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What is the relation (if any) between virtue and human flourishing?

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Virtues.
    1. A character trait which makes its possessor good.
    2. Distinguishing between virtues, moral motivation and utilitarianism?
    3. Julia Annas and the central role of reasoning in the application of the virtues.
    4. We cannot practise virtues without living with other people.
  3. The claim that living virtuously is the way to achieve eudaimonia.
    1. The problem of universality.
    2. The misunderstanding of eudaimonia.
    3. Living virtuously implies another constraint: The dilemma issue.
  4. The relationship between virtues and human flourishing through different approaches.
    1. Utilitarianism and the way we cultivate the virtues.
    2. The role of moral luck.
  5. Conclusion.
  6. Bibliography.

When you shout at a passer-by in the street, and ask him what would be the most important goal in his life, he is likely to answer, like a majority of people that he wants to live happily. Then, we should raise the question: how could we achieve this happiness? More than two thousand years ago, the forerunners of the Greek Philosophy, Plato and more predominantly Aristotle, have introduced the claim of virtue ethics and the concept of eudaimonia which helped to demonstrate the link between virtues and human flourishing. Indeed, the Greek word eudaimonia can be translated as ?happiness' or ?human flourishing'. For this essay, I would rather use the designation human flourishing as happiness seems a bit too vague and inaccurate. But let us get back to our real aim: is there a link between virtue and human flourishing? And if so, how do virtues affect human flourishing?

[...] On the other hand, from Irwin's work, Aristotle also believes that human flourishing is the goal which must be pursued by everyone, and that one's activities must be angled towards a sole aim: human flourishing.[2] Thus, he qualifies this state as eudaimonia, and considers that the virtues are the best way to promote it. That is the reason why Aristotle goes on saying that flourish, you should acquire and practise the virtues'.[3] From this point of view, it seems obvious that in the first place we need virtues as we cannot fully flourish without them. [...]


[...] Thus, there is a connection between virtues, society and human flourishing. Let us focus on generosity. As we are naturally social human beings, we all want to be loved, to make friends, to be trusted by others. Thus, the virtuous person is going to do good deeds, which is going to be pleasurable for others, but also for himself. The same account can be made for honesty, benevolence, self- respect or others. Consequently, we need a life in society to reach one's moral maturation, and to fit in the society, we need to be virtuous. [...]


[...] From then on, what would be the best outcome? And how could one deny the existence of irresolvable dilemmas? These conflicts find their roots in the very issue of deontological rules. Defenders of virtue ethics including Neo- Aristotelians- would undermine this idea by saying that the conflict is only apparent; in this case, this perfectly virtuous man would possess practical wisdom which would make him lucid and shrewd enough to find the way out. At last, the most debated objection has to do with egoism. [...]

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