Virtue Ethics Is of Little Use

Virtue ethics focuses on how a person can be good or bad, it does not focus on the right or wrong actions. Literature has suggested that virtue ethics raises three important questions, these are: -

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  • Who am I?
  • Who I ought to become?
  • How do I get there?

Practical ethics is more of a situation based, however virtue ethics lays down the fundamentals and beliefs that a man must practice. All the modern theories about virtue ethics are linked to the Aristotelian virtue ethics. Practical ethics tells us what the right thing is, that needs to be done in present situation and virtue ethics tells how anyone can be a better person without thinking of present situation.

The three main contemporary normative ethical theories are virtue ethics, deontological ethics and consequentialist ethics. Deontological ethics is referred to as duty of ethics; this suggests the emphasis should be placed on adhering to duties and ethical principles. The point of debate is that how the duties are defined. Deontology emphasis on performing the duties and these duties comes into picture with some moral imperative. Consequentialism is more concerned about the consequences that may come as the outcome. It is more like a cause and effect relation where something is abstained from doing because it has undesirable effects. For example, instead of saying that one has a moral duty to abstain from rape or murder, consequentialism would say that one should abstain from rape because it produces undesirable effects. The point of debate in this theory is the purview of word desirable as in what all things comes under desirable.  Virtue ethics differ from above theories that in virtue ethics actions and effects are not taken but the moral values and moral virtues are considered. It does not considered what is correct in particular situation or what can be the effects, it just considers that what ought to be done. A philosopher practicing virtue ethics would identify the moral values and characteristics that the moral or virtues person embodies. One should posses these characteristics to be called moral and then the actions are just the mere reflection of inner self.

In the first glance it appears that virtue ethics is the plausible theory however many experts have believed that this is not always the case. For example a man has three children and his house is burning down, he has already successfully save his two children but he can’t get the third children from burning house on time. Now, the question arises is that, should he risk his life and go inside the house to save the life of third children? If anything happened to him then who will take care of the remaining two children? As per the virtue theory the right thing would be to go inside the house and try to save the third children but practical ethics suggest that unfortunately man should not go inside the house if he is not sure of coming out.

Many experts and researchers have suggested that virtue ethics is too rigid a theory and when it comes to real life situations people should avoid following virtue ethics theory. For example a pregnant woman meets with an accident and she has to abort the child to save her own life. Should she go for abortion or should she risk her life? Virtue ethics would suggest that she should not go for abortion but in this case practical ethics would suggest that lady should abort the child.

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