Virtue Ethics

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The Realm of Virtue Ethics: Dissection of a Moral Philosophy By
De’Quisha Robison-Smith

A paper submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Business Administration

Dr. Kelly Warren
BUAD 5304 Business Ethics

Wayland Baptist University
07-14-08
Virtue ethics is a moral philosophy that encompasses morality, defined by values which are identified and classified by a range of character traits. Aristotle is the founding father of most virtue ethics theories, while some versions have incorporated Plato, Kant and Hume their contributions to the theory of virtue ethics is less emphasized (Athanassouulis, 2006). Virtue theory is often thought of as a dynamic theory of how to conduct business activities (Ferrell, Fraedrich & Ferrell, 2008, p.157). Virtues are acquired character traits that help people fit into society. Acquiring virtuous qualities is necessary to achieve success. According to Grenz & Smith (2003):

Virtue ethics is defined as an, inner disposition to perform morally right acts of a certain kind; the tendency to act rightly by habit in a particular manner; a character trait that is deemed morally praiseworthy. The virtues have also been understood to be those qualities of character that make a person morally successful. Ethicists in both the Greek and Christian moral traditions have sought to determine what traits are virtues. Recent years have witnessed a renewed interest in virtues, especially with the renaissance in virtue ethics or the ethic of being (p.125). Other definitions of virtue ethics have been described as positive traits which promote health, harmony, and balance (Engel, 2000). A virtue is an acquired quality of character that allows one to achieve personal happiness. Velasquez, Shanks, Andre and Meyer (1988) illustrated that a person that has developed the virtue of generosity is often referred to as a generous person because he or she tends to be generous in all circumstances (no page). Velasquez, Shanks, Andre, and Meyer’s interpretation of virtue ethics reinforces Aristotle’s earlier theory that once virtuosity is acquired it is maintained by repetition (1988, no page). People are by nature creatures of habit. Therefore, in order to become virtuous it is necessary to repeat virtuous acts so those acts become habits. The opposite of virtues are vices, which are negative traits that detract from health, harmony and balance. According to Engel (2000) a “vice is an unbalanced virtue which needs to be brought back to center” (no page). A vice can either be a lack of effort or an act of self indulgence. Vices are caused by impulses which are not regulated by virtues and many times the individual is unaware of their emotions (Engel, 2000, no page). Virtues and vices must work together and balance out. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being extreme, a person who values the virtue of honesty and vows to always tell the truth no matter the circumstance or situation lacks harmony and balance. Honesty can be taken to an extreme 10 whereby one says everything from one’s mind without any consideration or using tact (Engel, 2000, no page). On the other hand one can be an extreme 1 where the individual does not ever tell the truth. It is important to understand that being an extreme 1 or 10 on any virtuous scale is not a good thing. Aristotle is the father of virtue ethics theories; he studied ethics in a broad sense. He defined virtues of character as dispositions to act in certain ways in response to similar situations (Engel, 2000, no page). Based on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, things of any variety have a characteristic function that they are properly used to perform (Kemerling, 1997). The good for human beings must involve the entire proper function of human life as a whole (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 350 B.C.). Aristotle also gave consideration to the aspects of human nature involved...
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