Write a short, objective summary of 250-500 words which summarizes the main ideas being put forward by the author in this selection.
NO OUTSIDE SOURCES. NO PLAGARISM
From Virtue Ethics
Sometimes, in deciding on what we ought to do, we first consider how we ought to be. For example, if faced with a situation that involves social injustice, we might pick someone whom we admired and wanted to be like–Gandhi, let’s say, or Mother Teresa -and then ask “What would Gandhi do?” This doesn’t give us a rigid formula or decision procedure to employ. Instead, it asks us to consider a virtuous person, to consider his or her virtues, and then ask what behavior people with these good traits and dispositions exemplify.
Some. writers have thought that a picture like this better reflects how people should go about making their moral decisions. They should do so on the basis of concrete virtue judgments instead of abstract principles, such as “Maximize the good” or “Never treat another person merely as a means,” and so forth.
… Virtue ethics has actually been around in one form or another for thousands of years. Current virtue ethicists in fact tend to take their inspiration from Aristotle (382-322 Bc), who was a student of Plato (428-348 Bc), and certainly one of the greatest philosophers in the history of philosophy. Aristotle wrote the Nicomachean Ethics, which-as an aid to his son -spelled out the steps to a good life. Of course, “good” is a bit ambiguous – Is that morally good, or prudentially good, or intellectually good, or all of the above?
Well, for Aristotle, the good human life had all these ingredients. A good human being was virtuous in the sense that he embodied all the excellences of human character. So, Aristotle is often held up as a paradigmatic virtue ethicist.
Again, though there is some lack of clarity about what exactly virtue ethics is committed to, it is generally agreed that virtue ethics maintains that character, human excellences, virtues are the basic modes of evaluation in the theory, as opposed to act evaluations such as “right” and “wrong.” It is important to note that many virtue ethicists do not believe the theory to be incompatible with act evaluation at all. Rather, act evaluation is to be understood in terms of character evaluation. Virtue is the primary mode of evaluation, and all other modes are understood and defined in terms of virtue.
Thus, one popular version of virtue ethics defines right action in terms of virtue, rather than defining virtue in terms of right or good action. For example, Rosalind Hursthouse offers the following:
(RA) An action is right iff if and only if] it is what a virtuous agent would, characteristically, do in the circumstances…2
This is a virtue ethical characterization of “right action” because the rightness of the action is explained in terms of virtue, and not the other way around. Most of the theoretical weight is therefore borne by the account of virtue provided in the theory. To unpack this account of right action, we need to know what the virtuous agent would do. We need to have an account of virtue that will give us some way to approach this issue. Aristotle famously believed in the claim that virtue is a mean state, that it lies between two opposed vices. This is referred to as the doctrine of the mean. The basic idea is that virtue will tend to lie between two extremes, each of which is a vice. So, bravery lies between cowardice and foolhardiness; temperance lies between gluttony and abstinence; and so forth. Some virtues can be hard to model on this view. Take honesty. Of course, failure to tell the truth
-telling a lie- would be one extreme, but is there a vice of telling too much truth? Maybe … though I suspect there might be some disagreement over this. Part of the mean state concerned our emotions, however, and not just our actions. The virtuous person not only does the right thing, but he does the right thing in the right way-in the right sort of emotional or psychological state. Our emotions can be excessive or deficient as well. The person who runs into the battle to fight, but who is excessively fearful, is not fully virtuous. The truly well-functioning person is able to control and regulate his feelings and emotions, as well as act rightly.
Aristotle’s picture, then, of the virtuous person is the person who functions harmoniously his desires and emotions do not conflict with what he knows to be right. They go together. This leads him to view a person who acts rightly, but who feels badly about it, as not being virtuous. This person is merely “continent”-this person can control his actions, but needs to work on bringing his emotions in line with what reason tells him is the right and appropriate thing to do. So the excellent human being is not conflicted; he does not suffer inner turmoil and the struggle between reason and passion. .. John Doris proposes that the globalism of traditional virtue ethics be rejected. There is no one “honesty” trait, for example.
Instead, we may have 50 or more “honesties”; that is, narrowly circumscribed traits or dispositions to tell the truth. So, Joe might not have honesty 1, which is the disposition to tell the truth about how well he does on exams, but he might have honesty 34, the disposition to tell the truth about how tall he is. So, Doris thinks that Harman’s view-that situationism provides evidence that character traits don’t exist-is too radical. However, he does think that the experimental evidence supports the view that there are no robust traits; that is, traits to tell the truth over all or even most contexts or situations. And this is a problem for a virtue ethics that understands virtue as a “stable” or “reliable” character trait.
Another challenge has been that virtue ethics doesn’t provide a guide to action. “Be nice, dear” – Well, what is nice, and what are the circumstances under which I should be nice? That’s what we really want to know. This shows that it is these other reasons that actually justify our behavior. This has been raised as a very standard problem for the theory, but virtue ethicists have spent a good deal of time trying to show how their theories could be applied. Michael Slote, for example, has argued that we need to look at what motivates a person’s actions to determine the action’s moral quality-so my guide will be what I consider proper motivational structures. Rosalind Hursthouse has argued that we can get perfectly serviceable rules from virtue ethics, what she terms the “v-rules” such as “Be honest” or “Be kind.” Further, this objection is no more a problem for the virtue ethicists than it is a problem for the consequentialist who offers an evaluative criterion rather than a decision procedure (though at least the consequentialist does give us a way to evaluate decision procedures).
This challenge can be expanded by noting that virtue ethics has trouble telling us the right thing to do in conflict situations, where two virtues may conflict, and thus the corresponding rules such as
“Be honest” or “Be kind”-may conflict. But some virtue ethicists think that this is simply the way morality is it is messy, and for any situation there may be more than one right answer. Insisting that morality is neat and tidy is simply to impose a misleading clarity on moral decision-making.
.. Virtue ethics remains an interesting alternative approach to moral evaluation and moral guidance.
The author discusses virtue ethics as an approach to making moral decisions. Instead of relying on abstract principles or rigid decision procedures, virtue ethics suggests considering the virtues and traits of admirable individuals and asking what they would do in a given situation. This approach focuses on character evaluation rather than act evaluation, with virtue being the primary mode of evaluation.
The roots of virtue ethics can be traced back to Aristotle, who believed that a good human life encompassed moral, prudential, and intellectual excellences. Aristotle viewed virtue as a mean state between two extremes, and he emphasized the importance of harmonizing emotions and actions. The virtuous person acts rightly and feels appropriately, with emotions and reason aligned.
One criticism of virtue ethics is its lack of guidance for action, as it doesn’t provide specific rules or decision procedures. However, proponents have offered solutions to this challenge. Some argue that a person’s motivations should be considered to determine the moral quality of an action. Others suggest deriving rules from virtue ethics, such as “Be honest” or “Be kind.”
Another challenge raised against virtue ethics is its difficulty in resolving conflicts between virtues when two virtuous courses of action conflict. However, some virtue ethicists argue that moral decision-making is inherently messy, and there may be multiple right answers in complex situations.
The author also mentions John Doris, who challenges the notion of robust character traits in virtue ethics. Doris suggests that there may be numerous narrowly circumscribed traits or dispositions rather than a single overarching trait, based on empirical evidence.
Despite these challenges, virtue ethics remains an intriguing alternative approach to moral evaluation and guidance. It emphasizes the importance of character, virtues, and excellences in making ethical decisions and offers a different perspective from other moral theories that rely on principles or consequences.