Explain the notion of eudaimonia (as discussed by

Virtue EthicsVirtue ethics is a broad term for theories that emphasize the role of character and virtue in moral philosophyrather than either doing one’s duty or acting in order to bring about good consequences. A virtue ethicist islikely to give you this kind of moral advice: “Act as a virtuous person would act in your situation.”Most virtue ethics theories take their inspiration from Aristotle who declared that a virtuous person issomeone who has ideal character traits. These traits derive from natural internal tendencies, but need to benurtured; however, once established, they will become stable. For example, a virtuous person is someonewho is kind across many situations over a lifetime because that is her character and not because she wantsto maximize utility or gain favors or simply do her duty. Unlike deontological and consequentialist theories,theories of virtue ethics do not aim primarily to identify universal principles that can be applied in anymoral situation. And virtue ethics theories deal with wider questions—“How should I live?” and “What isthe good life?” and “What are proper family and social values?”Since its revival in the twentieth century, virtue ethics has been developed in three main directions:Eudaimonism, agent-based theories, and the ethics of care. Eudaimonism bases virtues in humanflourishing, where flourishing is equated with performing one’s distinctive function well. In the case ofhumans, Aristotle argued that our distinctive function is reasoning, and so the life “worth living” is onewhich we reason well. An agent-based theory emphasizes that virtues are determined by common-senseintuitions that we as observers judge to be admirable traits in other people. The third branch of virtueethics, the ethics of care, was proposed predominately by feminist thinkers. It challenges the idea thatethics should focus solely on justice and autonomy; it argues that more feminine traits, such as caring andnurturing, should also be considered.Here are some common objections to virtue ethics. Its theories provide a self-centered conception of ethicsbecause human flourishing is seen as an end in itself and does not sufficiently consider the extent to whichour actions affect other people. Virtue ethics also does not provide guidance on how we should act, as thereare no clear principles for guiding action other than “act as a virtuous person would act given the situation.”Lastly, the ability to cultivate the right virtues will be affected by a number of different factors beyond aperson’s control due to education, society, friends and family. If moral character is so reliant on luck, whatrole does this leave for appropriate praise and blame of the person?This article looks at how virtue ethics originally defined itself by calling for a change from the dominantnormative theories of deontology and consequentialism. It goes on to examine some common objectionsraised against virtue ethics and then looks at a sample of fully developed accounts of virtue ethics andresponses.Table of Contents1. Changing Modern Moral Philosophya. Anscombeb. Williamsc. MacIntyre2. A Rival for Deontology and Utilitarianisma. How Should One Live?b. Character and Virtuec. Anti-Theory and the Uncodifiability of Ethicsd. Conclusion3. Virtue Ethical Theoriesa. Eudaimonismb. Agent-Based Accounts of Virtue Ethicsc. The Ethics of Cared. Conclusion4. Objections to Virtue Ethicsa. Self-Centerednessb. Action-Guidingc. Moral Luck5. Virtue in Deontology and Consequentialism6. References and Further Readinga. Changing Modern Moral Philosophyb. Overviews of Virtue Ethicsc. Varieties of Virtue Ethicsd. Collections on Virtue Ethicse. Virtue and Moral Luckf. Virtue in Deontology and Consequentialism1. Changing Modern Moral Philosophya. AnscombeIn 1958 Elisabeth Anscombe published a paper titled "Modern Moral Philosophy" that changed the way wethink about normative theories. She criticized modern moral philosophy’s pre-occupation with a lawconception of ethics. A law conception of ethics deals exclusively with obligation and duty. Among thetheories she criticized for their reliance on universally applicable principles were J. S. Mill’s utilitarianismand Kant’s deontology. These theories rely on rules of morality that were claimed to be applicable to anymoral situation (that is, Mill’s Greatest Happiness Principle and Kant’s Categorical Imperative). Thisapproach to ethics relies on universal principles and results in a rigid moral code. Further, these rigid rulesare based on a notion of obligation that is meaningless in modern, secular society because they make nosense without assuming the existence of a lawgiver—an assumption we no longer make.In its place, Anscombe called for a return to a different way of doing philosophy. Taking her inspirationfrom Aristotle, she called for a return to concepts such as character, virtue and flourishing. She