After analyzing works by both Plato and Aristotle, one can believe that modern virtue ethics have always emphasized the importance of moral education, not as the inculcation of rules but as the training of character. (Zalta, 2003) Many would think that since morality and Christianity, keep in mind Christians have the bible as a manual, follow a familiar framework that they would easily tie into another which does seem the most particular way to approach the idea, but that isn’t the case as William K. Frankena states I do not seeâ€¦why a religious framework requires us to think aretaic or virtue, rather than demotic or obligation, terms. (Kotva, 1996) Virtue ethics focuses on the character of the person as well as the why rather than the act itself that has transpired; an emphasis on the character, not on individual actions. While virtues are concerned with such things as emotions, desires, reactions, as well as the right thing to do, virtue ethics focus on the character of the individual dealing with so. The kind of person an individual sets out to be can be determined by looking at a situation through a virtue ethics view. Their traits of character are what are taken into account regardless of the situation. Life experience along with studies, or from a Christian point of view the bible, help one decide how to react/deal with situations as they approach them rather than just their upbringing as believed the case amongst this theory’s advocates of the past. With the focus of virtue ethics being on the why rather than the how an individual performs everyday acts; it is understandable that virtue ethics like the bible does not tell us exactly what to do but serves as guidelines to a reach a fulfilled life, this is known as eudaimoni in ancient Greek moral philosophy. As believed by Aristotle possessing such virtues as courage, patience, liberality, proper ambition, truthfulness, etc, a feeling of a life well lived can be reached. In modern day ethics it is more than doing the right thing because it’s the right thing; it is to do the right thing because you as an individual feel that what you are doing is truly the right thing to do, for example wearing a seat belt when driving/riding in a vehicle. The law states that a seatbelt must be worn because it is the not only the law, but can help save a life. The decision to wear or not to wear the seatbelt for whether reasons an individual has are looked at as either the wrong or right thing to do and based on the decision, in this case wearing the seat would be the right thing to do, therefore an individual’s character and virtuosity (view for safety of not only yourself, but of others) are questioned.
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In the case study Joe and the Bug, virtue ethics are applied when the case is viewed at as why Joe would swat at the bug rather than how it was done or the end result. The swatting of the bug by Joe is not what is under investigation in this case; it’s the reasoning that causes Joe to do so. Is it that Joe was bothered by the bug and to dominate the situation by eliminating the problem, i.e. the bug he swats it away? After reading the Case Study: Joe and the Bug, one can see it as both parties crossing paths and fight for territorial domination. The bug claims territory and Joe invades by swatting. The fly shows defense by buzzing by or visa verse, Joe showing defense by swatting. Again what is done is not what is being analyzed what made Joe swat at a bug, his intentions, are. If Joe was allergic to the bug would swatting it away to protect his health be considered a virtuous act or would it be considered an unethical act of dominating over a small creature. If he was trying to enjoy his lunch the same question arises. The answer to whether or not Joe was acting out of an ethical or unethical mind frame is ultimately a decision the reader/witness of the act must decide on after truly analyzing the situation. By believing that “There is no sin in killing a beast, but in killing a man” then you too agree that the elimination, or swatting, of the bug for whatever reasoning Joe had is not a sign of poor virtuosity coming from Joe, unless it is for no apparent reason but the fair joy of killing bugs.
To fully understand the why of an individual’s act one must look deep into the meaning of reasoning by looking at such factors as the virtues themselves, motives and moral character, moral education, moral wisdom or discernment, friendship and family relationships, a deep concept of happiness, the role of the emotions in our moral life (Kotva, 1996) as well as questions such as “what sort of person I should be and how we should live?” Whether or not an act is considered unethical by society, its takes a personal observation and analysis of such act to truly make a decision if it is ethical or not and the virtue ethics view assists in doing just that. As I conduct this research I swat away at a gnat, my reasoning for doing so is to eliminate a distraction caused by the gnat flying across my computer screen not to harm it or for mere amusement. Whether or not my actions were the right thing to do is a view made by a witness/reader of my act to swat at the gnat and by looking at the reasoning for me doing so rather than the act itself one is utilizing the theory of virtue ethics to made their decision.