PHIL 120W Lecture Notes - Virtue Ethics, Kantianism
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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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