alsoemphasized the importance of the emotions and understanding moral psychology. With the exception ofthis emphasis on moral psychology, Anscombe’s recommendations that we place virtue more centrally inour understanding of morality were taken up by a number of philosophers. The resulting body of theoriesand ideas has come to be known as virtue ethics.Anscombe’s critical and confrontational approach set the scene for how virtue ethics was to develop in itsfirst few years. The philosophers who took up Anscombe’s call for a return to virtue saw their task as beingto define virtue ethics in terms of what it is not—that is, how it differs from and avoids the mistakes madeby the other normative theories. Before we go on to consider this in detail, we need to take a brief look attwo other philosophers, Bernard Williams and Alasdair MacIntyre, whose call for theories of virtue was alsoinstrumental in changing our understanding of moral philosophy.b. WilliamsBernard Williams’ philosophical work has always been characterized by its ability to draw our attention to apreviously unnoticed but now impressively fruitful area for philosophical discussion. Williams criticizedhow moral philosophy had developed. He drew a distinction between morality and ethics. Morality ischaracterized mainly by the work of Kant and notions such as duty and obligation. Crucially associated withthe notion of obligation is the notion of blame. Blame is appropriate because we are obliged to behave in acertain way and if we are capable of conforming our conduct and fail to, we have violated our duty.Williams was also concerned that such a conception for morality rejects the possibility of luck. If morality isabout what we are obliged to do, then there is no room for what is outside of our control. But sometimesattainment of the good life is dependant on things outside of our control.In response, Williams takes a wider concept, ethics, and rejects the narrow and restricting concept ofmorality. Ethics encompasses many emotions that are rejected by morality as irrelevant. Ethical concernsare wider, encompassing friends, family and society and make room for ideals such as social justice. Thisview of ethics is compatible with the Ancient Greek interpretation of the good life as found in Aristotle andPlato.c. MacIntyreFinally, the ideas of Alasdair MacIntyre acted as a stimulus for the increased interest in virtue. MacIntyre’sproject is as deeply critical of many of the same notions, like ought, as Anscombe and Williams. However,he also attempts to give an account of virtue. MacIntyre looks at a large number of historical accounts ofvirtue that differ in their lists of the virtues and have incompatible theories of the virtues. He concludes thatthese differences are attributable to different practices that generate different conceptions of the virtues.Each account of virtue requires a prior account of social and moral features in order to be understood.Thus, in order to understand Homeric virtue you need to look its social role in Greek society. Virtues, then,are exercised within practices that are coherent, social forms of activity and seek to realize goods internal tothe activity. The virtues enable us to achieve these goods. There is an end (or telos) that transcends allparticular practices and it constitutes the good of a whole human life. That end is the virtue of integrity orconstancy.These three writers have all, in their own way, argued for a radical change in the way we think aboutmorality. Whether they call for a change of emphasis from obligation, a return to a broad understanding ofethics, or a unifying tradition of practices that generate virtues, their dissatisfaction with the state ofmodern moral philosophy lay the foundation for change.2. A Rival for Deontology and UtilitarianismThere are a number of different accounts of virtue ethics. It is an emerging concept and was initially definedby what it is not rather than what it is. The next section examines claims virtue ethicists initially made thatset the theory up as a rival to deontology and consequentialism.a. How Should One Live?Moral theories are concerned with right and wrong behavior. This subject area of philosophy is unavoidablytied up with practical concerns about the right behavior. However, virtue ethics changes the kind ofquestion we ask about ethics. Where deontology and consequentialism concern themselves with the rightaction, virtue ethics is concerned with the good life and what kinds of persons we should be. "What is theright action?" is a significantly different question to ask from "How should I live? What kind of personshould I be?" Where the first type of question deals with specific dilemmas, the second is a question aboutan entire life. Instead of asking what is the right action here and now, virtue ethics asks what kind of personshould one be in order to get it right all the time.Whereas deontology and