Virtue Ethics

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Ethicaltheories guide people in making the right choices and resolvingdilemmas. The primary role of ethical theories is to help decisionmakers determine the wrongness or the rightness of their actions orchoices. However, people can make different conclusions whenanalyzing the same scenarios depending on the theories that theychoose to apply (Kristjansson 2). In this paper, the theory of virtueethics will be discussed. The paper will focus on the description ofwhat virtue ethic is, how Aristotle understood the theory, and anexample of a person in the news exemplifying real virtue.

TheMeaning of

Thetheory of virtue ethics is considered as one of the key normativeapproaches that are used to assess the wrongness or the rightness ofactions or decisions in the society. It is a theory that puts moreemphasis on the character or virtues that are held by an individual,instead of focusing on the duty of an actor or the consequences of anaction (Alfano 236). In other words, the theory is agent-centered andnot act-centered like most of the ethical perspectives. There areseveral branches of virtue ethics. One of them is eudaimonism, whichholds that a virtuous person should pursue and demonstrate happinessin daily activities. The second one is ethics of care and it holdsthat a virtuous person needs to show patience, justice,self-sacrifice, and the ability to nurture other people (Alfano 236).The third one is the agent-based theory, which states that themorality of actions should be judged on the basis of common senseintuitions (such as kindness and compassion) that make charactertraits more admirable.

Virtueethics differ from the divine command theory since the latter holdsthat morality is determined by the duty of an individual to obeyinstructions or commands given by God while the earlier focuses onthe character (Al-Aidaros 2). Therefore, the divine theory is basedon the deontological perspective that advances an argument that humanbeings have the obligation to obey God. An action is considered asmorally right when it is taken as a way of obeying God’s command.Virtue ethics also differ from the theory of egoism, which is basedon the use of consequences of an action when analyzing its rightnessor wrongness. The theory of egoism holds that an individual should bemotivated by one’s self when making decisions or taking actions(Al-Aidaros 2). Therefore, an action is considered to be morallyright when it produces the greatest goodness, benefits, or givespleasure to whoever takes it, irrespective of the character of anindividual. This is contrary to the virtue ethics where the characteror trait of the person who is taking an action is used to judge itsmorality.

Virtueethics also differ from the theory of moral relativism, which holdsthat there are no objective or universal moral truths. Instead, thetheory states that a decision on whether actions are moral or not isinfluenced by cultural, social, personal, or historicalcircumstances. While describing the concept of moral relativism,Al-Aidaros stated, “Ethics are relative to a particularenvironment” (p. 8). This statement indicates that ethics are notuniversal and applicable to all communities. The difference betweenthe two theories results from the fact that the morality of an actionis influenced by the character of an individual under the virtualethics and the surrounding circumstances when moral relativism isused to conduct the analysis.

HowAristotle Understood the Concept of Virtue as Compared To Vice

Aristotledescribed the concept of moral virtue as one’s disposition tobehave in the right way (Kristjansson 3). He held that this kind ofright behavior is the average of what the society considers to beexcess and deficiency. While explaining Aristotle’s description ofvirtues, Wittmer stated, “being honest, loyal, compassionate, andtrustworthy are qualities that make a person excellent from a moralor ethical perspective” (p. 3). All the aforementioned qualitiesare average. The two factors (including the excess and deficiency ofeverything) are vices. In other words, too much of something thatwould be considered to be good can also be classified as a vicebecause it is in excess of what is required. For example, rashness(excess) and cowardice (deficiency) are vices while courage (mean) isa virtue.

Avirtuous character is something that can be developed over time.Aristotle held that virtue can be learned through practice and habit,which implies that a virtuous character is achieved by integratingvalues considered by the society to be right into one’s conduct(Kristjansson 3). In addition, having a positive attitude towardspleasure and pain increases one’s capacity to react to differentsituations in the right way, which contributes towards thedevelopment of a virtuous character. This is achieved by practicinghow to react to situations in an average way in order to avoid excessand deficiency. For example, a virtuous person should get angrydepending on the underlying situation, but avoid excess anger sinceit might lead to immoral actions, such as fighting.

AnExample of a Person Exemplifying Real Virtue in the News

Integrityis one of the key virtues that are rarely practiced in corruptnations. However, a story published by the New York Times on February9, 2017 described a medical doctor who overcame the temptation oftaking bribes in order to treat patients. Dr. Dan Arama works inBucharest, Romania, where thousands of citizens organized riots dueto an exponential increase in corruption. During an interview, Aramastated, “I don’t take money from my patients, and when I refusetheir money, some get worried, thinking I refused them because theyhave some sort of terminal disease” (Karasz 1). This statementindicates that Arama is a virtuous person who believes in honesty andjustice, even when patients are willing to bribe him. Virtue standsout about Arama because he refuses to receive kickbacks in spite ofthe fact that he works in a health care system where taking bribe isa common practice.


Thetheory of virtue ethics is among the key approaches that guide peoplein developing the right values. The virtues that people develop helpthem to interact well with others and adopt behaviors that areacceptable in the society. From Aristotle’s perspective, one’sreaction should be average, which is achieved by avoiding extremereactions to different situations. The theory is relevant in today’sworld where corruption has become a commonplace phenomenon. Virtuouspeople can apply the theory as a guide in developing the right valuesthat will distinguish them from the corrupt members of the society.


Al-Aidaros,A., Mohd, F. and Idris, K. “Ethics and ethical theories from anIslamic perspective”. InternationalJournal of Islamic Thought4 (2013): 1-13.

Alfano,M. “Identifying and defending the hard core of virtue ethics”.Journalof Philosophical Research38 (2013): 233-260. Print.

Karasz,P. In Romania, corruption’s tentacles grip daily life. TheNew York Time.9 February. 2017. Web. 14 March 2017.

Kristjansson,K. Ten myths about character, virtue, and virtue education-plus threewell founded misgivings. BritishJournal of Educational Studies1 (2013): 1-19. Print.

Wittmer,D. and O’Brien, K. “The virtue ethics” in business and businesseducation”. Journalof Business Ethics Education11 (2014): 1-18. Print.