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Running head: VIRTUE ETHICS 1

Virtue Ethics
Malgorzata Borowy
Olivet Nazarene University
Faith and Contemporary Issues
THEO 400 BSN 164
Professor William Koch
February 24, 2014

Virtue Ethics
We always have been taught to be a good person. Being a good person does not apply to
the persons actions, rather than it is more interested in the whole person or we can say the
character of that person (Wilkens, 2011). Virtue ethics can be described as, Character traits, or
dispositions of character, such as courage and benevolence, acquired during upbringing; one
ought to develop and practice the exercise of the virtues and inculcate them in children. The fully
virtuous agent possesses and is adapt at exercising the virtues (Holland, 2009). Virtues are traits
or characteristics that show actions that are morally right but virtue ethics also means that a
person chooses to virtuous because they themselves are morally invested. Anyone can do a good
act but that does not make it a virtue. It could have been a single gesture or a random choice. A
person living by virtue ethics has these characteristics that make them choose to do the morally
right thing.
There are many virtues that are listed as being those that are the most desirable to have.
The top of the list of these virtues are practical wisdom, justice, compassion, benevolence,
integrity, honesty, tolerance, courage, generosity, kindness, faithfulness, and patience. This does
not mean that every person does not have virtue ethics if they do not display all of these virtues.
In fact, many people acquire them throughout their lifetime. You are always growing toward
improving your virtuous life. If a person does not understand certain codes or rules, they will not
do bad things because the virtuous person leans toward doing the right thing consistently.
According to Aristotle, good character will begin to manifest into certain behaviors that produce
good acts. First, you need to understand what you are doing and that this is a good act. Secondly,
you choose to do this of your own free will, not by persuasion of others. The third condition is
that you do the act because this is part of who you are (Wilkens, 2011).
Positive Aspects of Virtue Ethics
Some of the positive aspects of virtue ethics is that it looks at doing the right thing
because it is what is morally right. It is not doing something good for the moment and discarding
that value when it does not suit you. You are choosing this because it is now a character trait that
you have developed and have embedded inside yourself. These virtue ethics are part of our
internal attitude. Through your intentions and attitude, it leads you to doing what is the best for
the situation, no matter if others do not agree. As human beings, we perform or act double
standard roles in the society, to present ourselves as a good persons. In this situation, virtue
ethics play a vital role to provide excellent guidance in all aspects of life. Our moral education
can help us make the appropriate decisions and guides us to be the kind of person we ought to be.
It gives a clear explanation of the notion that a good act does not always reflect a good person.
Similarly, a good person can do a bad act, which is out of his usual character. Everyone also has
the ability to become more virtuous. And this will also help lead us closer to God. We show that
we love others as well as ourselves. We draw on experiences not some abstract concept. Virtue
as ethics discloses virtue as guiding and creating actions, based on inner values and notions of
the good (Little, Gordon, Markham, Rychetnik, & Kerridge, 2011, p.949).
Another way of viewing the advantage of virtue ethics is it encourages us to be more
virtuous so that we will not need an ethical theory to make our decisions for us. For instance,
when a nurse caring for a patient with compassion gets more credit or morally superior than a
nurse who just perform their duty (Nasman, Nystrom, & Eriksson, 2012).
Potential Problems of Virtue Ethics
Some potential problems with virtue ethics is that it does not always tell us what to do in
certain circumstances. There is no guidebook to always tell us the right action for every
circumstance. It does not offer a solution for some questions that virtue ethics is not self-
sufficient to answer. As stated by Wilkens (2011), we all can list many virtuous traits but have
many different outcomes for conclusions on actions we should do. It looks as if there are no rules
that govern virtue ethics. Another problem I see is, which virtue is more important? If they
conflict, which do you choose? There is also the issue of cultural beliefs. What one person sees
as a virtue may be viewed in another culture as a weakness.
Examples of Virtue Ethics
Nurses face ethical dilemmas every day at their work place. They are obligated to
perform their professional duties along with moral ethics (virtue), such as honesty, compassion,
and self-respect (Little, Gordon, Markham, Rychetnick, & Kerridge, 2011). They often are
seeking for the right answers for these difficult ethical dilemmas. These dilemmas can be easily
answered by applying character traits of virtue and Code of Ethics for Nursing. However, the
Code of Ethics for Nurses really fits in virtue theory. This addresses the importance of character
of nurses. For example, nurses are obligated by the Code of Ethics to protect their patients
privacy and confidentiality. In any circumstances, if a nurse releases the patient information to a
family friend or any other individual without the patients permission, the nurse not only fails to
protect her patients privacy but also fails to demonstrate the virtue of respect and integrity.
In nursing, we can be very close to virtue ethics. Compassion is a virtue used frequently
in nursing. It shows that the nurse really does care about the outcome of the patients illness. The
nurse really cares about the patients suffering, not just pretending to look good. As nurses, we
build relationships with our patients. In doing so, we understand them as a total person, not just a
disease entity. We care about tomorrow for our patients, not just right now. Virtue provides the
human being with a preparedness to act; the ability to stand out when facing unpleasantness, as a
consequence to his/her free will and reason; and to strive toward a good life, which for the
caregiver may be expressed through a responsible capacity to make the right choices in working
compassionately with the suffering human being (Nasman, Nystrom, & Eriksson, 2012, p.52).
Nurses are looking for the best for their patients and because of this they may have to confront
others on issues of questionable care. This may be the physician, other nurses, or health care
workers. This is not always comfortable, but is necessary as a patients advocate.
Christian Answer to the Ethics
Christian ethics is to be the practice of being a certain kind of person; a person that
embodies a character that is defined in relation to the life of Jesus Christ. This kind of ethics still
involves making decisions, but individual acts are placed in their context as the acts of people
with a particular history and character. Christians can be moral, not because they follow the
deontological theories (principle-based set rules) and utilitarianism (maximizing happiness), but
because they follow the direction which is given by God. They work under the guidance of
Christ, who always helps them choose the right moral answer. Because Christians believe that
Gods nature is the ultimate source of true virtue, they must reflect his character to make morally
right choices (Wilkens, 2011). As it is mentioned by Wilkens (2011), God is more than a being
who does good; he is good. In the same way, Christians want to adapt the same virtue ethics in
their lives.
As a Christian, many of the virtues are used in our daily activities. We need to be more
responsive to others, when needed. To have those character traits makes being virtuous easier,
because it is about who you are not just the good deed you have done. To me, it is doing what
God intended for us to do. It take care of each other is part of our path to God. Plato and
Aristotle are not correct in assuming only an intelligent person can have virtue ethics. It is a gift
God has given to anyone to achieve.
Holland, S. (2011). The virtue ethics approach to bioethics. Bioethics, 25(4).
Little, M., Gordan, J., Markham, P., Rychetnik, L., & Kerridge, I. (2011). Virtuous acts as
practical medical ethics: An empirical study. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice,
17, 948-953.
Nasman, Y., Nystrom, L., & Eriksson, K. (2012). From values to virtue: The basis for quality of
care. International Journal for Human Caring, 16(2), 50-56.
Wilkens, S. (2011). Beyond bumper stickers ethics: An introduction to theories of right and
wrong (2
ed.). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.