consequentialism are based on rules that try to give us the right action, virtueethics makes central use of the concept of character. The answer to "How should one live?" is that oneshould live virtuously, that is, have a virtuous character.b. Character and VirtueModern virtue ethics takes its inspiration from the Aristotelian understanding of character and virtue.Aristotelian character is, importantly, about a state of being. It’s about having the appropriate inner states.For example, the virtue of kindness involves the right sort of emotions and inner states with respect to ourfeelings towards others. Character is also about doing. Aristotelian theory is a theory of action, since havingthe virtuous inner dispositions will also involve being moved to act in accordance with them. Realizing thatkindness is the appropriate response to a situation and feeling appropriately kindly disposed will also leadto a corresponding attempt to act kindly.Another distinguishing feature of virtue ethics is that character traits are stable, fixed, and reliabledispositions. If an agent possesses the character trait of kindness, we would expect him or her to act kindlyin all sorts of situations, towards all kinds of people, and over a long period of time, even when it is difficultto do so. A person with a certain character can be relied upon to act consistently over a time.It is important to recognize that moral character develops over a long period of time. People are born withall sorts of natural tendencies. Some of these natural tendencies will be positive, such as a placid andfriendly nature, and some will be negative, such as an irascible and jealous nature. These natural tendenciescan be encouraged and developed or discouraged and thwarted by the influences one is exposed to whengrowing up. There are a number of factors that may affect one’s character development, such as one’sparents, teachers, peer group, role-models, the degree of encouragement and attention one receives, andexposure to different situations. Our natural tendencies, the raw material we are born with, are shaped anddeveloped through a long and gradual process of education and habituation.Moral education and development is a major part of virtue ethics. Moral development, at least in its earlystages, relies on the availability of good role models. The virtuous agent acts as a role model and the studentof virtue emulates his or her example. Initially this is a process of habituating oneself in right action.Aristotle advises us to perform just acts because this way we become just. The student of virtue mustdevelop the right habits, so that he tends to perform virtuous acts. Virtue is not itself a habit. Habituation ismerely an aid to the development of virtue, but true virtue requires choice, understanding, and knowledge.The virtuous agent doesn’t act justly merely out of an unreflective response, but has come to recognize thevalue of virtue and why it is the appropriate response. Virtue is chosen knowingly for its own sake.The development of moral character may take a whole lifetime. But once it is firmly established, one will actconsistently, predictably and appropriately in a variety of situations.Aristotelian virtue is defined in Book II of the Nicomachean Ethics as a purposive disposition, lying in amean and being determined by the right reason. As discussed above, virtue is a settled disposition. It is alsoa purposive disposition. A virtuous actor chooses virtuous action knowingly and for its own sake. It is notenough to act kindly by accident, unthinkingly, or because everyone else is doing so; you must act kindlybecause you recognize that this is the right way to behave. Note here that although habituation is a tool forcharacter development it is not equivalent to virtue; virtue requires conscious choice and affirmation.Virtue "lies in a mean" because the right response to each situation is neither too much nor too little. Virtueis the appropriate response to different situations and different agents. The virtues are associated withfeelings. For example: courage is associated with fear, modesty is associated with the feeling of shame, andfriendliness associated with feelings about social conduct. The virtue lies in a mean because it involvesdisplaying the mean amount of emotion, where mean stands for appropriate. (This does not imply that theright amount is a modest amount. Sometimes quite a lot may be the appropriate amount of emotion todisplay, as in the case of righteous indignation). The mean amount is neither too much nor too little and issensitive to the requirements of the person and the situation.Finally, virtue is determined by the right reason. Virtue requires the right desire and the right reason. Toact from the wrong reason is to act viciously. On the other hand, the agent can try to act from the rightreason, but fail because he or she has the wrong desire. The virtuous agent acts