HELP with essay: "The weaknesses of Virtue Ethics outweigh it's strengths.”

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AlfieGreen
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Hi there, I'm trying to answer the above question but struggling to actually put anything together without it sounding like a bullet point list. I'm discussing Aristotle firstly, and then going to move onto people like Foot etc but don't really know where to build from/how to answer

Can anyone help?

Thanks
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AlfieGreen
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Here's what I've got so far in draft form...

Virtue ethics is the ethics of us as persons and argues that morality is not about duties. There are a number of arguments for and against virtue ethics, and most for argue for the formation and growth of us via phronesis or practical wisdom, which allows us to make the right decisions by using our conscience. Virtue ethics is mainly supported by Aristotle. It is based on different virtues that a person should have, so that they can then reach Euadamonia. Euadamonia should be the end goal to everyone's life and it is the ultimate happiness. Virtue Ethics is ‘agent centered’ and it focuses on the qualities of the person making the moral choices rather than the actual moral choice that they are making, which can bring weaknesses to the theory as one can justify mostly anything by using virtue ethics. According to the theory, morality is about becoming the right sort of person, it is not asking “what should I do?”, but it is asking “what sort of person should I be?”, and is not trying to find rights and wrongs, just allow you to become a good person.

Aristotle was an Ancient Greek philosopher and believed that everyone wants to live a full and happy life, this is known as eudaimonia. Eudaimonia is the idea of ideal happiness and it is the highest good, because we desire it for its own sake and not as a means to an end. In his book, Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle stated that we want to be good, and there is a difference to things that are good as means, and things that are good as ends. A good life is something inherently worth having, unlike justice which is worth having because it leads to a good life. Aristotle defined good as something that fulfils its end purpose and the telos of humanity is to be rational, Aristotle then went on to say that the ergo of reason is virtue and therefore our telos is there to be rational so therefore we can only achieve virtue thorough using reason. Aristotle believed that there were intellectual and moral virtues for example a intellectual virtue is developed by training and habit and we can be taught these for example maths, or learning an instrument whereas moral virtues are not innate and are acquired through repetition. An example of this would be doing something wrong and your parents telling you off, Aristotle believed that eventually you would feel the guilt before doing the act so therefore through practice you become a better type of person and your virtue becomes second nature. However, what if your parents never punished you for being bad, or you lived a very good childhood and never did anything bad in the first place - how would you learn these moral virtues from? This is a weakness of virtue ethics. Aristotle believed that the best way to reach eudaimonia was to live peacefully in society with others thinking about their interests and we should together develop and use qualities from others that are most productive for all of us. Aristotle believed that this helps us to reach the Golden Mean, this is the idea that we should develop qualities that are helpful to society and therefore inherently good. An example of this would be someone who is shy and aggressive, to Aristotle both of these are not good qualities and therefore the Golden Mean would allow you to find the middle man and find the perfect balance, for example confidence.

There are a number of strengths to Aristotles ideas, it is a deontological theory and an theory such as Kant’s Divine Command deny human emotions whereas Aristotle’s idea of phronesis developed from Plato in which eudaimonia is the flourishing of the soul and by using reason as an executive allows us to decide whether to act upon emotions using past experience, ‘appetite’ as Arisotole called it. For Aristotle, we should work to develop our character so that we avoid adopting vice-like characteristics. Aristotle also argues that once virtuous characteristics are natural to us then we will automatically do the right thing. So, he is saying that good people perform good actions.The best way of learning about the virtues is to follow the example of virtuous people, however this can cause a number of problems for the theory, for example following people in today’s society e.g. people like Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, all of who are seen as virtuous, but we don’t really know their motives for being this way, so how can we learn from it. Another criticism of the theory is that virtues can be culturally relative and so virtue ethics are difficult to apply to modern dilemmas as there are no guidelines from rules or consequences. Also, who decides what a good virtue is? If a number of people decide to murder babys and then everyone follows does that make the act virtuous? Gilbert Harman believed that character traits were just an illusion stating that it is a particularist theory, only considering certain virtues, which doesn't fit well in society.
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Everglow
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Which exam board are you with? I only know the AQA structure, so I might not be of the best use for exam boards like OCR or Edexcel. The content is obviously similar, but what is expected from exam responses can differ hugely.
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AlfieGreen
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(Original post by Reluire)
Which exam board are you with? I only know the AQA structure, so I might not be of the best use for exam boards like OCR or Edexcel. The content is obviously similar, but what is expected from exam responses can differ hugely.
I'm on OCR, but would love to hear what you think or any ideas!
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Everglow
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(Original post by AlfieGreen)
I'm on OCR, but would love to hear what you think or any ideas!
Sure, I'd be happy to help. I need a bit of context though. Firstly, is this the main question (carrying most of the marks) on your exam? And secondly, is it the first question you answer on your exam? On AQA there are two questions; one where you are expected to give detail and one where you are expected to evaluate and argue. How does this compare with OCR do you think?
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AlfieGreen
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(Original post by Reluire)
Sure, I'd be happy to help. I need a bit of context though. Firstly, is this the main question (carrying most of the marks) on your exam? And secondly, is it the first question you answer on your exam? On AQA there are two questions; one where you are expected to give detail and one where you are expected to evaluate and argue. How does this compare with OCR do you think?
Thanks very much! Basically on OCR you have four questions, and you pick two to answer, both are 35 marks so have you explain analyse, and argue in one, so this is one of them main questions and should include basically everything!
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WannaGetAnA
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(Original post by AlfieGreen)
Here's what I've got so far in draft form...

