Virtue Ethics

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Virtue Ethics

Virtue ethics is another important framework in debate. Typically, frameworks can be split into three categories: deontological, consequentialist, and aretaic. Deontological frameworks determine whether actions are just based on some rule, for instance, a Kantian framework uses the categorical imperative. Consequentialist frameworks use the consequences of a particular action to determine whether that action is just, like the extent to which an action maximizes pleasure.

Aretaic frameworks, on the other hand, are less concerned about the morality of individual actions that agents take, but rather, concern themselves by turning agents into better people. This is an important distinction. By reforming character and making people better, they will be more naturally inclined to make the right choices, rather than having to measure each individual action they take against some rule or prediction.

Therefore, many virtue ethics frameworks begin by establishing the distinction between deontic (which includes deontological and consequentialist frameworks) and aretaic frameworks. People could use pragmatic reasons to justify why aretaic frameworks are preferable, or more logical arguments as to why reforming character comes before the individual actions that people in a society take.

Virtue ethics frameworks attempt to improve agents' character. This is done by establishing certain virtues that all people ought to have. For instance, honor, courage, bravery, honesty, are examples of virtues. By striving towards these virtues, the framework would argue agents are becoming better. On the other hand, the framework establishes vices, which are actions one should attempt to avoid, such as greed, deceit, vanity, etc.

Many people wonder how these virtues are generated or justified. One common response is that virtue have become apparent due to the intrinsic features of humanity. For instance, humans are naturally social creatures since we work together, which is why communities are valued, or we need to survive, which is why bravery is valued. In the context of debate, it is often beneficial to find a card, or justification, for each virtue used that explains why that particular virtue is important and might outweigh other virtues.


Gryz, On the Relationship Between the Aretaic and the Deontic

O'Connell, After White Supremacy? The Viability of Virtue Ethics for Racial Justice

Sample Cases

JF21 - AC - Virtue Ethics.docx