effortlessly, perceives theright reason, has the harmonious right desire, and has an inner state of virtue that flows smoothly intoaction. The virtuous agent can act as an exemplar of virtue to others.It is important to recognize that this is a perfunctory account of ideas that are developed in great detail inAristotle. They are related briefly here as they have been central to virtue ethics’ claim to put forward aunique and rival account to other normative theories. Modern virtue ethicists have developed their theoriesaround a central role for character and virtue and claim that this gives them a unique understanding ofmorality. The emphasis on character development and the role of the emotions allows virtue ethics to havea plausible account of moral psychology—which is lacking in deontology and consequentialism. Virtueethics can avoid the problematic concepts of duty and obligation in favor of the rich concept of virtue.Judgments of virtue are judgments of a whole life rather than of one isolated action.c. Anti-Theory and the Uncodifiability of EthicsIn the first book of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle warns us that the study of ethics is imprecise. Virtueethicists have challenged consequentialist and deontological theories because they fail to accommodate thisinsight. Both deontological and consequentialist type of theories rely on one rule or principle that isexpected to apply to all situations. Because their principles are inflexible, they cannot accommodate thecomplexity of all the moral situations that we are likely to encounter.We are constantly faced with moral problems. For example: Should I tell my friend the truth about herlying boyfriend? Should I cheat in my exams? Should I have an abortion? Should I save the drowning baby?Should we separate the Siamese twins? Should I join the fuel protests? All these problems are different andit seems unlikely that we will find the solution to all of them by applying the same rule. If the problems arevaried, we should not expect to find their solution in one rigid and inflexible rule that does not admitexception. If the nature of the thing we are studying is diverse and changing, then the answer cannot be anygood if it is inflexible and unyielding. The answer to "how should I live?" cannot be found in one rule. Atbest, for virtue ethics, there can be rules of thumb—rules that are true for the most part, but may notalways be the appropriate response.The doctrine of the mean captures exactly this idea. The virtuous response cannot be captured in a rule orprinciple, which an agent can learn and then act virtuously. Knowing virtue is a matter of experience,sensitivity, ability to perceive, ability to reason practically, etc. and takes a long time to develop. The ideathat ethics cannot be captured in one rule or principle is the "uncodifiability of ethics thesis." Ethics is toodiverse and imprecise to be captured in a rigid code, so we must approach morality with a theory that is asflexible and as situation-responsive as the subject matter itself. As a result some virtue ethicists seethemselves as anti-theorists, rejecting theories that systematically attempt to capture and organize allmatters of practical or ethical importance.d. ConclusionVirtue ethics initially emerged as a rival account to deontology and consequentialism. It developed fromdissatisfaction with the notions of duty and obligation and their central roles in understanding morality. Italso grew out of an objection to the use of rigid moral rules and principles and their application to diverseand different moral situations. Characteristically, virtue ethics makes a claim about the central role ofvirtue and character in its understanding of moral life and uses it to answer the questions "How should Ilive? What kind of person should I be?" Consequentialist theories are outcome-based and Kantian theoriesare agent-based. Virtue ethics is character-based.3. Virtue Ethical TheoriesRaising objections to other normative theories and defining itself in opposition to the claims of others, wasthe first stage in the development of virtue ethics. Virtue ethicists then took up the challenge of developingfull fledged accounts of virtue that could stand on their own merits rather than simply criticizeconsequentialism and deontology. These accounts have been predominantly influenced by the Aristotelianunderstanding of virtue. While some virtue ethics take inspiration from Plato’s, the Stoics’, Aquinas’,Hume’s and Nietzsche’s accounts of virtue and ethics, Aristotelian conceptions of virtue ethics stilldominate the field. There are three main strands of development for virtue ethics: Eudaimonism, agentbased theories and the ethics of care.a. Eudaimonism"Eudaimonia" is an Aristotelian term loosely (and inadequately) translated as happiness. To understand itsrole in virtue ethics we look to Aristotle’s function argument. Aristotle recognizes