Aristotle believed that this helps us to reach the Golden Mean, this is the idea that we should develop qualities that are helpful to society and therefore inherently good. An example of this would be someone who is shy and aggressive, to Aristotle both of these are not good qualities and therefore the Golden Mean would allow you to find the middle man and find the perfect balance, for example confidence.
.
After this part, you could say something like, "This illustrates another weakness of Virtue Ethics, which is the fact that all of the characteristics that Aristotle viewed as the ideal were centred around males. He focussed on typically masculine traits, such as courage, and not feminine ones, such as honesty." and then expand on that a little
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AlfieGreen
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(Original post by WannaGetAnA)
After this part, you could say something like, "This illustrates another weakness of Virtue Ethics, which is the fact that all of the characteristics that Aristotle viewed as the ideal were centred around males. He focussed on typically masculine traits, such as courage, and not feminine ones, such as honesty." and then expand on that a little
Thank you! Didn't even think of that, that's really useful comparing male and female characteristic! Thanks
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Sunny_Smiles
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virtue ethics is by far the worst part of A2 ethics - if I were you I'd skip it entirely
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WannaGetAnA
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(Original post by AlfieGreen)
Thank you! Didn't even think of that, that's really useful comparing male and female characteristic! Thanks
No problem! is virtue ethics one of the questions you're preparing for the most? My top 3 are probs free will and determinism, conscience and then sex ethics.
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AlfieGreen
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(Original post by Sunny_Smiles)
virtue ethics is by far the worst part of A2 ethics - if I were you I'd skip it entirely
Normally I would skip but I'm doing a mock paper and the other questions are all pretty horrible! But hoping in the exam to skip it!
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AlfieGreen
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(Original post by WannaGetAnA)
No problem! is virtue ethics one of the questions you're preparing for the most? My top 3 are probs free will and determinism, conscience and then sex ethics.
My top is Business ethics because I think it's quite straightforward and then conscience and then sex!
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Everglow
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(Original post by WannaGetAnA)
After this part, you could say something like, "This illustrates another weakness of Virtue Ethics, which is the fact that all of the characteristics that Aristotle viewed as the ideal were centred around males. He focussed on typically masculine traits, such as courage, and not feminine ones, such as honesty." and then expand on that a little
Yes this is a good point and is one you can relate with the argument that Aristotle was elitist and sexist. He argued, for instance, that women were more prone to despondency, were more void of self-respect and were more deceptive than men. He even went as far as to say in his History of Animals that woman 'requires a smaller quantity of nutriment' and should therefore only be fed half as much as any male.
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Gibber96
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(Original post by Reluire)
Yes this is a good point and is one you can relate with the argument that Aristotle was elitist and sexist. He argued, for instance, that women were more prone to despondency, were more void of self-respect and were more deceptive than men. He even went as far as in his History of Animals that woman 'requires a smaller quantity of nutriment' and should therefore only be fed half as much as any male.
Well, in his defence, the average woman does 'require a smaller quantity of nutriment'. Ever wonder why the RDA of calories is 500 more for men? Not half as much, though, obviously.
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AlfieGreen
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(Original post by Gibber96)
Well, in his defence, the average woman does 'require a smaller quantity of nutriment'. Ever wonder why the RDA of calories is 500 more for men? Not half as much, though, obviously.
So does anyone have any suggestions on how I can bring other theorists/ideas in, possibly comparing his dated sexists views and then comparing to someone else?
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Everglow
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(Original post by Gibber96)
Well, in his defence, the average woman does 'require a smaller quantity of nutriment'. Ever wonder why the RDA of calories is 500 more for men? Not half as much, though, obviously.
Well, yes, but Aristotle was rather prescriptive about it and used it as leverage to qualify his belief of male superiority.
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Gibber96
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(Original post by Reluire)
Well, yes, but Aristotle was rather prescriptive about it and used it as leverage to qualify his belief of male superiority.
Gotcha. I know virtually nothing about Aristotle and I've never had much interest in philosophy, so I'll gladly take your word for it. I was just offering a biologists/chemists perspective.
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Smushy
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I was reading this: http://www.iep.utm.edu/anci-mod/ earlier! Such a coincidence
It sums up quite a few advantages and disadvantages of virtue ethics, and it compares it well to morality.
I think you might want to break your essay up into smaller paragraphs, and generally work on its structure.
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AlfieGreen
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(Original post by Smushy)
I was reading this: http://www.iep.utm.edu/anci-mod/ earlier! Such a coincidence
It sums up quite a few advantages and disadvantages of virtue ethics, and it compares it well to morality.
I think you might want to break your essay up into smaller paragraphs, and generally work on its structure.
Thanks very much - I'll check it out! And thanks, I will do that
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