Is Areteology a Better Way of Approaching Ethics Than Deontology or Teleology?

6 June 2016

Is Areteology a better way of approaching ethics than Deontology or Teleology? Areteology being the study of virtues and the word arête meaning excellence, Areteology can better be defined as the study of excellent human virtues (a divine study). It looks at the ultimate purpose of human life and what might result in practical excellence. It would aim to show people what an excellent human life is and teach people how to live by the excellent human virtues.

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In Areteology, the question normally asked is what kind of life is a worthwhile one to be living rather than what actions are the right ones in this situation. Aristotle’s definition of a virtue is an “excellence in the service of a function or a purpose”. Aristotle stated that the purpose of a human is known through something that is unique to us, reason which is not shared with other animals. He said that to gain ultimate happiness in life is to live a life in moderation between excess and deficiency.

The opposite of a virtue is a vice which is the bad characteristic that makes up a human’s personality. Areteology is a good way of looking at ethics because it takes every person as an individual. By seeing every person differently means you can apply what is necessary in situations without the waste of actions. With this is mind however it may make the theory unable to be universalised because one person’s vice is another’s virtue. The theory is also very vague in making statements. Although it gives us a lot of understanding on who a virtuous person is and what they are like, it does not give any form of evidence or sense of direction in becoming someone that is a virtuous person living for excellence.

Deontology is the study of actions being formed by our duty. Kant’s theory is very much a deontological theory based around the theory of Duty. This specific theory incorporates what people are supposed to do and the correct actions to take in certain situations. These ethics teach people that some things are right and wrong, it is our duty to do the right things and our duty to avoid doing the wrong things. It says that people are to act upon their duty no matter what the consequences are, this could also be said as the means justifies the end.

A good thing about duty-based ethics is that it values every human being, by focussing on giving equal respect to everyone that is involved. It also incorporates human rights which gives a sense of equality when looking at a situation with a number of parties. It gives the allowance for some acts to always be wrong no matter what the consequences are, this gives human beings guidelines that can be absolute making them easy to follow. On the other hand, being an absolute theory may make it contradictory because the only way of dealing with some cases would be to bring in exceptions to rules already laid down. Also, because duty-based ethics are not looking at the consequences it can lead to actions being taken that produce a decreasing amount of happiness in the world as a whole.

Teleology is all about the end of actions in situations. It incorporates ideas like “the greatest good for the greatest number” and the principle of utility for every action. In this theory you follow the idea that the ends justifies the means. The problem with these ethics is that they may allow for the most evil acts because as long as the end result is a good one for multiple people then you can act however you want to. For example it would allow you to kill one person if it saves two people’s lives. A major problem with teleological ethics is that it is almost impossible to determine all of the possible consequences to come from an action therefor making it guess work without any proof.

In conclusion Areteology is probably the better way of approaching ethics out of the three. It does focus on the one main thing which is a human’s ultimate purpose which is reaching ultimate happiness. As the theory only has one main goal, it allows for a simpler approach rather than the complexity of estimating outcomes or the ability of hurting people when just looking at the action and not even contemplating upon the outcomes at the end of the process.

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