Virtue ethics is a term referring to ethical theories that emphasize high moral standards of both mental and physical characteristics. These focus on being rather than doing, and should be practiced in order to bring about good consequences in the world that you control. Virtuous people can be defined as those who are kind throughout their entire lives, not because they expect to gain anything or maximize their utility, but because it is a part their character.
Dating back to Ancient Greece, this theory began with renowned philosophers Plato and Aristotle, though theirs are not the only theories recognized today. Further concepts have elaborated that one’s morality stems from the character of the individual, rather than being a reflection of their actions and consequences. Though heavily debated, the concept of virtue can be accepted by all as a positive behavior with high moral standards; a practice everyone in the modern world should at least attempt to adopt.
From the aspects of business to merely situational, virtue ethics can be applied. Asking yourself “How should I live?” or “What are proper social values?” can help greatly when dealing with inner conflict. Though they are not intended to resolve specific moral dilemmas, virtue ethics can contribute to the moral betterment of an individual that can last a lifetime.
Some of these virtues include courage, temperance, patience, friendliness, and modesty (according to Aristotle). Conducting yourself as a professional in the working world is based largely on a number of virtues. Approach every crossroad with the intention of doing good for yourself and others. For example, as a manager, if a situation arises where taking a pay cut yourself will help the company and those who are a part of it, embrace the opportunity with solace knowing that you are making a morally good decision.
On a much smaller scale, a common sight today when walking down a busy city sidewalk is strangers lowering their heads in avoidance of making eye contact or interacting with others. A simple smile when passing someone you do not know can translate to something beyond kindness. Though virtue ethics simply offer the platform of “act as a virtuous person,” and not specific actions, they can be translated however one would like in terms of making the right moral decisions, hence being kind to others.
Moral development is another key aspect in virtue ethics. This relies heavily on the availability of good role models within an individual’s life. Essentially, the process of habituating oneself in right action occurs when moral “students” are exposed to these role models. Without this, one’s idea of morality may be skewed or underdeveloped. While this is just an aid to the development of virtue, habituation still requires choice, understanding, and action.
To benefit yourself and those around you, practice virtue ethics. Being a good person does not take the amount of effort one would think. When taking your life into consideration, ask yourself the questions necessary to gauge whether or not you are practicing good morals. Whether you are a millionaire business icon, or a college student, no one person is better than another. Treating others with respect, kindness, and humility will in turn prompt them to act the same.