Virtue Ethics: The view of Aristotle

Virtue ethics refers to the normative ethical theories that stress virtue of mind and human character. Virtue ethicists give a description of virtues focusing on how they are acquired, their application in real life and whether human virtues are rooted in the universal human nature or in the plurality of cultures (Jayawickreme et al 289). In the context of Aristotle, one of the ethicists, excellent virtue of character supersedes the attainment of excellent conduct. According to Aristotle, an individual who poses the right virtue of character does the right thing in the right way and at the right time (Van 10). Virtue is overly practical and the main aim of ethics is not just to know what is good, but to become good.

Aristotle’s view on living a good life and becoming a good person is dependent on the consideration of means and ends. The end to human life is living well and flourishing, as such, all the means should be directed towards the attainment of that end. Good food and shelter, proper clothing and living itself are the means adopted towards the attainment of the end, living a good life. Aristotle posits that a good life is attained when an individual is in possession of all the natural desires (food, shelter, knowledge) that are the same for every person (Bright, Bradley and Jason 451). However, to attain actual living one has to develop a good character, known as virtues. Moral virtues play a significant role in living well, thus the attainment of the natural desires and development of good habit virtues ensures one lives a good life and become a good person. A moral virtue that defines a good life regulates the character trait of an individual. The virtuous character is evident at the mean between two extreme behaviors. When faced with a situation, like managing fear, the focus should be to develop a virtuous character that falls at the mean between two extreme vices, the excess and deficiency vice.

Focusing on happiness is the best way to live. Other than aiming at accomplishing certain purposes in life, attaining good life and desired virtues supports the attainment of good living. Fear of danger and pleasure are some of the virtues identified by Aristotle. The desire regulating character falls at the vice of deficiency, virtuous mean and the vice of excess (Bright, Bradley and Jason 458). Under regulation or over-regulation of one desires leads to the development of problems (Van 21). For instance, when responding to pleasure, the virtuous character trait is temperance. One can also acquire the vice of over-indulgence (excessive character) or insensibility (deficient extreme) that are likely to create problems. On the other hand, when responding to the fear of danger, it is required that one develops a virtuous character of courage. Problems are likely to occur if two extreme deficient character (cowardice) and excessive character (rashness) are developed by curbing and escalating fear respectively. It is important that people develop a virtuous mean character when faced with certain desires of appetite.




Work cited


Jayawickreme, Eranda, et al. “Virtuous states and virtuous traits: How the empirical evidence regarding the existence of broad traits saves virtue ethics from the situationist critique.” School Field 12.3 (2014): 283-308.

Van Staveren, Irene. The values of economics: An Aristotelian perspective. Routledge, 2013.

Bright, David S., Bradley A. Winn, and Jason Kanov. “Reconsidering virtue: Differences of perspective in virtue ethics and the positive social sciences.” Journal of Business Ethics 119.4 (2014): 445-460.