To What Extent Do Modern Virtue Ethics Address the Weaknesses of Aristotle's Teaching on Virtues?

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Samuel Frampton

To what extent do modern virtue ethics address the weaknesses of Aristotle’s teaching on virtues? (35) Virtue Ethics looks at a person’s good traits, known as ‘virtues’ and negative traits, known as ‘vices’; a person is considered to be a good person if they are virtuous and a morally bad person if they have developed lots of vices. Deontological and teleological ethicists argue that good or bad behaviour is far more important than a person’s good or bad characteristics whereas Virtue Theory argues it is only by becoming a better person that we will engage in the ‘right’ behaviour; Virtue Theory looks at the agent in itself and rather than the action. The key concepts of Virtue Ethics were first penned by the ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle and in more recent times have been adapted and added to by Alasdair MacIntyre. Aristotle’s theory is made up of many key features, including Moral Virtues, The Doctrine of the Mean, Eudaimonia, and Friendship and the Community.

According to Aristotle, everything has a purpose, for example, pens, their purpose is to write, if the pen fulfils its purpose and writes well, it is a good pen. In the same way, if we equate Eudaimonia to the pen, Eudaimonia is the supreme goal of human life, if a person reaches Eudaimonia, they are a considered a good person as the purpose was to be happy, therefore they have reached their purpose, just as the pen reaches its own. He also argued that every action comes down to this aim, every human being desires to be as happy as possible. An example of this is to ask a Doctor or a Lawyer why they chose such professions, the majority would answer that they chose this profession because it pays well and they believed that being paid well would lead to an easier and happy life, or Eudaimonia. Aristotle’s theory also says that relationships and friendships play a very important role in how we behave as people and how our actions are determined; we should all aim to...
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