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What are the main tenets of virtue ethics?
The theory of virtue ethics is primarily predicated on the belief that morality is (or should be) predominately centered not on evaluating specific actions (as do deontological and consequentialist ethical theories), but on evaluating the adherence of an individual to certain virtues. Thus, the virtue ethicist asks not “is this a good action?” but rather: “is this an action that a good person would take?”. Virtue ethicists believe that though utilitarianism, for example, can be useful in deciding how to organize society, a virtue-based approach makes for a more personal, meaningful ethics for day to day life.
How does rule utilitarianism differ from rule-based ethical theories?
Though it makes use of rules, rule utilitarianism is still essentially consequentalist. Rule utilitarians believe that adopting certain rules that produce fairly consistently good consequences can be a useful and expeditious practice because it can save people from having to agonize over the consequences of their every action. Unlike in rule-based ethics, however, utilitarian rules are prima facie, meaning that in exceptional cases where adhering to the rule would not produce good consequences, the rule can be broken.
What is Greek Naturalism relative to Aristotle? (James Hall, pg. 236)
Greek Naturalism is related to the concept that something is virtuous when it attempts to be so virtuous through the greatest extent that it can be virtuous. Aristotle divides these areas to be fulfilled into three areas, Temperance, Courage, and Wisdom. He believes that all living things contain a nutritive soul, an active soul, and a rational soul (or mind), and that through utilization of these, one can fulfill virtuously.

Example: A person can be virtuous through trying as hard as they can to be accepting of some annoyance in their daily life, such as a frightening, loud person near them (temperance), and taking the time to alert this person of their annoyance (courage, wisdom).
What is James Hall’s hierchization of rights in utilitarianism? (James Hall, pg. 303)
James Hall’s hierchization of rights in utilitarianism is an idea relating utilitarian through to specific situations, and assigning priority to certain individuals and things over other people and objects (compared to rather a quantity, in the idea of “greatest good to greatest number of people).

Example: One can argue that it would be absurd to set up violent trap in one’s own property simply because a neighbor’s rabbit is hopping over the fence-line.
Eudaimonia & Virtue Ethics
Aristotle was the father of virtue ethics. Aristotle’s philosophy states that humans should aim for eudaimonia, which has been translated as meaning “happiness”, “flourishing”, and “well being”. Eudaimonia, according to Aristotle’s The Nicomachean Ethics, “…is an activity of soul in accordance with complete or perfect virtue”. Virtues include traits of character, such as courage, and traits of intellect, such as rationality. Aristotle was careful to distinguish eudaimonia or true happiness from pleasure and its pursuit, saying that, “[H]e who enjoys every pleasure and never abstains from any pleasure is licentious; he who eschews all pleasure like a boor is an insensible sort of person.” (Aristotle 142). It is evident from such a statement that the goal of Aristotle’s philosophy of ethics is not to maximize pleasure, but to create a flourishing state of happiness in which pleasure is enjoyed in moderation. Aristotle’s philosophy is also distinct because it does not state that it is up to the individual to decide if they are happy. Because virtues are identified and judged socially, society ultimately determines what actions are virtuous and therefore right.
Support for Ethical Egoism
Ethical egoists say that we ought to be moved only by our interest in and concern for ourselves. Some support for this case includes:
- The alternative to egoism is altruism, which subordinates our own interests to those of others, and is life-denying
- Subverting ourselves to others denies us the fulfillment of our own capacities
- Moral judgments must be practical, or capable of motivating those who make them
What is the Boo/Hooray theory?
The Boo/Hooray theory is also known as emotivism. Emotivism is a theory that claims all ethical statements are meaningless. Emotivists (like A.J. Ayer) would say that instead of expressing facts, ethical statements express the emotion of the one expressing them, meaning that moral judgements are more like statements of a person’s emotional position on something rather than a judgement made because of their moral code.
This is called the Boo/Hooray theory because, according to emotivism, our “moral judgements” are no more than cheering for something we view as positive (like returning a wallet a person drops) or hissing down something viewed as negative (like murder).
