Virtue Ethics and Moral Dilemmas

Classified in Philosophy and ethics

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A Virtuous Individual

An individual who I considered to be virtuous is my best friend, Reid Bartholomew. Reid would always look out for everyone around him, friends, and family. The Golden Mean is the midpoint between two extremes, which are known as deficiency and excess. Where the golden mean lies between the vices depends on the situation. For example, courage could be considered the golden mean while cowardice is a deficiency and recklessness is an excess.

In Aristotle’s virtue ethics, he provided three conditions for authentic moral actions.

  1. The subject knows well what he is doing. For instance, Reid had planned on completing all his homework for one day so he would have more time to study for his midterms the next day.
  2. The subject does the action for its own sake. For example, Reid would always clean his room before bedtime so he would keep his room organized daily.
  3. The action was done as an example of a settled and immutable state.

Reid displayed three different kinds of virtues: modesty, courage, and friendship as an individual.

  • For modesty, the excess will be shyness and the deficiency will be shamelessness. Reid displayed modesty around older people and even to children sometimes.
  • For courage, the excess is recklessness and cowardice is a deficiency. Reid would always seem to be doing something reckless in his life, but he was never afraid of the consequences even if it was morally right to do so.
  • For friendship, the deficiency would be quarrelsomeness and the excess is flattery. Reid and I met when we were in kindergarten and have had a great friendship ever since.

A Kantian Perspective on Moral Duty

According to Kant, the German family would be obligated to tell the truth. In Kant’s categorical imperatives, the German family must follow the commands regardless of their desires to save the Jewish family. In this case, it does not matter if it is moral to save the Jewish family or not, but telling the truth is the moral law which binds all of us, including the German family. For his humanitarian principle, the German family would see if the Jewish family’s values in themselves were worth saving.

Alternative Perspectives

For Mill’s response, he would disagree with Kant and the German family’s action if they chose to tell the truth. Mill believes the family should choose the action (not telling the truth) that would produce the most overall happiness for the group, hence the Jewish family. W.D Ross would respond to Mill by saying it is never right to lie, regardless of the outcome. However, his prima facie duties can make occasional lies prove more beneficial to both families--beneficence can override fidelity, but it can lead to non-injury and harm prevention in this situation.

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