The concept of virtue ethics was first developed by Aristotle in 'nichomachean ethics '. He believed that the point of ethics is to become good, and virtue ethics highlights this well. It is an agent centred idea of morality and focuses on how a person can develop virtues and what sort of person you should be, rather than how you should act in order to be good. An alternative name for it is aretaic ethics, which comes from the Greek arete meaning any kind of excellence.
Aristotle first developed upon the idea that humans final good is eudaimonia, which is happiness and all round human flourishing. He saw the development of virtue as the in which way we can achieve this good. Additionally Aristotle also emphasised the importance of the well-being of the group over an individual as he saw us as social brings because we live in communities. Those who do not behave socially are seen as outcasts as they cannot have a normal functioning life, or alternatively as beyond human because they are so self-sufficient they do not need others. In either cases, living anti socially prevents good human life lived in harmony and cooperation with others.
Aristotle saw that virtue could be divided into two types: intellectual virtues, which are characteristics of thought, developed by training and education including things like scientific knowledge and technical skill. The second type is moral virtues, which are qualities of character developed by habit, such as courage and friendliness. Aristotle says that these virtues are acquired similarly to practical skills, as we must practice and improve to achieve them. In nichomachean ethics he puts it simply by saying "we learn to play the harp ...
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...re may be times where it is kinder to lie, such as in the axe murderer example used in arguments of Kantian ethics, which states that it is your duty to tell the truth and let someone be killed. Virtue ethics would say the kind thing to do is to lie and prevent the murder, but this means there would be a conflict of virtues with no way to know if it is right because whilst one virtue is being upheld, another is ignored. This is a weakness because it means there is always times where it cannot provide a solid solution to a dilemma.
Additionally it seems to praise virtues that could be seen as immoral. A soldier fighting an unjust war may be seen as courageous but that does not mean it is a morally good action. This means there is an uncertainty to a lot of big issues that are faced. Linking to this, Robert Louden says that it does not help people facing a crisis as
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