Does viewing situations from the “point of view of the universe” (Singer 267) contribute more to solving ethical problems than viewing them from just your own point of view?
The point of view of the universe is the view you can hold once you realize that your own interests and desires that place you front and center are no more privileged than the personal view other people hold. This view means one would act impartially, which is good in some instances (like when judging in a competition, since to judge fairly one needs to remove all personal biases and all outside pressures to judge as fairly as possible). In other instances, like considering decisions having to do with one’s own emotions and the feelings of others, acting impartially might affect the one acting negatively by making them disregard their own feelings in favor of the feelings of others.
According to virtue ethicists, why is the utilitarian approach insufficient in evaluating individuals’ virtues?
Utilitarians might evaluate individual character based on certain traits’ abilities to maximize general benefit. According to Utilitarians, people should possess moral qualities because they have greater utility. The virtue ethicist would consider this approach to be flawed because it ignores the origins of moral traits. That is, a person’s humility does not initially arise out of his/her deliberate intention to maximize utility. Virtue ethicists, therefore, criticize utilitarianism (and Kantianism) on the grounds that it depicts a “faceless ethical agent who is equipped by theory to make moral choices” without reference to psychology or human history/tradition.
What are two main determinants of character that virtue ethics studies?
Virtue theory firstly examines the extent to which various societies encourage particular virtues and vices. This is applicable, for example, to the feminist movement. Modern feminists must consider the praiseworthiness of traditional female virtues in terms of the historical contexts from which they arose. Virtue theory also studies the ability of the self to shape character. It considers the individual’s ability to change his/herself.
What are intrinsic and extrinsic valuable acts?
An intrinsically valuable act is internal and resides or belongs in the nature of the act “in it self” or “for its own sake.” An example of intrinsic valuable act is intrinsic goodness, in which one could ask if is it good to help others in time of need? One would answer yes, it just is good in its own right, and is the source of goodness, that which is intrinsically good is non-derivatively good; it is good for its own sake. An extrinsically valuable act is external and is derived from the act’s intentions, motives, goals or consequences. For example, if pain is intrinsically bad, and taking an aspirin puts a stop to your pain but gives you nothing of positive intrinsic value then taking aspirin is extrinsically good despite having no intrinsically good consequences.
What are Arguments against Ethics via Nature Theory?
"Natural" is ambiguous, and whether something is natural or not does not
indicate whether it will be effective. Natural products can be more harmful
to the environment than synthetic products, so in the sense of environmental
impact, natural is not always better. In the sense of human relations, the
advice "Be Natural" only applies if you are normal. A natural axe-murderer
would be better off suppressing their tendencies. Besides, what is normal?
Is it the majority? Just because something occurs more often does not make
it inherently better. Nietzsche recommended we look to the eagle, but the
slug is equally natural. There is no inherent reason in nature why the
eagle is better; that is a hidden paradigm peaking through. If natural is
following one's proper role in nature, then we are stuck determining what is
proper, what we ought to be, when nature just is. A variant of this is
Greek naturalism, which requires humans to do what is specifically human,
and do it well. However, while rationality is rather human, so are
vandalism, pornography, and torture. Perhaps they are derivatives of
creativity, imagination, and empathy, and it's actually these three basic
activities that are virtuous, and not their derivatives, but it's unclear
what makes the basic activities deserving of virtue labels, but not the
derivatives, and it's not clear how the derivatives can not be virtuous, if
the basic activity is fulfilled. So, while many acts are labeled ethical or
unethical on the basis of nature, it's clear that underlying values are
doing most of the work, and nature is conveniently used to justify these
judgments.
According to virtue ethicists, why is the utilitarian approach insufficient in evaluating individuals’ virtues?
Utilitarians might evaluate individual character based on certain traits’ abilities to maximize general benefit. According to Utilitarians, people should possess moral qualities because they have greater utility. The virtue ethicist would consider this approach to be flawed because it ignores the origins of moral traits. That is, a person’s humility does not initially arise out of his/her deliberate intention to maximize utility. Virtue ethicists, therefore, criticize utilitarianism (and Kantianism) on the grounds that it depicts a “faceless ethical agent who is equipped by theory to make moral choices” without reference to psychology or human history/tradition.
