For my exhibition, I will study normative Virtue Ethics because I’m interested in exploring how it could compare along a variety of contrasting philosophies. Virtue Ethics advises decision choice based on doing what is right [at the right time], rather than following a set of rules that might lead to the opposite solution in a situation. It promotes character traits that come from a “virtuous person”, and is fostered by and dependent on one’s character to bring about good consequences.
A virtuous (prudent; sensible in action and thought) person is not simply a trustworthy, faithful, kind and generous person, it is one who is well balanced and within the mean [one that knows what to do and say, how to act at the correct time] (Thesaurus). A virtuous person acknowledges many things before taking action; some of which are “emotions, emotional reactions, choices, values, desires, perceptions, attitudes, interests, expectations, and sensibilities” (Czarene). Put simply, “if we can just focus on being good people, the right actions will follow through effortlessly” (Green). “Based on our reasoning and learning, our virtue [virtuous character] is supposed to make good choices in relation to our passion [bodily emotions and feelings that include pleasure and pain]” (Williams).
The Greek god Aristotle (founding father of Virtue Ethics) taught that virtue is found at the mean between two vices [sins, or undesirable traits] and should be applied at the mean [don’t be too virtuous or not virtuous enough]. For example, a virtuous person is brave when facing a bully, but not over enthusiastic or too cowardly [two vices]. A virtuous person should also not go to extremes or be too honest that will cause the dilemma to be his/ her fault. For example, a virtuous father would not tell his adopted ten year old son he’s not adopted to avoid hurt feelings. The strength of this system is that it emphasizes internal moral practice within the person that beneficially builds up over time, it’s easy to understand, and ponders the bigger picture rather than focus on details that might not work in every situation. Its weakness is that it presents the needed character’s development and understandable characteristics while not offering exact guidance or steps on how it could be achieved to later help fix a dilemma. “Unlike deontological (duty) and teleological (consequences) theories, theories of Virtue Ethics (normative) do not aim to identify universal principles that can be applied in any moral situation” (Idikwu). Instead, Virtue Ethics promotes action based on foundation questions or principles: How should I live? What is the good life? What are proper family and social values? V.E also believes that Eudemonia (concept of good and happiness) is the end goal and purpose behind every action one takes, for their own good and sake.
Description and Summary of an Ethical Dilemma
A relevant dilemma for Virtue Ethics is Abortion; the state of terminating an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy. When a woman gets pregnant, she has three choices: Give birth and keep the baby, give birth and lend the baby to be adopted, or end the pregnancy medically or surgically to remove the baby from the uterus. There’s constantly been social conflict over what choice is right for mothers who do not want or whom cannot afford to have a child. There are pro-life and pro-choice sides, none of which have been universially accepted or suspended. This divise debate brings us to question if Abortion is morally and ethically right and “what is the right thing to do?”. A Virtue Ethicist would offer great moral consideration, taking account of the fetus as a real person, which isn’t exactly the case when it comes to stating facts that are equal between the two sides. Would a real virtious person consider abortion murder, or the right thing to do if a woman’s right to choice comes into picture? If Eudaimonia (happiness) is ultimately the end result of a virtuous act, is it having the baby and raising it? Giving it up for adoption, or it’s termination? Which side is to be considered—the fetus? The mother? The father? Society? The ethical system of Virtue Ethics leaves obscurity when it comes to answering this incontrovertibly complicated issue. Should a Virtue Ethics even be considered as a system to fix this dilemma?
Description of Objects and the Relation to the Exhibition
For my exhibition, I have chosen an image of a protest that happened at Georgia State Capitol’s downtown against a ban of abortion (HB 481) and a graphic cartoon from 1988 by Pro-Life cartoonist Chuck Asay. The image of a protest that happened on May 28, 2019 displays the dissatisfaction of people who beleieve “when you [outlaw] abortion it does not stop abortion, it stops safe and legal abortion. Bans like these do not protect lives, they destroy them” (Bakhitari). The cartoon displays a plan by editorial workers for the Colorado Springs Gazette to promote and campaign for pro-life choices by comparing them to previous major movements that happened in history (ultimatley backfired; called racist and inappropriate). I chose these pictures in relation to exhibition of Virtue Ethics, as they show how both sides could be morally valid and justified by a virtuous person and in relation to major Virtue Ethics principles that string to the fundamental questions of: How should I live? What is the good life? What are proper family and social values?
Virtue Ethics is certainly spontaneous. It states a concluding solution standard of Eudaimonia by a mean of virtuous action [than undesired vice] with no concrete answer to certain questions that would excessively help in the real world. I’m left to think for myself how everything is supposed to fall at a clear angle between two vices, and why characteristics that are generally known to be “good”, could not be, even when beneficial in excess. How could one choose when choices of possibly good virtues conflict? Could it really be possible that everything set stone be morally just, if applied by a virtuous person? My exploration of this ethical system and my chosen objects help broaden my perspective and deeper understanding of why, universally, would these statements be socially accepted as “ethical systems” when there are multiple clear areas of shade.