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Updated December 16, 2020

Virtue Ethics, Goodness and Morality

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Virtue Ethics, Goodness and Morality essay
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In his philosophical discourse on virtue ethics, Aristotle devised the word eudaimonia to mean happiness, contentment, and fulfillment. McKinnon (1999) considers this as the name of the best kind of life lacking nothing. It is a means to live and fare well. This is a kind of life that everyone desires. According to Aristotle, every action is purposed for a good end and that all the things that are ends in themselves also contribute to a wider end, an end that is the greatest good of all (Russell, 2008).

To distinguish Aristotle’s virtue theory from that of utilitarianism, he qualifies the concept of goodness saying that, it is that goodness whose functions are performed well (Josephson and Hanson, 1998). This means that the goodness should emanate from both intentions and actions. This concept can be applied to journalists: Journalists have a function, and good journalists are those that perform their functions well, fulfilling, and reaching the level of excellence, or eudaimonia. The uniqueness of eudaimonistic virtue ethics lies in the fact that it reverses the relationship between virtue and rightness. A goal-oriented person could accept the value of the virtue of kindness, but only because someone with a kind nature is likely to bring about consequences that will increase utility. Therefore, the virtue is only justified because of the consequences it brings about.

In eudaimonist virtue ethics, the virtues are justified because they are constitutive elements of goodness in it. Similarly, Rosalind Hursthouse (1999) developed a comprehensive explanation of eudaimonist virtue ethics arguing that virtues make their possessor a good human being. He notes that human beings act rationally by their very nature, a characteristic that allows us to make decisions and to change our character and allows others to hold us responsible for those decisions. This means that the virtues benefit their possessor.

Nonetheless, there is a danger of thinking that morality is sometimes in conflict with self-interest. This is so because human nature is such that virtue is not exercised in opposition to self-interest, but rather is the typical component of human flourishing (Meilaender, 1984). The good life for humans is the life of virtue and therefore it is in our interest to be virtuous. It is not just that the virtues lead to the good life, but rather a virtuous life is the good life because the exercise of our rational capacities and virtue is its own reward.

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