As an essential set of traits, virtue is perceived as moral excellence that defines the extent of the humanity of oneself. It is a common phenomenon studied by ethics, a branch of philosophy. The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, made a significant contribution to examining this ethical phenomenon, as he is known to be the founder of the first critical concept of virtue. By defining virtue as a state of character, Aristotle highlights its important role for society to pursue human function as the highest human good. With that said, by analyzing Aristotle’s view of virtue, as well as its relevance in today’s society, one may comprehend its critical aspects and crucial impact on humanity.
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Defining the issue
Ethical virtues are complex issues to analyze that cover the main moral aspects of the individual. Ethical virtues are inherently intertwined with the “ultimate ending of humankind” that positively influences life and facilitates the happiness and well-being of oneself and the society as well (Bredillet et al. 260). Aristotle distinguished different kinds of virtues that create a framework of a good life to a systematic study (Frede 20). According to Battaly, Aristotle’s perception of virtues consists of two key aspects (72). The first aspect defines virtue as a state of character, and the second one entails that virtue requires a choice. Besides, virtues require choosing the right actions for their benefit. Carr states that the most important of the intellectual virtues are the practical wisdom that Aristotle identifies as the cultivator of moral virtue, and the epistemic virtue linked to the recognition of knowledge and truth (2). Furthermore, this intellectual virtue of practical wisdom is closely related to rational fostering of the subrational appetitive, emotional, and desiderative facets of life. Such a practical approach, as conceived by Aristotle, implies the proceeding of morally good, right, and virtuous behavior, where the cultivation of moral character retains its crucial role.
Implementation of Aristotle’s view of virtue in today’s society
Considering the relevance of the virtue issue, there is a modern neo-Aristotelian view encouraged by Aristotle’s discussion, known as “virtue theory”. Heinaman suggests Rosalind Hursthouse, the commentator on Bernard Williams’ paper, as the remarkable interpreter of such an approach (3). This theory believes that morality might obtain objective evidence and implies a richer vocabulary for the progress of moral thinking (Heinaman 3). The improved vocabulary is directly connected to virtues of character, while the analysis of the character’s traits remains essential in moral philosophy.
Another exemplary implementation of the Aristotelian view is the research that aimed at identifying a good project manager (PM) based on Aristotelian ethical and practical philosophy. The results demonstrate that a good manager is also a wise PM who, therefore, acts “rightly” and does “good” actions towards the purpose one seeks and the maintained role (Bredillet et al. 265). The Aristotelian perception enables to definition of the general theory of benchmarks, as its implementation can be achieved by acceding to the community of practitioners, and sharing common goals ultimately focused on eudaimonia (well-being). Thus, by practicing moral excellence, one may reach human happiness.
To conclude, moral virtues are complex notions for discussion; however, they are valuable for attaining the ethical truth. Practicing those virtues might result in performing the critical human function that leads to human happiness and well-being. By analyzing Aristotle’s view of virtue and its influence on modern society, it is possible to trace the central ethical values and learn the ways to apply them in today’s environment.
Battaly, Heather D. Virtue. Polity Press, 2015.
Bredillet, Christophe, et al. “What Is a Good Project Manager? An Aristotelian Perspective.” International Journal of Project Management, vol. 33, no. 2, 2015, pp. 254-266.
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Carr, David. “The Human and Educational Significance of Honesty as an Epistemic and Moral Virtue.” Educational Theory, vol. 64, no. 1, 2014, pp. 1-14.
Frede, Dorothea. “Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics”. The Routledge Companion to Virtue Ethics, edited by Lorraine Besser-Jones and Michael Slote, Routledge, 2015, pp. 17-31.
Heinaman, Robert. Aristotle and Moral Realism. 2nd ed., Routledge, 2018.