The foundation of moral laws can be regarded as the right action or behaviour. The Virtue Ethics that deal with an individual’s moral acts are based on these laws. Therefore, in Chapter 12 of the book The Aspect of Moral Philosophy written by James Rachels, I respond to the ethics of virtue. This chapter deals with the concept of the virtues and their elements, the meaning and benefits of virtue ethics, the relationship between virtue and action and radical virtue’s ethics objections. All of this leads to a strong view of the concept of virtue ethics. Virtue Ethics are traced from Nicomachean Ethics that were developed by the Aristotle, and it consists of the central aspect of a character. It states that goodness of a man is judged by his character traits which are expected to match with virtues. In asking the right thing to do to be considered as a good person, there are theories of rightness and obligations such as Ethical Egoism, Social contract, Utilitarianisms, and Kant. Aristotle defined virtue as a trait of character that is demonstrated by the habitual actions of someone. The partial list of virtues consists of the qualities such as courage, friendliness, and generosity that are considered to be the right attributes that fulfill the desirable characters of a human being. Doubts about the “ideal” of impartiality and Moral motivation are the advantages of Virtue Ethics, and the radical virtue ethics are believed to the complete moral theory independently.
I have some questions concerning Virtue Ethics as discussed in the text. The first question is regarding the criteria that were used to classify certain qualities as the right ones and discredit others. For instance, despite that courage is taken as the right character; however, a vicious leader of a nation can use his/ her his courageous qualities to commit massacre that would have an adverse impact on many people. In that situation, courage quality has been misused to bring happiness and satisfaction to a limited number of people. The other question is concerning the aspect of the virtue and conduct where an individual compromise his/ her beliefs of doing the right things to perform certain actions that might bring harm to many people. For example, there can be one person in a crowd that thinks that thinks should be done ethically; however, the entire group members might experience disaster after the implementations that proposals.
There are some quotations from the texts that I felt they were interesting. “An honest person never deceives or lies except in certain circumstances,” the priority of lies and deception should be based on the general good of the society (165). A clear justification for telling lies or deceiving should be appropriate for it to be considered. Therefore, lying or deceiving sometimes can be deemed to be right when the intention behind it would benefit many people. Further, I agree with the author on the moral motivation as one of the advantages of virtue ethics based on the explanation provided. “Friends should be looking after the welfare of each other, not to demonstrate willingness but as a fulfillment of an obligation” (166). The duty is based on the demonstration of loyalty which is a critical element that binds friendship. However, I disagree with the explanation on why virtues should not apply to all individuals in the society. The author states that it is because people have “different social roles” in the society which makes the virtues not be universal (168). I think this notion is not applicable in the modern society where all people are presumed to be equal.
Virtue ethics has a significant connection in my life experience. As a young person, I was taught to be courageous so that to overcome threats in life to attain prosperity. Further, I realized that being honest helps in the fight against corruption as integrity people would not be willing to engage in fraudulent activities. Moreover, I would always expect my friends to support me in both worst and good circumstances not as a favor, but as a demonstration of loyalty that exists between us.
There are some comments that I like while there are others that I entirely dislike. I like the idea that an individual is allowed to be dishonest especially in critical events because, in some situations, people are motivated to lie or deceive for them to remain alive. However, I dislike the argument that everybody needs friends for them to be comfortable in life. It is because life is full of betrayals as those people whom you show loyalty today would be your worst enemies in future.
Rachels, James, and Stuart Rachels. The elements of moral philosophy. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2015. 8th Edition ISBN 978-0-07-811906-4.