Virtue ethics is one of the three existing approaches to normative ethics that focuses on the development of an individual’s moral character. Virtue ethics suggest that following the path of morality and practicing virtuous habits such as honesty, bravery, and generosity cultivates an individual’s moral character. The character approach is different from other approaches that center on the individual’s actions, their consequences, and his actions being fit to his duties. In contrast to deontology and consequentialism approaches, virtue ethics imply that moral character developed through the habit of virtue practices helps the individual make the right ethical choice when faced with a challenge.
Virtue ethics is partially based on Aristotle’s take on ethics and morality. In Aristotle’s understanding, ethical virtues present a complex set of emotional and social skills combined with the rational component. Aristotle suggested that happiness is attained through living a virtuous life with the help of practical wisdom, also known as phronesis. Practical wisdom is achieved through living experience and is far more complex than rules or duties. Practical wisdom allows an individual to understand the reason why virtues are important for human life and why happiness could be achieved through virtues.
Ethics and virtue are closely related to morality in Aristotle’s perception. Morality and moral virtue help people to control and moderate their appetites and desires. Even though virtue itself is not a habit, as virtues require making a choice, the habitual character of contributing to virtue supports the development of virtue ethics and moral character. Thus, virtuous actions require morality in making a choice, and moral development and education are necessary for virtue ethics. Aristotle suggests that even though moral development happens through the course of an individual’s life, the building of the foundation for morality happens in early childhood. Moral development allows the individual an opportunity to make consistent right choices in any situation.