Aristotle In Virtue Ethics

Aristotle was a Greek philosopher, scientist as well as logician who lived between 384 and 322 BC. Aristotle is highly regarded as one of the famous thinkers in various fields such as political theory. He is an ancient thinker who was an effective contributor together with his teacher Plato. His desire and contribution started at an early age, at the time he was in school ‘in Plato’s academy in Athens’. He has moved places in search of philosophical and biological knowledge. He moved to places such as Asia and Lesbos. His life was known to have the greatest influence to his political thought. Through his travelling, he had various experiences in different kinds of political systems and hence gained a lot in the field of politics. Not only in history he also made an effective contribution to other areas such geography whereby he concluded that the earth was round instead of the earlier believe that it was flat. Aristotle contribution has been of great positive effect to man’s life and even in today’s community there are still his findings ‘which are applicable’.

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One of the many areas that Aristotle contributed and his contribution was noted ‘is the topic on virtue ethics? Briefly virtue ethics is concerned with traits of characters that are found to be essential for human flourishing. Virtue ethics emphasizes the role played an individual’s character and also the virtues that determine his behavior. It forms the basis to normative ethics ‘which the opposite of deontology’. According to Aristotle, happiness is referred is an activity, hence referring it a way of life and it is depicted on how we act and not how or whom we are.

The general concept behind virtue ethics is that it looks into what the individual should choose to be rather than depending on the external factors to change a person. People have the power to choose what they ought to be rather than depend solely such as culture. Virtue ethics is currently one of three major approaches in normative ethics. It looks more into the moral character rather than duties and rules (deontology) or rather one that deals with consequences of actions simplified as consequentialism. According to Aristotle, virtue means excellence happiness whereby people can only be happy when they have fulfilled their basic function or purpose. People need to act well and practice reasoning. Aristotle divided virtue into intellectual and the moral virtues.

According to Aristotle the highest target of all people is directed by happiness which he defined as continuous contemplation of the internal and external truth. This happiness is attained trough virtuous life as well as development of wisdom and reason. An individual needs sufficient external goods to ensure opportunity for virtuous action. Virtuous acts need mindful choice and moral reason or inspiration. However, moral virtue cannot be achieved abstractly but rather requires moral action in any social environment. Both ethics and politic are close to each other as Aristotle refers to politics like a science of making the society in which people can have the good life as they develop their full potential. Despite the work of Aristotle, he tries hard to convince us what is virtuous. This has differed from the teaching from the modern moral philosophers. This is because he put very little effort on the moral development of individuals. For one to be a good person he needs to practice so as to gain the good habit and the virtue is a good state of soul that is acquired through habit of an individual.

In the ancient world, virtue ethics were a particularly dominant form of ethics. However, the trend has changed in the recent times the issue on virtue ethics has been largely forgotten as people has favored other approach to morality such as the utilitarianism and Kantian ethics. Despite the new found an approach, the basis of these has been the Aristotle virtue ethics. Over the past fifty years, there has been the return of the Aristotelian moral psychology. This was marked by a published document made in 1958 by Elizabeth Anscombe known as “modern Moral Philosophy”. The document excoriated Kantianism and the utilitarian versions and recommended the return to Aristotelian moral psychology. The change has seen virtue ethics be considered one of the key forms of ethical theory.

Virtue ethics has been found to encourage people to be more virtuous such that we do not need an ethical theory for us to make decisions. The ethics puts more effort on the character. It also emphasizes on pleasure and the emotion. Hence it becomes good for people to enjoy acting in a virtuous manner. In additional, Aristotle talked of moral educational as a development process ‘which is essential in each and every person’s life’. With the application of the virtue ethics, people avoid the use other complicated formulas trying to find out what they ought to do and hence they focus on the kind of person they need to be. In addition, it helps to distinguish between good people from the legalists. Following the law does not make one a good person.

Virtue ethics is no longer the dominating theory as it now faces challenges. Despite being a highly prominent theory in people’s lives, virtue ethics has encountered some short comings. One of them is that virtue ethics offers no solution to certain specific moral dilemmas. Another shortcoming of Aristotle’s view is that it does not recognize that people are different. Not all people have equal opportunity in terms of developing morally hence people should not be judged the same. Despite the explanation of the virtuous people, there are people virtuous but live miserably unlike others who are not virtuous and live happily. On the other hand, virtue ethics appears to praise some virtues which on normal cases might be regarded as immoral. For example, soldiers in war may courageous, but that does not mean they are morally good. Finally, it is hard to tell when someone virtuous has bad motives. Virtuous ethics seems not to accommodate basic concepts such as an obligation and rights. Hence the theory of ethics seems inadequate to deal with complicated issues such as what makes an action right or wrong.

It is easier to understand the virtue ethics by trying to differentiate the Aristotle approach and the Kantian, consequentially or the utilitarian approaches to the moral philosophy. From the case of Kantian, ethics are responsible in ruling as well as the fundamental principals playing a crucial role. Foundational role and consequentialism treats the moral assessment of actions as a function of what can be said about the consequences of those actions. Most of the modern virtue ethics takes inspiration from the Aristotle work in the same topic. The modern ones have also emphasized on cultivation of virtues for they define them as natural and rational way of being as well as flourishing in the society.


In conclusion, it is clear that work of Aristotle has greatly contributed to the modern philosophy and their way of thinking and also evaluating things. One of the reasons that have made the virtue ethics become popular as well as making very important contribution to our lives is that they really emphasize the key role played by motives in moral questions. The contribution also helps people understand the issue of morality. People were also aware that for one to act from virtue is also to act from some particular motivation. This means that the correct moral decisions need the correct motives behind them. Encouragement of the correct motivations is a vital component of the moral education to the young people. People is taught that they should have targets and desire for good outcomes as well as an accomplishment of given goals by our actions. Another reason why virtue theories are attractive is that the other theories on moral have a common problem in dealing with complicated moral issues such as what action should be taken or rather what moral duties should be emphasized. One of the key point that is emphasized by the virtue theory is that once people are successful in creating the people wanted, then arriving to the correct moral decision comes naturally.