Can we learn to be virtuous, or is virtue innate? This is a question that has puzzled philosophers and thinkers for centuries. Philosophers like Plato and Aristotle believed that virtue could be taught, but modern thinkers have differing views on the subject. This essay explores the different perspectives and arguments on whether virtue can be taught or not.
Virtue Ethics: An Overview
Virtue ethics, unlike deontological and consequentialist ethics, focuses on the person and not their actions. It asks: What kind of people should we be? Virtue ethics emphasizes on the development of the character of the individual rather than the principles to follow.
The three important components of virtue ethics are:
- Eudaimonia: A Greek term meaning ‘happiness’ or ‘flourishing,’ which is the ultimate goal of human life. Virtue ethics believes that living a virtuous life leads to eudaimonia.
- Virtues: These are good habits or dispositions that aid in achieving eudaimonia.
- Vice: These are bad habits that hinder in achieving eudaimonia.
Can Virtue Be Taught?
The question of whether virtue can be taught has been debated by philosophers since antiquity. Two of the most notable philosophers who argued that virtue is teachable were Plato and Aristotle.
According to Plato, virtue can be learned, but not in the traditional sense of learning. He argued that virtue is not simply a set of rules that can be taught, but rather an innate quality that already exists in inside each person. Plato believed that these virtues can be brought forth and developed through the guidance of a mentor or teacher who helps the student to realize and access this innate quality.
Aristotle, Plato’s student, believed that it is possible to teach virtue but only through a specific type of education. This education is not about memorizing and reciting rules, but rather it is about instilling virtues through practice and imitation. Aristotle also believed that individuals can only learn the virtues by practicing them, and that habituation is crucial for developing virtues.
Modern thinkers have argued against the notion that virtue can be taught. William Durbin, one of the modern thinkers, initially believed that virtue could be taught, but after conducting research, he concluded that traits like honesty and loyalty are more likely to be inherited rather than taught. However, some modern thinkers argue that while virtues may be innate, they can still be nurtured and developed through practice and self-reflection.
- Virtue ethics is centered around the development of the character of an individual, rather than governing principles.
- Plato believed that virtue is an innate quality that can be brought forth and developed through the guidance of a mentor or teacher.
- Aristotle believed that virtue can be taught through practice and imitation.
- Modern thinkers argue that while virtues may be innate, they can still be nurtured and developed through practice and self-reflection.
In conclusion, the question of whether virtue can be taught remains unresolved. However, it is clear that both ancient and modern thinkers have contributed valuable insights to the debate. Ultimately, whether or not we can teach virtue, it is important to acknowledge that practicing virtuous behavior is essential for leading a fulfilling life.
Q: What is virtue ethics?
A: Virtue ethics is an ethical theory that emphasizes the character of the individual rather than the actions of the individual.
Q: What is eudaimonia?
A: Eudaimonia is a Greek term which means “happiness” or “flourishing.”
Q: Can virtues be taught?
A: Philosophers have debated whether virtue can be taught for centuries. While ancient philosophers like Plato and Aristotle believed that virtue is teachable, modern thinkers have differing views on the subject.