Jessica Hursthouse, Virtue Ethics are fundamentally important to an

Jessica Ramos1004258368VIC168H1Paul W. GoochJanuary 24, 2018Virtue EthicsAccording to Rosalind Hursthouse, Virtue Ethics are fundamentally important to an individual’s understanding of the self and the cultivation of a ‘morally-balanced’ life. Considering modern misconceptions surrounding the interpretation of ‘virtue ethics’, Hursthouse takes it upon herself to elucidate the essential meaning of virtue, practical ethics, eudaimonia, and more. In this essay, we will summarize the essential components of virtue ethics, as well as the various objections and counter-objections Hurthouse explores. In order to understand what a virtue is, a distinction must first be drawn between tendencies and deeply embedded character traits. A virtue is an essential way of being that branches to affect thought and behavior in a variety of manners. Although one may have a tendency to act a certain way or make particular choices that seem to mimic virtue, doing so does not necessarily reflect a fundamental attribute. For example, buying a friend lunch after a large promotion does not necessarily indicate the ‘multi-track disposition’ a virtue such as generosity necessitates. This is not to say that a person must be in perfect alignment with a virtue in order to possess it; In reality, Hursthouse believes that virtue is a matter of degree and has room for blind spots.  A crucial component of a virtuous mindset is the entire scope of the reasoning behind an action. Hurthouse clarifies that certain seemingly-virtuous rationalizations behind behavior may actually come from a wrong and unvirtuous place. For example, telling the truth when pressured by a fear of getting caught is not representative of virtue. Alternatively, a virtuous person would put emphasis on reasonings such as, “to do otherwise would be dishonest”, “that would be a lie”, and “that would be the truth”. Moreover, unlike arbitrary acts of kindness, virtue impacts the lifestyle a person leads, including their emotions, behavior, and the environment they decide to surround themselves with.Hurthouse describes two manners in which one can ‘fall-short’ of perfect virtue. First and foremost, continence (a clash between contrasting desires) portrays that the context of an individual’s action is important when deciding whether or not their actions are virtuous. Hurthouse uses the example of an individual who is living in poverty and decides to return a lost purse; this action is rightfully seen as admirable and signifies virtue. However, an individual struggling against an ‘imperfection in their character” would not. The second way to fall short of virtue is though lacking ‘phronesis’. Hurthouse expresses that in order to be virtuous there are certain things that one needs to know in order to do what they intend. This explains why children may act in a way that appears to be virtuous, when in fact they do not understand how to consistently achieve what they intend. A person with practical wisdom recognizes which competing ethics are relevant or valued over one another, which enables them to consistently do the right thing.When one understands phronesis and its application in life, Hursthouse believes that they have acquired true eudaimonia, which is translated to ‘happiness’ and ‘flourishing’. However, there are problems with both translations. Unlike happiness, eudaimonia is not meant to be subjectively determined, as subjectivity leaves room for multiple interpretations and mistaken conception. Further, plants and animals can flourish, which seems to take away from the true meaning and fullness attempting to be expressed within human flourishing.The first objection to virtue ethics that I will entertain is the ‘application problem’. There is seemingly a lack of principle guidance in ethical theory; this has caused utilitarians and deontologists to propose a guideline in which an ‘ethical code’ could be created: (i) the rules would be objective, and clearly determine what one’s action should be, and, (ii) the rules would be written so that they are plainly understood and could be applied by anyone. However, due to the complexity of life, it is ridiculous to imagine that such a code could be constructed, especially given the agent-centered nature of virtue ethics; Instead, phronesis is the guideline persons should abide by to act virtuously. The most specific guidance one can deduct from virtue ethics is simply avoiding the vices and following the virtues. An additional objection is called the ‘conflict problem’. This objection brings up the possibility of different virtues clashing due to their opposing nature, such as honesty pushing you to tell a hurtful truth but compassion and kindness preventing you from doing so. Virtue ethicists responded to this by claiming a person with phronesis would be able to understand the different exceptions or priorities in situations such as these. Finally, the ‘egoism objection’ claims that if individuals act virtuously out of their own volition, with no internal struggle, they are simply doing what they want and enjoy doing, which is self-serving. However, a virtuous person who has “other-regarding” virtues may find themselves in a situation where they are, by what their virtues require, compelled to give up their life or place themselves in a situation of danger for a noble purpose. It would be difficult to argue that an action such as this is egotistic. Moreover, even individuals with “self-regarding” virtues should not be branded as selfish; Not only may virtues that benefit an individual be necessary for eudaimonia, but a virtuous person has the capability to positively impact others due to our social nature as humans.