Virtue Ethics


The virtue ethics theory is among the three top theories in normative ethics. The theory stresses the importance of virtues and moral character. This is unlike other approaches that emphasize on the rules and responsibilities (deontology) and the effects of an individual’s action (consequentialism). The reason the theory is important is that among other things, it instills important values in my person such as integrity, optimism, realism, and value human relations (Jayawickreme 2014).

Virtue ethics theory can be interpreted as both objective and subjective. The element of objectivity is as a result of providing an objective standard for humanity, where the end is flourishing of all humans. The theory is subjective in that it fails to provide guidance on how people should act and people have to decide for themselves. As such, the objectivity of ethics is lost and relativism sets in (Hursthouse 2013).

The theory has many strengths which include; recognizing that an agent is emotionally involved while making an ethical judgement, that there exist practical solutions to moral dilemmas contrary to conflict of absolute rules. The approach emphasizes on the significance of the character of the agent and role of motivation while reasoning ethically which is absent in other normative theories. More so the theory switches the focus for moral values from the acts of the agents and provides individuals with the opportunity to learn and improve their moral lives (Vaughn 2015). The theory, however, has weaknesses that are problematic to deal with. For instance, it’s hard to define the end, Eudaimonia, and it is difficult to confirm the claim be Aristotle that particular virtues can lead to an end.  The theory also fails to state with clarity the steps a person should follow while dealing with a dilemma. It is practically difficult to discover a virtuous individual on whose opinion shall the right action course of action is defined. The theory is also faced with the problem of circularity of definition leading to confusions in interpretations, and relativism (Hursthouse 2013).