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Virtue Ethics Peter D Toon.

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1 Virtue Ethics Peter D Toon

2 Virtue ethics Focus is on personal qualities needed to flourish
Flourishing is central Not rules or consequences plus personal qualities needed to achieve these – this is character deontology of character consequentialism

3 Key concepts in virtue ethics
How should one live?  εὐδαιμονία  -eudaimonia The good life The life worth living Happiness flourishing

4 Key concepts in virtue ethics
How should one live?  εὐδαιμονία  -eudaimonia Determined by   τέλος telos – end, purpose or goal Implies a narrative view of life: “Count no man happy until he is dead” - Solon

5 Key concepts in virtue ethics
How should one live?  εὐδαιμονία  -eudaimonia The life of pleasure – Epicurius (Hedonism) The life of virtue – Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics What is the life of virtue?

6 Key concepts in virtue ethics
How should one live?  εὐδαιμονία  -eudaimonia Aristotle – rejects the ideas of a life devoted to pleasure or to politics advises a life devoted to friendship and contemplation

7 Buzz groups What are modern ideas of the good life? What is yours?

8 Key concepts in virtue ethics
What personal qualities do you need to achieve eudaimonia?  ἀρετή - Arete – virtues or excellences of character Intellectual and moral disposition or habit of acting rightly according to reason ( Aquinas) Qualities needed to overcome challenges (Nussbaum and Sen)

9 Key concepts in virtue ethics
virtues are usually seen as acquired or learnt characteristics Because these can be changed though there is an issue about people who are naturally virtuous or vicious in various ways Much discussion of the issue of “moral luck” Eg Nussbaum The Fragility of Goodness

10 Key concepts in virtue ethics
Traditional catalogue of the seven virtues: Temperance, Courage, Justice, Wisdom Faith Hope and Love

11 A longer list of virtues
Acceptance Accountability, Ambition, Assertiveness, Beauty, Benevolence, Bravery, Caring, Charity, Chastity, Caution, Cleanliness, Commitment, Compassion, Confidence, Consideration, Contentment, Cooperation, Courage, Courtesy, Creativity, Curiosity, Defiance, Dependability, Detachment, Determination, Devotion, Diligence, Discernment, Discretion, Discipline, Eloquence, Empathy, Enthusiasm, Excellence, Faith, Faithfulness, Flexibility, Focus, Forbearance, Forgiveness, Fortitude, Friendliness, Frugality, Generosity, Gentleness, Grace, Gratitude, Helpfulness, Honesty, Honour, Hope, Humbleness, Humility, Humor, Idealism, Integrity, Impartiality, Industry, Innocence, Joyfulness, Justice, Kindness, Knowledge, Liberality, Love, Loyalty, Magnanimity, Majesty, Meekness, Mercy, Moderation, Modesty, Obedience, Openness, Orderliness, Patience, Peace, Perseverance, Persistence, Piety, Prudence, Punctuality, Purity, Purposefulness, Reliability, Resoluteness, Resourcefulness, Respect, Responsibility, Restraint, Reverence, Righteousness, Selflessness, Self- Sacrifice, Service, Sensitivity, Silence, Simplicity, Sincerity, Sobriety, Spontaneity, Steadfastness, Strength, Tact, Temperance, Thankfulness, Thrift, Tolerance, Toughness, Tranquility, Trust, Trustworthiness, Truthfulness, Understanding, Unity, Vitality, Wisdom, Wonder, Zeal

12 Aristotles virtues - the golden mean

13 Aristotles virtues - summary
SPHERE OF ACTION OR FEELING EXCESS MEAN DEFICIENCY Anger Irascibility Patience/Good temper Lack of spirit/unirascibility Self-expression Boastfulness Truthfulness Understatement/mock modesty Conversation Buffoonery Wittiness Boorishness Social Conduct Obsequiousness Friendliness Cantankerousness Shame Shyness Modesty Shamelessness Indignation Envy Righteous indignation Malicious enjoyment/Spitefulness

14 Buzz groups What virtues are required to flourish as a practitioner in health care?

15 Factors which affect your view of the virtues
Vision of the good Vision of the good life The person or role you are considering -will influence your catalogue of virtues

16 Key concepts in virtue ethics Φρόνησις - Phronesis
The central virtue needed to know the virtuous action Practical wisdom Discernment Prudentia, prudence Both a moral and an intellectual excellence

17 Key concepts in virtue ethics ἀκρασία Akrasia
“weakness of will” Does it exist? A problem of reason or of emotion?

18 How do you acquire virtue?
Modelling – WWJD ( or S or A or B or C) Reflection on the telos of life, on eudaemonia and on specific virtues – what is courage, what is temperance Narrative and experience based

19 How do you acquire virtue?
involves training the emotions as well as the intellect and the will Can you always become virtuous by trying harder? Aim for the ground and miss; distinction in Xtian theology between cardinal and theological virtues, the latter acquired by grace – does this mean in secular terms by activities like meditation, cultivation of an attitude to life the universe and everything rather than aiming at a specific goal?

20 History of virtue ethics – an overview
Plato - Euthyphro, Charmides, Greater Hippias, Protagoras, Gorgias, Meno Aristotle – Ethics Stoics and Epicurians The Christian synthesis – Gospels and St Paul - Obligation or virtue based? Augustine - absolute responsibility to tell the truth, but “love God and do what you like” Aquinas – Aristotle

21 Post Renaissance/ Reformation Enlightenment
Emphasis on Obligation Kant – the Categorical Imperative Betham and Mill – Imperative to maximise happiness

22 The 20th Century renaissance
Anscombe Foot Slote Hursthouse Macintyre

23 Hursthouse – virtue ethics and abortion
Not based on fetal status, woman’s rights or (specifically) on consequences Based on the biological facts and our emotional reaction to them

24 Hursthouse – virtue ethics and abortion
Pregnancy is a special condition abortion is not like appendicectomy or hair cut a new life or potential new life is a serious matter and its cutting off is not trivial Attitudes to new life change as it develops Mixed feelings to a pregnancy are normal Family life is part of eudaemonia viz our reaction to miscarriage, stillbirth

25 Hursthouse – virtue ethics and abortion
Based on these things a virtuous person may opt for abortion in some circumstances: Poor physical health, gruellingly adverse circumstances, will harm existing children, not ready for the responsibility not interfere with my promotion got a holiday booked

26 Hursthouse – virtue ethics and abortion
a virtuous response may well include regret even when abortion is the virtuous choice, and may still reflect moral failing –e.g. for getting in the situation in the first place

27 Hursthouse – virtue ethics and abortion
To a considerable extent this reflects the law we have ( though not always how it is interpreted) Does it reflect your moral intuitions?


29 Alasdair Macintyre – After Virtue
The theory of moral fragmentation since the Enlightenment The “partial solution” lies in a unified life narrative based on engagement in practices in which the virtues and cultivated an through which “internal goods” are generated

30 Moral fragmentation in health care
Fragmented concepts of illness and disease Platonic and statistical norms Obstacles to maximising pleasure in consequentialist terms In the mind or in the body? Mind-body dualism Markets and “disease mongering” Responsibility and illness – cause or effect?

31 The practice of health care
Collaboration between professionals ( doctors, nurses, other clinicians, managers, administrators) and patients Internal goods – health Generating a flourishing narrative through the change of meaning through the interpretative function as well as by objective change through biomedical intervention

32 The practice of health care
What is a flourishing narrative in terms of health? A good life and a good death Illness as challenge which helps generate virtue

33 The practice of health care
Professionalism and flourishing professionals What are professional virtues? Institutions which support professionalism


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