Virtue ethics is an approach to normative ethics that emphasises on the character as well as a virtue in moral philosophy. In light of this, virtue ethics offer an alternative ethical perspective while depicting the limitations of deontology and utilitarianism approach. This is because it emphasises on an individual character in regard to ethical thinking, unlike deontology that focuses on the rules and duties or utilitarianism that emphasises on the consequences of the action. This makes it all rounded and holistic (Russell, 2014). This is unlike the other ethic theories that consider emotions to be illogical hence, dangerous to morality. Virtue ethics instead regard an individual as whole including their emotions and character. In fact, Kant believes that emotions should not play any fundamental role in moral action and any motivation should be based on obligation.
Secondly, virtue ethics is agent-centered. As such, the agent is allowed to make a moral decision based on his or her virtue or the well-being unlike other approaches where the moral decision is based on what is legally right or consequences. This makes it flexible as an individual can decide based on own values.
The other advantages of virtue ethics over deontological and utilitarianism is that it is free from Moral Schizophrenia. This is because it does not compromise an individual reasons and motivation. The problem with the other moral theories is that they fail to account for motives creating Schizophrenia given that the agent is not able to utilise own motive and reason as the basis for his or her actions. Stocker (1977) explains that motives are important in ethics as opposed to obligation or duty in deontological and utilitarianism. As such, the reasoning in other moral theories requires people to do what is right or obligatory irrespective of their motive of acting. The impartiality nature of the other moral theories does not allow an individual to treat anyone differently. For instance, a stranger is not treated different from the friends. This is because irrespective of an individual motivation to do something, the reasoning of the moral theory must be followed even if it is in conflict with motives. However, this is not the case with virtue ethics as it does not comprise reasons and motivations. Virtue ethics emphasises on the sense of community. As such, it encourages people on the need of human relationships, being sensitive as well as taking care of other individuals. In contrast, Kant considers the relationship as morally dangerous as well as illogical.
Despite the fact that virtue ethics offer an alternative ethical perspective it has numerous weaknesses. First, it emphasises on ensuring that the agent is virtuous but does not offer help when an individual is facing an ethical dilemma as no guidelines are provided on what to do. In other words, it does not offer guidelines on the actions that are morally acceptable and those that are not but emphasises on quality that one need to develop to become a good person. According to Louden (1992), focusing on an individual makes it less effective to focus on the big picture and it cannot be effective in society today, which is considered to be large. For instance, a government cannot make a decision based on the character of a person; instead, it looks at the consequences of the action on the larger society.
Louden, R. B. (1992). Morality and moral theory: A reappraisal and reaffirmation. New York: Oxford University Press.
Russell, D. C. (2014). The Cambridge companion to virtue ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Stocker, M. (1977). The schizophrenia of modern ethical theories. The Journal of philosophy, 73(14), 453-466.
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