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Effective Virtue Ethics

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Consider critically how effective the selected theory may be as a guideline for moral living (12 marks)

Virtue Ethics has been used by many people as a useful moral guideline, partially because it is an applicable theory to every society. However, over the years it has received many criticisms that have discredited its effectiveness as a helpful guideline for moral living.

The theory could be an effective guideline for moral living, as it is non-normative. This is appealing as it does not give a prescriptive set of rules or laws that you should follow; people create their own laws of living. Aristotle argued that freedom is essential for a human to flourish and reach eudemonia. It is down to the individual to make the choice to find the right thing to do. There are no moral absolutes.

On the other hand, this strength could also be seen as a weakness. Virtue ethics does not provide a prescriptive set of rules nor provide a method of formulating such a list. Therefore, how do you punish people who act immorally? If there are no moral rules or normative structures how can people become moral? An alternative theory that would overcome this weakness is utilitarianism. The hedonic calculus establishes a way of calculating maximal pleasure for any given action.

Another effective feature is that the theory is culturally relative, thus this theory can be used as a guideline to moral living by anybody. Aristotle maintained that virtues are culturally relative. Virtues are specific to a culture and one set of virtues may not fit universally with every community. This means that no culture is morally superior to another; all cultures are morally equivalent. This, I feel, is beneficial for our society because it means that any society in the world can use it as a moral guideline.

However, virtue ethics is based on ancient values, which may no longer be applicable in today's society. It can be argues that Aristotle's virtues, such as 'strength' are not relevant characteristics of a 'virtuous' person today. Julia Annas, however, rejects that ancient values are simply outdated. She suggests that there may well still be some value in them. However, she suggests that the theory many be under, 'romantic nostalgia.' An old idea may not, necessarily, be a good idea. McIntyre on the other hand, suggests that modern philosophers may have more to contribute to ethics because they are critical of past ethical systems.

After considering how effective virtue ethics may be used as a guideline for moral living, I have concluded that it is a useful moral guide. As it can be used in any situation, in any culture and still be relevant. Another appealing aspect is that you don't have to be religious to use the theory as it does not seek justification for morality from an absolute source; does not need a God to justify why to be moral. Having a culturally



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