Avirtuous person, is described as an expert whom has a refined set of skills inprocedural, declarative and conditional knowledge and uses those sets of skillsappropriately in accordance to certain situations (Narvaez, D.
2007). Thisallows one to build their character so that they are able to respond to eachsituation in a more practical manner and discovering a good eudaimonia.According to ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, eudaimonia is defined ashappiness, flourishing and well-being (Korsgaard, C.
M. 2008.) which is used todiscover the good in mankind and it is suggested that one “might arrive at aclearer conception of happiness” (Korsgaard, 2008) if the function of a humanbeing can first be determined. Moral action claims that morals actions aredeemed wrong, if they are inconsistent with the aim, also known as telos, of happiness. In this essay, the concept of humanflourishing or wellbeing will be examined on the idea that Aristotle’s conceptof human flourishing and moral virtue is a viable alternative to other ethicaltheories, such as the theories of deontology and utilitarianism, even though itis not prescriptive for ethical decision making. Inthe words of Aristotle, he says, “For the things we have tolearn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.
” (Aristotle,trans. 2009). This mean that virtues are only obtained by exercising them to beof good use, (Aristotle, trans. 2009) for example, a man can only become abricklayer by laying bricks (Aristotle, trans. 2009). Aristotle believed, thatthere are four fundamental virtues in which all others rely upon, this isinclusive of prudence or practical wisdom, justice, fortitude or courage andtemperance or moderation (VanderWeele, 2017). By using these virtues as afoundation and practicing them, human flourishing, growth and character developmentis attained (VanderWeele, 2017).
In thesame sense, Christine Korsgaard makes things more clear when she makes thecomparison to the human body. “Bodily parts have functions,” she states, “butthat only makes sense if there is a function of the whole relative to whichparts have functions.” This brings to an understanding that no matter howthings have come to be or how it came to exist, there is a purpose toeverything, including the several occupations and professions which also have afunction to make a contribution to human life (Korsgaard, 2008). Onthe comparison, deontology believes that morality is a matter of duty and thereare moral duties to do things which are the right thing to do and moral duties notto do the things which are wrong to do. “Whether something is right or wrongdoesn’t depend on its consequences. Rather, an action is right or wrong initself.
” (Lacewing, 2008). Each individual has a duty to their own actions,however, a flaw in this theory is that an action for one may seem like theright thing to do compared to how another may view it as being the wrong thingto do. Great philosopher, Immanuel Kant, believes that all humans are freeagents, who have the free will to decide between different moral options andargues that “to have a good will is to be motivated by duty.” (Lacewing, 2008).However, doing something that is the right thing to do can also be an act ofself-interest, making one act in accordance with duty and not motivated by it.
Althoughthere are valuable ideas in the theory behind moral duty, human moral laws cannotbe categorized based on what one deems as a duty compared to another as allhuman beings differ from each other. Furthermore, actions in themselves are theresult of choices made for a reason and a purpose and through the use ofphronesis, a Greek word for intelligence, practicing virtual behavior meansthat life is able to be further fulfilled in developing as a moral being.Anotheridea that challenges the concept of human flourishing and virtue by Aristotleis that of utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is an ethical theory which acts inaccordance to maximizing overall well-being.
Ultimately, the goal ofutilitarianism is to achieve ‘the greatest good for the greatest number,’ and “typicallyrequires people to act in whatever way will result in the greatest possibleamount of well-being, where well-being is understood as closely related tohappiness.” (Eggleston, 2012). A common example for this theory would be thatof sacrificing one life to save the lives of many others.
With a utilitarianpoint of view, one would say that it is ethical to do so as the greatest goodfor the greatest number would be achieved, however, on the other hand, onewould say that it is unethical to take away a life, regardless of thesituation. So, how would someone come to such a conclusion? Surely, this theoryhas its own flaws. And it does. An issue in this theory,is that the individual themselves are not thought about. It is not thought onwhat the person is like, what their past actions are like or the type of personthey could become because the act itself is the primary focus of what is good. Anotherflaw of utilitarianism, is that while it is focused on achieving the greatestgood for the greatest number, the minority of a community or population thatfeels differently are not being considered into how a decision may impact them.Compared to virtue ethics according to Aristotle, “moral virtue is a habit.
Youmust consistently choose to do good acts deliberately for the right reasons.” Thismeans that virtue is learnt by constantly doing the right thing until a habitis formed. Learning such virtues as children instills a positive characterthrough the continual practice of doing the right thing, for the right reasons. Finally, Aristotle treats moral virtue as or excellenceas a type of adaptive expertise (Narvaez, 2008). “As men become builders bybuilding, we become just by doing just acts.
” (Aristotle, trans. 2009). Thismeans that Aristotle believes that in order to become moral, a person is to actaccordingly instead of simply just following rules which is still being impliedin today’s society.
It is only natural that human beings depend on each otherand live harmoniously together in order to flourish and achieve happiness and Aristotle’sdescriptions of each virtue as not for what they are as a whole, but to allowindividuals to possess qualities that the rational actions makes one good bythe mean (Korsgaard, 2008). In today’s modern society, Aristotle’s theory ofvirtue ethics is still being applied and taught in the knowledge of right fromwrong, good from bad and the natural want for people to live in peace,together. Aristotle is believed to be a true advocate for the view that humanbeings should be good for the sake of purely wanting to be good and not for thesake of others.
Inconclusion, it is evident that Aristotle’s theory of human flourishing andmoral virtue is indeed a viable alternative to other ethical theories, such as thetheories of deontology and utilitarianism, despite its inability to make definiteethical decisions. Even though Aristotle’s theory is not prescriptive forethical decision making, in the sense that it does not state what actionsshould be taken definitely due to its flexibility to make any strong and secureethical statements, it still holds a stronger front in providing firmguidelines on what it means to be a genuinely good person. Aristotle comparedto other great philosophers, discarded any approach of what it means to beright and wrong and instead proposed the argument of what made someone a goodperson. Virtue theory, in itself, defines what it means to be a good person andpossess good qualities instead of outlining good actions and consequences. Aristotle’stheory allows room for mistake and discovery of who someone truly is bylearning through their own experiences and reaching for the end goal of moralvirtue and human flourishing. It is a well-known fact that not one singleperson is perfect, however, I believe that Aristotle has instilled virtue theoryin each and every one of us to make us better characters not only for ourselves,but to also change the world.