Virtue ethics are defined by the characteristics of actions themselves (Hurthouse & Pettigrove, 2018). Unlike consequentialist or duty ethics, an actor chooses the action for the action itself, not for an obligation or an outcome (Athanassoulis, n.d.). An actor who behaves virtuous aims for behavior that would create a higher standard of being (Athanassoulis, n.d.). This behavior must be freely chosen (Athanassoluis, n.d.). A complication of this is a lack of clarity on how an individual ought to behave, particularly in a specified situation (Athanassoulis, n.d.). In this lack of clarity, virtues are influenced by culture, upbringing, and education (Athanassoulis.) In a similar concern, virtue takes time to develop (Athanasassoulis, n.d.).
Eudaimonism is a virtue ethic theory which looks at the virtues being for the agent’s own good (Prior, 2001). Virtues are a natural state (Athanassoulis, n.d.). In this natural state they are beneficial for humans, and when behaved in will avoid human harm (Prior, 2001). An individual needs to determine virtuous ethical behavior through reason (Prior 2001). From the Christian perspective, St. Thomas Aquinas agreed Eudaimonism is beneficial because living virtuously brings out happiness (Floyd, n.d.). More importantly, St. Augustine believed that practicing virtuous behavior allows us share in what God loves by loving it as well (Holmes, 1984, pg. 134).
Agent Based Virtue Ethics
Agent Based Virtue ethics are looking at the rightness or wrongness of action has to be found within the intent of action (Jacobson, 2002, p.53-67). Because of intent, it no longer matters whether the virtuous action turns out negatively (Carneades.org, 2018). If the intent is good, the action is good regardless (Hurthouse, 2018). The consequence of this, is if an actor does not understand their action is wrong, and does evil, their action is considered good (Carneades.org, 2018). The solution for this set of virtue ethics is a subsection known as Paragon Virtue ethics (Carneades.org, 2018).
Paragon Virtue ethics remove the lack of experience of someone attempting to be virtuous, by providing an exemplary or well performing virtuous person (Carneades.org, 2018). In a Christian perspective, Carneades.org (2018) states this theory is commonly considered the theory of “What would Jesus do?” In terms of worldly examples, this concept is flawed. As two exemplary individuals may take different paths but remain an icon of virtue (Carneades.org, 2018). No person is perfectly virtuous (Carneades.org). St. Thomas Aquinas similarly agrees that no person is obtaining perfect virtue (Floyd, n.d.).
The Ethics of Care
The ethics of care, which came from the perspective of Carrol Gilligan, look at a more relational perspective of ethical choices (Sander-Staudt, n.d.). A more feminist perspective, the ethics of care take a point that women may have a different perspective than men (Athanassoulis, n.d). Virtuous choices are not one-sided actions, but effect relationships and others who then also react (Sander-Staudt, n.d.). The ethics of care claims caring as a virtue (Burton & Dunn, 2017). This virtue is made of those who care and those who are cared on, removing the individual perspective and looking at it relationally (Burton & Dunn, 2017).
This breaks away from the male perspective of dichotomous responses in moral dilemma’s and seeks more relationships to resolve issues (Sander-Staudt, n.d.). In the virtue of care, most people would work together to resolve their problems for the sake of caring for each other (Sander-Staudt, n.d.). The ethics of care are innately Christian (Constable, 2012). It is biblical and commanded by God for Christians to care for the disenfranchised, sick, and poor (Constable, 2012). Similar to Christ’s works, we see the ethics of care in the ministry of healing (Constable, 2012). Caring for each other is emotional and moral work (Constable, 2012).