Ethical Theory Essay

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Ethical Theory

Despite the fact that codes of conduct and belief systems permeate everyone's life on an everyday basis, developing a universally acceptable concept of ethics or moral philosophy remains a seemingly impossible task that has plagued philosophers and the world's great thinkers since the beginning of time. Over time a great number of different philosophical theories have arise. Each one has its strengths and weaknesses and each has enjoyed its own period of popularity but, strangely, due to the fact that some of the world's greatest minds have spent their lives formulating other theories, the theory that seemingly has the greatest degree of validity is one of that has enjoyed the longest history: virtue ethics.

Virtue ethics were developed as a theory by the ancient Greek philosophers. Aristotle and Plato in developing their views toward ethics placed little importance on the rules that people should obey or follow and, instead, they focused on the importance of basic character. At the center of virtue ethics is the concept of the golden mean. The golden mean is the proper balancing of two extremes which results in a condition known as virtue. Proponents of virtue ethics argue that persons with good character will ultimately make good decisions without any consideration for rules or moral obligations. For Aristotle and Plato and all followers of the philosophy of virtue ethics, life is a journey whose ultimate goal is to develop good character and, in
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the process, rid oneself of bad habits such as greed or anger. Such habits stand in the way of developing good character and must be moderated in order to demonstrate progress as a moral person. For Aristotle and other proponent of virtue ethics, habits such as greed and anger in moderation can be useful but when taken to extreme they become bad habits and interfere with the development of good character.

The starting point for virtue ethics is a determination of what traits of character make one a good person. Some of these traits such as courage and generosity are easily recognized as virtues but virtue can vary from society to society or individual to individual. What is important in the pursuit of good character is the self-examination that accompanies the process. A self-examination process that involves finding a balance between extremes.

The great advantage of virtue ethics and the thing that distinguishes it from all the other philosophical approaches is that it allows individuals to do things not because they ought to, like in Kant's theory, or because it is in their own best interest as in egoism, but because it is virtuous for them to do so. Decisions in virtue ethics are made as part of the process of developing good character not because there is any rightness or wrongness involved or because someone might benefit from deciding one way or another. Decisions are made because it leads one toward developing good character.

One clear advantage of…

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