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PHIL 120W Lecture Notes - Virtue Ethics, Kantianism

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Sam Black

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Virtue Ethics (cont’d):
Aristotle: a person who is virtuous is disposed, consistent (honest all the time), and because you do these
over and over again, you actually end up enjoying it.
A virtue is something earned, not a given like beauty.
Focus of virtue ethics is: what kind of person do we want to be, what character do we want to develop?
o Character-centered ethics
Focus of utilitarianism and kantianism: actions.
o Act-centred ethics
Virtue ethics = looking at nature of peoples moral characters, if they have a flawed character
Some say all the virtues depend on each other.
To evaluate morality via virtue ethics:
1. Look at character
2. Then at the actions that flow from that character
“Practice what you preach”
Plato The Gorgias chasing insatiable desires; if you do one bad thing, you’ll probably do it again and
again and again; vice/excess/greed vs. virtue
Plato thought we had a soul made of three parts
Spirited/desires should be kept at bay and should not flood our reason
Should be ruled by reason
Strive for a soul full of harmony
Strive for moderation, virtue, and harmony
If you still can’t figure out if something is moral What would a virtuous person do?
Advantages of VE
1. Accounts for feelings and inclinations unlike Kantianism and Utilitarianism
2. Accounts for special relationships utilitarianism demands we treat everyone impartially (i.e., you kiss
your mom so you should kiss strangers on the street; a mother can’t treat her kid impartially just like she
does with a stranger on the street)
o Some virtues are partial and some are impartial in VE
Love and loyalty partial (i.e., setting aside your interests for friend or love’s interests)
Justice impartial
Disadvantages of VE
1. Function (humans are virtuous if they function well) why is reason assumed to be the one distinct
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