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Elements of Moral Philosophy 12: Virtue Ethics

06/30/2012

This is the first I’ve really read an explanation of virtue ethics, and it appears to have the same types of problems that I suspected. In virtue ethics, instead of focusing on right actions, one focuses on right character, what makes one a good person. This includes things like being honest, courageous, etc. Ethics is concerned with describing what makes one more virtuous.

The problem here seems to be the old is-ought gap. So being courageous is defined as good. But why ought we be courageous, besides because of a definition? If one says because it maximizes happiness, or that it is what rational actors will do, or because it benefits oneself, these ideas borrow from other ethical theories (utilitarianism, social contract, egoism), which have their own problems crossing the is-ought gap. Fyfe’s crossing of the gap seems plausible still. What would Massimo say?

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