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Day 56 – Q 1. What do you understand by ‘virtue ethics’? Discuss the contribution of Aristotle in the field of virtue ethics.

1. What do you understand by ‘virtue ethics’? Discuss the contribution of Aristotle in the field of virtue ethics.  

सदाचार नैतिकतासे आप क्या समझते हैं? सदाचार नैतिकता के क्षेत्र में अरस्तू के योगदान पर चर्चा करें।


Virtue ethics is a broad term for theories that emphasize the role of character and virtue in moral philosophy rather than either doing one’s duty or acting in order to bring about good consequences. These traits derive from natural internal tendencies, however, once established, they become stable.


Virtue ethics is currently one of three major approaches in normative ethics. It may, initially, be identified as the one that emphasizes the virtues, or moral character, in contrast to the approach that emphasizes duties or rules (deontology) or that emphasizes the consequences of actions (consequentialism). Suppose it is obvious that someone in need should be helped. A utilitarian will point to the fact that the consequences of doing so will maximize well-being, a deontologist to the fact that, in doing so the agent will be acting in accordance with a moral rule such as “Do unto others as you would be done by” and a virtue ethicist to the fact that helping the person would be charitable or benevolent.

Contribution of Aristotle in the field of virtue ethics:

  • In the West, virtue ethics’ founding fathers are Plato and Aristotle, and in the East it can be traced back to Mencius and Confucius. It persisted as the dominant approach in Western moral philosophy until at least the Enlightenment, suffered a momentary eclipse during the nineteenth century, but re-emerged in Anglo-American philosophy in the late 1950s.
  • It is not easy to get one’s emotions in harmony with one’s rational recognition of certain reasons for action. I may be honest enough to recognise that I must own up to a mistake because it would be dishonest not to do so without my acceptance being so wholehearted that I can own up easily, with no inner conflict. Following (and adapting) Aristotle, virtue ethicists draw a distinction between full or perfect virtue and “continence”, or strength of will. The fully virtuous do what they should without a struggle against contrary desires; the continent have to control a desire or temptation to do otherwise.
  • The ordinary usage, or the reliance on motivation by inclination, gives us what Aristotle calls “natural virtue”—a proto version of full virtue awaiting perfection by phronesis or practical wisdom.
  • Although all standard versions of virtue ethics insist on that conceptual link between virtue and eudaimonia, further links are matters of dispute and generate different versions. For Aristotle, virtue is necessary but not sufficient—what is also needed are external goods which are a matter of luck. For Plato and the Stoics, virtue is both necessary and sufficient for eudaimonia (Annas 1993).


Though virtue ethics comes with its own set of objections like self-centredness, failure of practicality and lack of lawfully guided principles, the constant self-awareness, self-development and knowledge building that a person inculcates as a result of virtue ethics cannot be overlooked. Emotional intelligence along with practicality where required will make a wholesome combination for an individual’s growth and help her/him contribute essentially to the society.

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