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Virtue Ethics and Great Philosophers

            In the 17th and 18th century, virtue ethics was criticized on the basis that it was simply too obscure and impractical when getting down to applying itself to the absolutes of right or wrong in the way that theories such as Utilitarianism and Kantian ethics did. Despite this, virtue ethics experienced somewhat of a revival. This is perhaps due to the declining basis of traditional morality through religious teaching, and therefore a greater desire to understand the ways of living a good and prosperous life rather than following strict rules; something which the agent-centered nature of virtue ethics inherently achieves. .
             Elizabeth Anscombe published a paper in the 1950's named 'Modern Moral Philosophy', which questioned morality on the basis of: How can we be ethical if there is no ultimate standard or lawgiver (God)? Through such logic, she presented her belief that moral laws cannot exist if God does not exist. She saw other contemporary ethical theories as heavily reliant on a basis of punishment and reward such as Kant's rewarding of morality through the 'Summum Bonum'; therefore they could not provide a guideline to achieve the moral life. She also saw these theories as too rigid in that they do not allow any deviation in their respective principles, for example Kant's theory allows no exceptions of the maxims within the Categorical Imperative, whereas the 'right thing' may beg us to follow otherwise. Hence, what Anscombe believed in was a return to the ideals of Eudamonia and a morality that is focused on the person rather than on the consequence of actions. By emphasizing Eudamonia, morality does not need to depend on strict moral principles, which she felt gave too much emphasis to autonomous actions and disregarded the social aspect of morality that may give rise to the 'polis', for example virtues cultivated through active citizenship. .
             On the other hand, the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre attempted to resurrect thinking about virtue.

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