Almost all of us wants to live a purpose-driven life. Most would like nothing less than to leave meaningful legacies. The burning question then is: “How does one do so?” There is no exact single answer. But one way is through the cultivation and practice of virtue ethics. What is virtue ethics? Read on and find out.
Virtue Ethics Defined
The concept of virtue ethics is not a recent creation. In fact, it was stemmed from people centuries ago — specifically, the Greeks led by Aristotle. The primary goal of virtue ethics is to enable a person to grasp an understanding of and eventually put into practice a morally upright life.
Virtue ethics, in essence, is an approach to being a moral person that is focused on gaining virtues (or values) by consistent application. Through its regular exercise, a person develops traits of honesty, courage, a sense of justice, and generosity. As Aristotle said, gaining these traits will aid an individual in selecting correct choices when put into ethically challenging circumstances.
Examples of Virtue Ethics
It is an indisputable fact that the study of virtue ethics is an important one. However, as it is often said, “the test of the pudding is in the eating.” In other words, it is not enough to simply study virtue ethics in theory and just leave it at that. To develop virtue ethics, one must practice it. Here are some examples of virtue ethics that individuals can cultivate:
Respectfulness. Respect is a virtue that should be present in all of us. No matter how great one already is in life, there will always be someone who is better. And one can’t be assured that he will always be on top. When people know how to respect others, harmony in relationships is established and maintained.
Owning Up to One’s Shortcomings. Everyone makes mistakes. Need it be said that not a single person is perfect? What can a virtuous person do then? It’s actually simple. Someone who possesses virtue is brave enough to admit his shortcomings instead of passing the buck to someone else.
The Ability to Elicit Trust. Cliché as it may sound, trust and the ability of one to elicit it in others is a vital virtue which an individual should possess. When one has the virtue of dependability, being able to exist together in unity is not an impossible dream.
The Pros and Cons of Virtue Ethics
Behind every idea and/or concept is its good bad sides. Virtue ethics is no exception. The following statements discuss the pros and cons of virtue ethics:
Virtue Ethics Pros
a. Virtue ethics is essentially person-based. It also delves into the imperative question of what it really means to be a human being.
b. It is holistic which is taken to mean that the totality a person’s different life aspect is considered.
Virtue Ethics Cons
a. Virtue ethics does not always give lucid “how-to” instructions with regards to what to do in morally challenging circumstances. The instruction that it provides is more centered on how to be a virtuous person overall. It assumes that someone who is full of virtue already knows how to act and behave in such circumstances.
b. The precise virtues which an individual needs to hone and cultivate have not been wholly agreed upon. Each culture will prioritize what virtue to develop depending on their priorities.
How to Develop Virtue Ethics?
Possessing virtues doesn’t come to a person by chance. One must work towards attaining them. Here the ways on how someone can develop virtue ethics:
Question Oneself on Who He Really Is. As Socrates said, “Know thyself.” Unless someone is really certain of who he is as a person; he would never be able to identify which virtues to cultivate.
Question Oneself on What He Intends to be. A person is not meant to stay exactly who he is in his lifetime. The only thing constant in this world is change. The same can be said of virtues. As one matures, what he values also changes. It is therefore of prime importance for someone to know what kind of person he intends to be in the future.
Question Oneself on How to Get to Where He Intends to Go. The process of developing virtue ethics is a lifelong one. However, as one goes through it, certain pit stops and stopovers will be encountered. Therefore, one must know how far he intends to go, as well as the means on how he will get there.
In conclusion, virtue ethics is not that easy to acquire. It takes time, sacrifices, and looking into oneself without rose-colored glasses. However, the benefits of virtue ethics is worth every effort to embrace it.