The Virtue Ethics Theory: A Critique

Ethics are morally upright behaviors or characteristics. However, due to differences in ideals and cultural views, the definition of ethics has been disputed. Virtue is a positive personality trait that attracts people. The definition is profoundly embedded in a person’s core beliefs, values, perceptions, and interests. Because of their goodwill and intention, a virtuous person inspires and commands the confidence and trust of those around him. In the workplace, virtue ethics promotes friendship, cohesion, and motivation, as well as happiness and contentment, through indiscriminate goodness to all (Pojman and Fieser 146). It indiscriminately advocates for goodness and upright moral characters towards everyone. Examples of virtue ethics include generosity, truthfulness, honesty, charity, courage, wittiness among many others.

Origin of Virtue Ethics

Virtue ethics theory originated from the Greek philosophers. The Socrates started it while Plato and Aristotle took the role to develop it in the 4th century. Later, virtue ethics was incorporated into the history by moralistic historians including Livy, Plutarch and Tacitus and sub-consistently introduced into the Roman philosophy and later adopted as Christian morals by St. Ambrose of Milan.

Pros and cons of Virtue ethics

The theory of Virtue ethics has several positives and negatives attached to it. The perception of the pros and cons of the theory is subjective and entirely depends on the supporters and opponents of virtue ethics. There are many aspects that some people may perceive as negative while at the same time others view them positively (Ellis 4). However, the conventional pros and cons of this theory are discussed below.

Advantages of Virtue ethics

Sense of community

Virtue ethics helps to bridge the gap between the poor and rich. Moral agents are motivated by friendship and desire to help others. People with virtues are generous, selfless and with compassion. The rich will always make efforts to ensure that they fulfil their moral obligations of helping the poor and reducing the gap that exists between them (Pojman and Fieser 146). They, therefore, will act to help the less fortunate thereby improving their quality of lives.


Virtue ethics is interested in the moral character of the agent disregarding the consequences. People make a greater focus on the doing what is morally right and make less consideration of the results that may be associated with the action. The principal offers flexibility in the decision making of the moral agent because they rely on their virtues and not set rules and regulations. The flexibility in decision making makes it easier for people to make decisions when faced with the challenging situations where they need to take a stand. Therefore, the virtue ethics theory is essential in helping people achieve their day to day decisions.

Disadvantages of Virtue ethics

Lack of Clarity

Virtue ethics does not give clear rules that will achieve consensus between a virtuous person and a non-virtuous. The rules favour application by the moral person and sideline the sentiments, thoughts, and feeling of the non-virtuous one. Therefore, it is not binding and remains a subject of contention (Cook and Syse 122). Additionally, this type of ethics is considered as culturally relative by some people. Different cultures and religion have a different opinion on regarding what is virtuous or morally acceptable. In most cases, certain aspects that are considered virtuous among certain groups of people may have the little emphasis on some other group. Therefore, the virtue ethics theory fails to make a clear clarification on the universal aspects that should apply to all people.

The theory is judgmental

The virtue ethics theory is also egoistic by being judgmental to actions and decisions of other people. Virtue ethics applications do not consider the social and conditional reality of an individual but instead blindly judges according to the principles of virtue (Ellis 4). For example, an individual in a dire condition will be judged for aggressive retaliation.


Virtue ethics promotes self-centeredness. It supports the beliefs and principles of the virtuous person while disregarding the non-virtuous. The moral agent is praised and honoured while the immoral is criticized and distanced. Therefore, the theory supports personal interests and gains instead of operating indiscriminately.

The theory can Enhance Wrongful Actions

Finally, virtue ethics can facilitate wrongful deeds or faults in the society. Example, a courageous person can utilize the virtue to commit illegalities including robbery and theft. Also, a person can practice compassion through lying so that someone else feelings are not hurt.

Opinion on the validity of Virtue ethics

Virtue ethics theory is reasonable and noble. The different types of virtues are critical to achieving a safe and peaceful coexistence. Affection and love is also part of the result of practising virtue ethics which promotes a physically and mentally healthy life to individuals. Also, the proof of the validity of the theory is evidence from the positive impact that impacted the lives of the people in many different ways. Therefore, it is clear the virtuous argument is valid in the application and should be embraced.

Practicality of virtue ethics

The virtues ethics theory is practical in daily life. The various religions of the world have embraced the philosophy and advocate that all the humankind should choose to be virtuous. Pope Francis heads the Catholic Church and the defender of the gospel. Christianity relates to virtue ethics in its entirety. The pope through religious guidance leads and inspires his followers to practice virtuous characters in their daily lives. Therefore, the Christian religion forms one of the practical application of the theory.

Pope showed virtuous character in the recent history by intervening to help a suffering population in Mexico that experienced a high magnitude earthquake. The aftermath of the natural calamity was death, injuries, and damages to properties. Pope exercised compassion and generosity through a contribution of $150,000 funds to aid in the rescue drive and mitigate suffering to the survivors. The practice demonstrates how the humans are making the efforts to embrace the virtue ethics theory.

Truthfulness to Christian belief

Truthfulness means being loyal to one’s beliefs and principles Christianity advocates for love, generosity, compassion, and care for people. Pope Francis showcased love, compassion, and generosity by being close and concerned on the suffering of people (Cook and Syse 122. He donated funds to help mitigate losses and sufferings. Therefore, the truthfulness of the Christian belief also provides a proof of the practicality of the virtue ethics theory.


In conclusion, the virtue ethics theory is one of the major moral theories embraced by many people in the world. The theory advocates for all the mankind to be virtuous by considering various aspects of the theory called the virtues. The notion is associated with various advantages and disadvantages. However, they the validity of the pros and cons of the model is significantly determined by whether the person is a supporter or an opponent of the theory. The current society has practically applied the doctrine in their daily lives through the many ways such as the advocating by the religious groups.

Works Cited

Cook Martin & Syse Henrik. “What Should We Mean by ‘Military Ethics’?”. Journal of Military Ethics. 2010, pp. 122.

Ellis Carolyn. Telling secrets, revealing lives, The Relational ethics in research with intimate others. Qualitative Inquiry, 2007, pp. 3-29.

Pojman Lous & Fieser Emeritus. Virtue Theory. In Ethics, Discovering Right and Wrong (6th ed.). Belmont, CA. Wadsworth. 2009, pp. 146-169

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