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Virtue ethics can be defined as a set of standards to abide by that focuses on one's character rather than what is expected of you. The following philosophers, Alasdair MacIntyre, Aristotle, and Plato, all have different yet similar views on the well-being of a person. Each of the philosophers believe that a person has a certain set of rules that was influenced by their surroundings in which the internal being must remain in balance either mentally or within the soul. These philosophers show how even with a difference in time periods, these ethics should be a set of rules in which everyone should follow for society to function and flourish.
MacIntyre's modern view of virtue is defined as how a person's skills are applied in life. As humans, we view our lives as segmented into pieces whether it is with the use of personalities pertaining to different sets of people/skills or the use of skills dealing with a certain area of life. For example, the average person would not use the same language with the parental unit as it would be used with a group of close peers. Even in the work place, a person would not use argumentative techniques pertaining to law for an elementary teaching position. For MacIntyre, virtue is seen/applied in specific roles but not for every aspect in life. He believes that the way we need to understand things are to view virtue as a unified whole, which means that all traits we acquire are good for every aspect in life. Similarly to Aristotle, they both believe that virtue should not be divided up into pieces for certain sections of a person's life. Aristotle believes that if it is virtuous to be courageous or happy or to exert any emotion, you should always be that way not just at certain moments in your life. However, these emotions should be applied in a different sense.
According to Aristotle, happiness is well-being, a human flourishing of society. Happiness is the ultimate telos of what people do because we have a desire for happiness always. For Aristotle, the highest function of humans is reason which is used to reach happiness. MacIntyre discusses the Quest for the good, which Aristotle describes as seeking the good life. MacIntyre concludes that part of living the good life is by asking how to live it. Through this quest of the good life, one can gain self-knowledge - knowing one's faults and characteristics. Aristotle affirms that happiness can only be found when focused on and by not dwelling on those facets that are not in our control; otherwise we will become unhappy.
In order to achieve happiness, Aristotle believes that we need to find the Golden Mean, which notion of virtue between vices. For example, courage is a virtue for everyone, yet it is different for everyone. One vice would be to have very little courage and be deemed as a coward in the eyes of others; another vice would be to have too much courage and be deemed as haughty in the eyes of others. MacIntyre and Aristotle both believe that the only way to become virtuous is through practice and experience - the only way to become courageous. With becoming virtuous, a person tends to either be deficient or be in excess of virtue, yet Aristotle affirms moderation. The role of moderation is to aim for the mean by keeping away from that extreme that is more contrary, noticing errors to which we are liable to fall and guarding against pleasure and pleasant things. Aristotle gives bits of advice in how to become virtuous: (1) find the middle ground, (2) know one's faults, and lastly, (3) be aware of pleasure - humans are not objectives to pleasure.
Lastly, the third and final philosopher will be Plato. He was firm that there were three faculties of the soul: reason, appetite, and spirit. His stance on reason was similar to Aristotle in that reason helps acquire happiness. Reason is the most rationed state in which the soul can use to make important decisions in life. The second faculty, appetite, shows the souls desires - needs for human survival which are most animal like. The last faculty was spirit, which determined the level of strong emotion, like that of anger or courage. Plato believed that should only do what they are best at which at points ties in with MaIntyre's modern view of virtue. Certain virtues/skills can be applied to certain roles in life but not for everything.
Plato also affirmed that in order for society to function, everyone has to be in their place. For example, a lawyer can't be working as a blacksmith or the poor can't enjoy the advantages of the wealthy. However, everyone can achieve a sense of happiness through the search for justice. According to Plato, justice, in the individual, means to have all three faculties in the right order; it is the balance and harmony of elements within the soul. MacIntyre had the notion of the Quest for the good life which was found by questioning the qualities of the good life. Plato had the answer. The fundamental place to start in Quest of the good life was to have a harmonious soul (defining who you were as a person), then from there, good actions would flow. This in turn would aid in the Quest as well as help one find justice for them. Plato believed that the just person was indeed the happier person.
In conclusion, all three philosophers, in a sense, search for good. The soul has to be in order, virtue come internally, and justice is the individual means to have the soul in order according to Plato. Aristotle believes that virtue is the ultimate mean between vices and can only be acquired with habitually practicing for one to become virtuous. MacIntyre deems that the good can only be acquired after being sought out and virtue must be in balance throughout one's life. When compared to MacIntyre, the views from Aristotle and Plato can be found very similar. All three philosophers believe in a sense of searching for the soul as well as practice in order to become virtuous.