Introduction to Ethics
The meaning of ethics can vary from person to person. In my point of view, ethics is the understanding of right and wrong that dictates what people shouldn’t do and should do in situations whether it be in virtues, fairness, rights, or obligations. Ethics is the actions of the human person and not to be confused or equated with the term etiquette, which is a social norm. It gives us critical thinking. Ethics may either be descriptive, which means that knowing what aspect of the action done in a situation is ethical, or normative which is after knowing what aspect is ethical one must offer a solution. For me, it should be necessary to have our standards continuously checked to make sure those standards are reasonable.
Life is a made up of experiences and choices. To overall make us a better person, we should make a continuous effort to be ethical of our own moral beliefs. There are several tools that can be used for critical thinking, it could be universal, relative, and even religious. People who have universal beliefs believe in the discovery of moral values rather the creation of it and an act to be considered as moral should produce pleasure of a greater balance than pain. Relativism is the difference of beliefs on what is right or wrong. The source of basic truths that are ethical are neither feelings nor reason are believed by intuitionists and intuition helps us in the decision of whether to choose right or wrong.
It is believed by the Greek philosophers that natural desires are evil and by only using reason humans can overcome evil. It is also believed that morality starts at home rather that with principles that are universal. For example, ethics is what is frequently use as I interact with different kinds of people each day. It comes first to me on how those people react, feel, and will proceed depending on the action done to them by me. Religion as a foundation is used by some people for their ethical beliefs. They apply what they have learned and understood from the ten commandments and treating others how they would like to be treated. The environment which includes traditions, our emotions, material conditioning, and level of educational attainment are the factors that affect our moral judgement and influence the self.
An example of this is the pressure that we feel when we have to conform to the standards and demands set by society, specifically on our physical appearance. Another example of how our moral judgement may be influenced by the norms of society is thinking that practicality is right, which is not always the case. I have a strong belief that having an understanding, developed sense of morality and ethical usage, and knowing are what influences a person’s upbringing should be instilled daily. A very straightforward rule of ethics in everyday life is to act in a way that doesn’t bring harm to others and to make sure the lives of the people around you, are easier.
Virtue Ethics of Socrates and Plato
Value and morality are the concepts that I think about whenever I hear the word virtue and that if and only if you are virtuous then you are a good person. Before I knew anything about ethics, I always thought that it was always like a two – sided coin, I instantly think about wrong and right, good versus evil. When the concepts of virtue and ethics are combined, what you get is virtue ethics. What does virtue ethics mean? From what I learned, virtue ethics is a theory that mainly centers around the idea of character development and the appropriate virtues a person should apply within themselves to become the version of who they want to be, as against to actions. An example of a person who applies virtue ethics is someone who is loving, patient, has temperance as oppose to a person who has vices, like lying.
According to Plato, there are three parts of the soul these are: reason, will, and appetite. There are three distinctive sources of behavior, and because of this, man by nature is in conflict. Maintaining the proper of the three parts of the soul is a personal justice. The first is reason which is the highest virtue and is guided by wisdom, this is our conscious awareness, and this is the part of the soul that analyzes and rationally weighs the options we are given within a certain situation.
The second part of the soul is spirit or motivation which is guided by courage, this part a of us that overcomes the adversaries that we go through and yearns for integrity and victory. The last is appetite which is guided by moderation or temperance and includes a great number of our desires that vary from bodily ease, comforts, and pleasures. Having desires for things that are considered vital should be limited by the other parts of the soul and the other parts of the soul should limit the desires that are illegitimate. Plato’s metaphors for each part of the soul: the reason is represented by the head, the appetite is represented by the genitals and the belly, and lastly, the spirit is represented by the blood pumping through the heart.
For example, a student who has to take an exam the following day, has trouble deciding whether to not study and rely on his stock knowledge or pull an all-nighter to learn all the topics that are included in the exam. Another example would be a person hasn’t eaten lunch yet, and has the desire to eat the only food he has access to, which is a sandwich; but the person isn’t in the mood to eat the sandwich and is craving for another meal. Both of those examples show a human’s natural state that the individual needs to both take on something and not taking it at all. When we are given several options on how to do handle as situation, we may feel a tugging of some sort in different directions following the myriad of impulses.
Virtue Ethics of Aristotle
Aristotle, is recognized for his contributions in many fields of philosophy, and the one of the most prominent is ethics. His ethics is comprised of a form of virtue ethics, which the ethical action done is in compliance with virtues. The two types of virtues are outlined by Aristotle, these two are: intellectual virtues and moral virtues. Even though Aristotle was inspired by Plato and Socrates’s ethics and may result in similarity, his interpretation of ethics may differ in some areas.
In the ethical system of Aristotle, one of the central concepts of his ethics is between two extremes of two states, virtues must be found and it is often found in the mean of the two extremes. Rather than achieving one of the state’s extremes, he puts emphasis on the achievement of the means of each state. Eudaimonia means human flourishing and it is the main goal of life. It involves the use of reason, and us humans, are rational beings and this is the separation we have from animals. A person living in a life of solitude cannot attain eudaimonia, instead should live a life within a community filled with interaction and growth. Other ways to attain eudaimonia is through participation in various acts that are considered virtuous.
Something that allows a person to obtain their end goal is called virtue. Virtue is a character attribute that is good or desirable. An example of this is a knife, which has its purpose to cut and its virtue is its sharpness. Another example is a student, who has a purpose of learning about a new topic being taught in school and their virtue is perseverance. If you find yourself in a situation that involves physical confrontation, it is considered virtuous to be courageous.
But if you want to resolve all your problems through physical means that may lead to more violence, then it is considered to be a vice. It may also be a vice if you are too much of a coward to fight. Aristotle stated that habituation can help in developing a person’s character. Habitation is doing the same thing over and over again and eventually it will become part of your character. For a person to know what the right thing to do, they must find someone who knows how to already, and do the same things that they do. An example of this is my experience at home with my parents, they teach me how to an overall decent human being and I practice and apply their teachings.
The world we live in and our existence is chaotic. I believe that virtue ethics as a solution for how to behave in a world full of chaos, virtue ethics is putting trust in you moral compass to guide you in every situation you find yourself in, your everyday interaction with different people and yourself helps you grow as a person. You’ll be less susceptible in choosing decisions that would make you despise yourself and hinder your growth.