative in other words, the emphasis is on obedience to some higher moral absolute , consequentialism bases the morality of an action upon the consequences of the outcome. Instead of saying that one has a moral duty to abstain from murder, a consequentialist would say that we should abstain from murder because it causes undesirable effects.

Mill asserts that our determinant of the desirability of an action is the net amount of happiness it brings, the number of people it brings it to, and the duration of the happiness. He also tries to delineate classes of happiness, some being preferable to others, but there is a great deal of difficulty in classifying such concepts. Virtue ethics differs from both deontology and consequentialism as it focuses on being over doing.

A virtue ethicist identifies virtues , desirable characteristics, that the moral or virtuous person embodies. Possessing these virtues is what makes one moral, and one's actions are a mere reflection of one's inner morality. To the virtue philosopher, action cannot be used as a demarcation of morality, because a virtue encompasses more than just a simple selection of action. Instead, it is about a way of being that would cause the person exhibiting the virtue to make a certain "virtuous" choice consistently in each situation.

There is a great deal of disagreement within virtue ethics over what are virtues and what are not. There are also difficulties in identifying what is the "virtuous" action to take in all circumstances, and how to define a virtue. Consequentialist and deontological theories often still employ the term 'virtue', but in a restricted sense, namely as a tendency or disposition to adhere to the system's principles or rules.

These very different senses of what constitutes virtue, hidden behind the same word, are a potential source of confusion. This disagreement over the meaning of virtue points to a larger conflict between virtue theory and its philosophical rivals. A system of virtue theory is only intelligible if it is teleological : that is, if it includes an account of the purpose telos of human life, or in popular language, the meaning of life.

Virtue theory's necessary commitment to a teleological account of human life thus puts the tradition in sharp tension with other dominant approaches to normative ethics, which, because they focus on actions, do not bear this burden. Virtue ethics mainly deals with the honesty and morality of a person.

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It states that practicing good habits such as honesty, generosity makes a moral and virtuous person. It guides a person without specific rules for resolving the ethical complexity. Virtue theory emphasises Aristotle 's belief in the polis as the acme of political organisation, and the role of the virtues in enabling human beings to flourish in that environment. Classical republicanism in contrast emphasises Tacitus ' concern that power and luxury can corrupt individuals and destroy liberty, as Tacitus perceived in the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire ; virtue for classical republicans is a shield against this sort of corruption and a means to preserve the good life one has, rather than a means by which to achieve the good life one does not yet have.


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Another way to put the distinction between the two traditions is that virtue ethics relies on Aristotle's fundamental distinction between the human-being-as-he-is from the human-being-as-he-should-be, while classical republicanism relies on the Tacitean distinction of the human-being-as-he-is from the human-being-as-he-is-at-risk-of-becoming. Within the field of social ethics, Deirdre McCloskey argues that virtue ethics can provide a basis for a balanced approach to understanding capitalism and capitalist societies.

Within the field of philosophy of education , James Page argues that virtue ethics can provide a rationale and foundation for peace education. Thomas Alured Faunce has argued that whistleblowing in the healthcare setting would be more respected within clinical governance pathways if it had a firmer academic foundation in virtue ethics. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article relies too much on references to primary sources. Please improve this by adding secondary or tertiary sources.


  1. Lady Chatterleys Lover: The Complete and Unexpurgated 1928 Orioli Edition.
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August Learn how and when to remove this template message. Theologies Doctrine. Prayer Devotions Bible Biblical canon. Gallican Ambrosian Braga Mozarabic. Chaldean East Syriac Syro-Malabar. Byzantine Armenian. Alexandrian Ethiopic. Societal issues. Links and resources. Aquinas , Scotus , and Ockham. Renaissance and Modern. These virtues include courage , not simply to be or to survive, but to overcome and become ; that is, to fulfill our highest aspirations and ideals in the face of obstacles.

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The two other virtues Kurtz identifies are cognition reason and science in establishing truth and moral caring compassion and benevolence in our relationships with others. Kurtz offers an optimistic appraisal of the human prospect and outlines a philosophy both for the individual and the global community.

The author is a leader in the secular humanist community, and well respected even by those who disagree with him.