What are two main determinants of character that virtue ethics studies?
Virtue theory firstly examines the extent to which various societies encourage particular virtues and vices. This is applicable, for example, to the feminist movement. Modern feminists must consider the praiseworthiness of traditional female virtues in terms of the historical contexts from which they arose. Virtue theory also studies the ability of the self to shape character. It considers the individual’s ability to change his/herself.
What is negative utilitarianism?
Negative utilitarianism is based on the principle that the right action is the one that will result in the least amount of pain or suffering. Negative utilitarians are more concerned with minimizing unhappiness than with seeking to maximize happiness. For example, if a wealthy person had the opportunity to bestow a great deal of money on one person who was suffering from a terrible illness and needed a life-saving operation or on a group of fairly happy, healthy people, a negative utilitarian would direct the wealthy person to leave his money to the ill person. Although the money would increase the happiness of more people if it was shared out between the healthy people, the suffering will be minimized if the money is given to the ill person.
What are some of the major problems with moral relativism?
1) Inconsistency
Moral relativism claims that moral judgments have no absolute value. This claim is a major problem for somebody who also believes that truth is relative. How can a moral relativist make a claim that truth is relative without making an absolute judgment?
2) Another inconsistency
Relativists believe that “all moral judgments are relative to your society and that societies shouldn’t interfere with each other” (Warburton 60). However, this statement itself is an absolute moral claim, which is another inconsistency of relativism.
3) Criticism of societal values
If morality is relative, societal values cannot be called into question or criticized. For example, if the majority of the members of a society believe that a certain race shouldn’t be able to vote, than someone fighting for equality would be proposing something that is immoral compared to the values of the society (Warburton 61).
What criticisms does Hall explain in regard to Greek naturalist theories of ethics?
Greek naturalism, or virtue-based theories, claim that there are specific, uniquely-human virtues that should be cultivated in order to lead a moral life. These virtues are identifiable because they are "natural" to all humans. Aristotle, the primary proponent of virtue-based ethics, identifies Temperance, Courage, Wisdom, and Justice. Hall claims that not all these virtues are uniquely human, evidencing the rational and affective behaviors of dolphins and nonhuman primates. More importantly, not all uniquely human virtues should be cultivated. Humans may be the only organisms to paint portraits but are also the only ones to appreciate pornography. This leads to the conclusion that some virtues should be cultivated but not others. In order for that to be true, another system of ethics is needed because the virtues in themselves are not sufficient to live a moral life. Justifications (such as consequentiality or utilitarian ones, which Hall eventually arrives at) are required, so the virtue-ethics system is not a sufficient and sound system of morality.
What is meta-ethics?
While ethics asks normative questions, such as "What actions are morally good or bad?", meta-ethics asks questions about these normative questions, such as "What is good?" or "What is bad?". It does not seek to make ethical evaluations on actions (which lies in the realm of ethics). A hedonistic utilitarian might answer the meta-ethical question of "what is good?" as the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. Hall practices meta-ethics in his criticism of virtue-ethics, which claims that certain virtues are moral because they are "natural" and build "moral character". Hall asks how virtue-ethicists define "natural" or "good" or "moral character". Therefore, for ethical theories to be true, they must answer meta-ethical questions.
What is Hall’s view on conseqentialism?
James Hall says the key to morality is weighing the human consequences of the behavior options that are available in actual situations. He says people know that many acts don’t achieve their goals at all, and that few acts achieve just their goals and nothing else. He believes that an act’s results are what justify the finished product or final consequence. Hall gives the example that the proof of the good cooking is in the eating, not in the cook’s fond hopes.
What is the "Principle of Humanity?"
The principle of humanity is the idea that one must not use someone to reach one's own ends.

Example: If person A is walking down a street, eating a pizza, person B would not be following this principle if they grabbed the pizza from person A and ate it to fill their own hunger.