that actions are notpointless because they have an aim. Every action aims at some good. For example, the doctor’s vaccinationof the baby aims at the baby’s health, the English tennis player Tim Henman works on his serve so that hecan win Wimbledon, and so on. Furthermore, some things are done for their own sake (ends in themselves)and some things are done for the sake of other things (means to other ends). Aristotle claims that all thethings that are ends in themselves also contribute to a wider end, an end that is the greatest good of all.That good is eudaimonia. Eudaimonia is happiness, contentment, and fulfillment; it’s the name of the bestkind of life, which is an end in itself and a means to live and fare well.Aristotle then observes that where a thing has a function the good of the thing is when it performs itsfunction well. For example, the knife has a function, to cut, and it performs its function well when it cutswell. This argument is applied to man: man has a function and the good man is the man who performs hisfunction well. Man’s function is what is peculiar to him and sets him aside from other beings—reason.Therefore, the function of man is reason and the life that is distinctive of humans is the life in accordancewith reason. If the function of man is reason, then the good man is the man who reasons well. This is thelife of excellence or of eudaimonia. Eudaimonia is the life of virtue—activity in accordance with reason,man’s highest function.The importance of this point of eudaimonistic virtue ethics is that it reverses the relationship betweenvirtue and rightness. A utilitarian could accept the value of the virtue of kindness, but only becausesomeone with a kind disposition is likely to bring about consequences that will maximize utility. So thevirtue is only justified because of the consequences it brings about. In eudaimonist virtue ethics the virtuesare justified because they are constitutive elements of eudaimonia (that is, human flourishing andwellbeing), which is good in itself.Rosalind Hursthouse developed one detailed account of eudaimonist virtue ethics. Hursthouse argues thatthe virtues make their possessor a good human being. All living things can be evaluated qua specimens oftheir natural kind. Like Aristotle, Hursthouse argues that the characteristic way of human beings is therational way: by their very nature human beings act rationally, a characteristic that allows us to makedecisions and to change our character and allows others to hold us responsible for those decisions. Actingvirtuously—that is, acting in accordance with reason—is acting in the way characteristic of the nature ofhuman beings and this will lead to eudaimonia. This means that the virtues benefit their possessor. Onemight think that the demands of morality conflict with our self-interest, as morality is other-regarding, buteudaimonist virtue ethics presents a different picture. Human nature is such that virtue is not exercised inopposition to self-interest, but rather is the quintessential component of human flourishing. The good lifefor humans is the life of virtue and therefore it is in our interest to be virtuous. It is not just that the virtueslead to the good life (e.g. if you are good, you will be rewarded), but rather a virtuous life is the good lifebecause the exercise of our rational capacities and virtue is its own reward.It is important to note, however, that there have been many different ways of developing this idea of thegood life and virtue within virtue ethics. Philippa Foot, for example, grounds the virtues in what is good forhuman beings. The virtues are beneficial to their possessor or to the community (note that this is similar toMacIntyre’s argument that the virtues enable us to achieve goods within human practices). Rather thanbeing constitutive of the good life, the virtues are valuable because they contribute to it.Another account is given by perfectionists such as Thomas Hurka, who derive the virtues from thecharacteristics that most fully develop our essential properties as human beings. Individuals are judgedagainst a standard of perfection that reflects very rare or ideal levels of human achievement. The virtuesrealize our capacity for rationality and therefore contribute to our well-being and perfection in that sense.b. Agent-Based Accounts of Virtue EthicsNot all accounts of virtue ethics are eudaimonist. Michael Slote has developed an account of virtue based onour common-sense intuitions about which character traits are admirable. Slote makes a distinction betweenagent-focused and agent-based theories. Agent-focused theories understand the moral life in terms of whatit is to be a virtuous individual, where the virtues are inner dispositions. Aristotelian theory is an exampleof an agent-focused theory. By contrast, agent-based theories are more radical in that their evalu…

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