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PHIL215 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Virtue Ethics, Deontological Ethics, Aristotle

Course Code
Brian Orend
Study Guide

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NOTES 9/10/2013 4:28:00 PM
C) But What Does it Mean to Behave Ethically?
My own strategy is to look up the Top Five Ethical Models and be guided by them:
Virtue Ethics what would a virtuous person do?
(oldest, originated in Ancient Greece, prominent religious traditions have a prominent virtue
ethics component to them)
Character, not action, focused
o From action to character (a person who lies is deemed as a “liar)
o Makes stronger and sweeping claims about someone’s character
Development of good character over time
o “A virtuous character” over your lifetime
Pursuit of ethical excellence, be the best you can be
Virtue (excellence of character, strength of character)
KEY FIGURE: Aristotle EUDAIMONIA (ethical excellence)
“Happiness/Flourishing Excellence”
o Flourishing, “best kind”, of human life has 3 parts:
1) Pleasure humans are hard wired for individuals to pursue pleasure
o However, we can train ourselves to pursue different kinds of pleasure
o What changes, and is plastic, is what gives individuals pleasures
o Train yourself to get pleasure out of morally good actions
o If you get pleasure out of lying to someone’s face, that is a defective character
o Birth to P/A “Moral Luck” – out of our control. We don’t choose what
society we are born into. Social institutions are there to tell us what is right or
wrong, rewarding us for good behaviour. Parents taught us well
o After that is “Personal Control”
2) Internal Goods the virtues
o Traits of character
o Not natural, development overtime
“Correct natural deficiencies”
he thinks that a lot of people are naturally inclined to be lazy
(being hardworking corrects this natural deficiency)
he thinks that most of us are liars and are naturally disposed to
lies (a lot of psychological evidence that most people lie to
give them some sort of pleasure under situations)
(being honest corrects this natural deficiency)
he thinks that most people are cowards as well
(courage corrects this natural deficiency)

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o Require constant practice & exercise
Virtues are like muscles, you have to constantly use them
If you are not using your virtues, you are not a virtuous person
o Benefit self & others
3) External Goods
o born into a good society
o born to good parents
o need a certain level of health and wealth
health (if you are extremely sick, you’re going to be collapsed in on
yourself and your problems and struggles and you’re going to lack the
spirit to be morally involved with other people)
wealth (unless you are somewhat wealthy, you wil not be morally
good. If you are so poor and you keep thinking about where your next
meal is going to come from, you will lack the experience of being a
morally giving person you need resources)
4) Friends & beauty
o ancient greeks had a firm belief that being physically attractive shows a lot of
your character (weak point)
o having good friends is important to be better people
who you normally are, is how you habitually behave
ex. Anyone can be nice in a situation by holding the door for someone
else. Doesn’t work if you do small good deeds
you socially spend more time with your friends, therefore how you
treat your friends show how you are morally
if you lie and are manipulative, you are not good
friends offer you continual moral practice
honest, supportive, empathy, love
friends help you move from part b to part a
How does Virtue Ethics recommend how to solve moral dilemma?
Aristotle: consult amoral expert and follow their advice
o Hat would a virtuous person do under the situation?
A virtuous person is someone who has 1) Pleasure 2) Internal Goods 3) External
Goods and uses them in their lives, they are virtuous

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Consulting with people who have been through this situation before, who have more
Excellent, verified account of general human happiness
Action comes out of character, no?
o Recidivism when you are caught for one crime, you are more prone to be
accused for another crime. Aristotle would agree: “well obviously… once a
criminal, always a criminal”
o Character is destiny
Attention to moral development and the need for continual moral “practice”
Stress on social and relationship context needed for (moral) thriving: nothing just
individuals making choices in a vacuum
o ZOON PLITIKON - Human beings are by nature social animals (natural fact)
Inspiringly, optimistic and hopeful
Common Criticisms:
“inspiring” or naïve, re: “perfectibility”
o deeply naïve, ton of evidence that suggest that few of any people can fulfill A
o Artistotle’s recipe at any point in time
illiberal, oppressive overtones re: character judgment and social context
o Artistotle suggest that social institutions should be structured to have good
parents and society, but doesn’t clue in to having any personal freedom. He
believes in fulfilling human potential.
elitism and issue of “moral experts”
o some people know what’s better than others, Artistotle rejects relativism,
objectivism not what “he said she said” – some people know better than
o however some people may not believe/like this
too selfish to be a moral code?
o Too self-obsessed
o Artistotle - Doesn’t count as a virtue unless it benefits both others and self –
thinks he addressed the problem
Vagueness of virtues and cultural relativity (eg. Of courage)
o Honesty is a virtue what are the extremes
Are virtues enough?
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