To be Happy, isn't that what life is all about? Some call it eudaimonia. Aristotle, one of the many great philosophers of our time, defined eudaimonia as “that at which all things aim”. Meaning, your life has come together as a whole, thus leading you to be happy. However, Aristotle also says that aiming for happiness is not what should I do, rather what sort of person should I become? For example, if we look at the people around us, we should only see people doing the things they feel they will be successful at, which will ultimately lead to great happiness, like going to school and getting a good job, which leads to things like a house, car, vacations and family. Flourishing is another common term, which means to grow or develop in a healthy way. It is not the kind of happiness you would get from winning the lottery or being lucky, but rather from doing, and accomplishing. So why do we still see people failing and unhappy around us? If we look at their choices and perhaps their ethical beliefs, we start to understand where ethics belongs in the journey of life, which leads me to what I am going to discuss, virtue theory. I will explain and offer an evaluation of this theory's strengths and weaknesses, as well as what it means to be virtuous.
Aristotle believed that there are two types of virtue: intellectual virtues and moral virtues. Intellectual virtues are taught and moral virtues are developed through habit. (Richard Kraut, 2012). He believed that you are not just born a virtuous person, rather it is a skill acquired throughout ones lifetime. It is a committed way of living excellent. A common example used in today's description of virtue theory, is learning to play an instrument. To learn an instrument takes daily practice that sometimes takes years to master until it becomes second nature. To become virtuous takes the same dedication to become habit forming. Aristotle believed that all people have the possibility to learn moral education, i.e. the right way to act in different situations. However, Aristotle believed virtues cannot only be taught but that one must, most importantly connect with what it means to be virtuous. (SparkNotes Editors on Aristotle, 2005). Virtuous people are most commonly adults because they acquired these virtues though practice and by aspiring to be virtuous people at a young age.
Virtue ethics avoid using a formula to determine ones actions, unlike most ethical theories, which involve rules and actions. It is based on character and focuses on the kind of person we ought to be, rather then what we ought to do. In Immanuel Kant’s deontology theory, a person makes a decision based on certain rules or principles. (Christopher Panza, 2010). Even though humans are naturally inclined to do what nature tells them to do, they often do not. Kant defines this as "acting from motive of duty". For example, deontology is the belief that killing someone is wrong, even if it was self-defense. John Mills Utilitarian theory, sometimes referred to as consequentialism, is defined as “the greatest good for the greatest number of people". (Chrishopher Panza, 2010). For example, sacrificing one innocent person to save fifty innocent people or to choose the least bad of several bad options for the greatest amount of good.
The theory of Aristotle’s golden mean, states that virtue is a point of moderation between two vices. (Karen Murdarasi, 2008). Which simply means too little of a good thing is undesirable, and too much of a bad thing is undesirable. A person who shares too much of their wealth is wasteful rather than a person who doesn’t share any is stingy. Generosity would be the virtue between the two means. Another famous example is the virtue of courage. Courage lies between the vices of rashness and cowardice. The coward has too much fear or fear when he shouldn’t have any. The rash person has little fear and too much confidence. The courageous person has the right amount. But how are we to know...
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