Virtues and values are commonly treated as synonyms, but there is a distinction
— virtues are lived values, values in action, values which are achieved on a
dependably regular basis, while values by themselves are ideals or goals which
tend to be more aspirational and not uncommonly fail to be achieved on as
regular a basis as desired.
Values are individual beliefs that motivate people to act one way or another.
They serve as a guide for human behavior. Generally, people are predisposed to
adopt the values that they are raised with. People also tend to believe that
those values are right
because they are the values of their particular
culture. Ethical decision-making often involves weighing values against each
other and choosing which values to elevate. Conflicts can result when people
have different values, leading to a clash of preferences and priorities. Some
values have intrinsic worth, such as love, truth, and freedom. Other values,
such as ambition, responsibility, and courage, describe traits or behaviors that
are instrumental as means to an end.
Still other values are considered sacred and are moral imperatives for those who
believe in them. Sacred values will seldom be compromised because they are
perceived as duties rather than as factors to be weighed in decision-making. For
example, for some people, their nation’s flag may represent a sacred value. But
for others, the flag may just be a piece of cloth.
So, whether values are sacred, have intrinsic worth, or are a means to an end,
values vary among individuals and across cultures and time. However values are
universally recognized as a driving force in ethical decision-making.
Virtue ethics is a philosophy developed by Aristotle and other ancient Greeks.
It is the quest to understand and live a life of moral character. This
character-based approach to morality assumes that we acquire virtue through
practice. By practicing being honest, brave, just, generous, and so on, a person
develops an honorable and moral character. According to Aristotle, by honing
virtuous habits, people will likely make the right choice when faced with
ethical challenges. So, virtue ethics helps us understand what it means to be a
virtuous human being. And, it gives us a guide for living life without giving us
specific rules for resolving ethical dilemmas.
Value and virtue both refer to the same thing — beliefs, principles, ideals,
qualities, traits, properties, attributes, expectations, or characteristics of
individuals or groups that are highly-valued, desired, admired, and prized in
society, but the key distinction is that values are aspirational expectations,
ideals or goals that are not always achieved, while virtues are those principles
or qualities that have actually been achieved and can be directly observed and
experienced in the here and now.
Scope Of Study
This article focuses on the concept of value virtue and deals with how this
concept has influenced the world religions. I have followed a systematic
approach starting with defining the value virtue and leading to its history and
then its difference and finally its influencing power.
The scope of the study is limited to the extent of facts and studies that I
could gather from the vast ocean of resource that was available for me. I have
touched down on all relevant parts of my topic on the limited constraint that I
The limitation of my paper would be the vast flow of irrelevant information that
is surfacing on the internet.
A doctrinal method of research has been used in preparing this research paper
which includes collection of secondary data from various sources such as books,
articles, research papers, etc. The information collected from these sources
form the crux and content of the research project so as to come to a valid
conclusion. Important text books and study materials have also been referred for
Review Of Literature
As we require a complete outlook on the topic chosen, various studies have to be
referred to for a more enhanced understanding and information relevant to the
area which is being researched. Similar researches have been explored by
scholars. One amongst such research done is Nicomachean
by Aristotle and Protagoras
In his work Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle defined a virtue as a point between a
deficiency and an excess of a trait. The point of greatest virtue lies not in
the exact middle, but at a golden mean sometimes closer to one extreme than the
other. However, the virtuous action is not simply the "mean" (mathematically
speaking) between two opposite extremes. As Aristotle says in the Nicomachean
Ethics: "at the right times, about the right things, towards the right people,
for the right end, and in the right way, is the intermediate and best condition,
and this is proper to virtue." This is not simply splitting the difference
between two extremes.
For example, generosity is a virtue between the two
extremes of miserliness and being profligate. Further examples include: courage
between cowardice and foolhardiness, and confidence between self-deprecation and
vanity. In Aristotle's sense, virtue is excellence at being human.
In Protagoras, Plato when he wrote that people only act in ways that they
perceive will bring them maximum good. It is the lack of wisdom that results in
the making of a bad choice instead of a prudent one. In this way, wisdom is the
central part of virtue. Plato realized that because virtue was synonymous with
wisdom it could be taught, a possibility he had earlier discounted. He then
added correct belief
as an alternative to knowledge, proposing that knowledge
is merely correct belief that has been thought through and "tethered".
Analysis Of Concept
Virtue is moral excellence. A virtue is a trait or quality that is deemed to be
morally good and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral
being. Personal virtues are characteristics valued as promoting collective and
individual greatness. In other words, it is a behavior that shows high moral
standards. Doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong. The opposite of
virtue is vice.
Virtue ethics is very often discussed by contrasting it to the
prevailing tradition of principle ethics. Professionals are called upon to
aspire toward ideals and develop virtues or traits of character to achieve these
ideals. It is the qualities of the person that have merit or work in some
particular context; these qualities are often related to matters of right
conduct or morality. Virtue ethics focuses on the agent or individual rather
than o the action or decision made, as in principle ethics – not what shall we
do? but rather who shall we become.
Virtue ethics has 2 general goals:
- Achieving and maintain professional competence
- Striving for the common good
To accomplish these ends, the professional should cultivate such virtues as
prudence,intergrity and respectfulness.
- Are motivated to do what is good
- Posses vision and discernment
- Realize the role of affect or emotion in assessing or judging proper
- Have a high degree of self – understanding and awareness
- Connect with and understand the mores of their communities and
importance of community in moral decision making , policy setting and
character development and are alert to the legitimacy of client diversity in
Virtuous people strive to do what is right because they judge it to be right
rather than being concerned about a particular outcome. Some authorities see
virtue ethics as enhancing ethical practices in multicultural contexts. People
are more sensitive in their conduct because they are rooted in a particular
community’s wisdom and moral sense.
It is important to evaluate critically how virtue ethics can contribute to the
ethical tradition of the counseling profession, as well as to consider related
concerns. The communities that are a crucial medium for the development of a
virtuous ethics can themselves be insular and ethnocentric, thus becoming
harmful to others, also; the virtue ethics tradition is seen as irrelevant to
the adjudication of ethics complaints by licensure boards and ethics
Finally, the professional community has raised concerns that it
may be impossible to teach virtues and that selection of virtuous individuals
into the professional community may be the necessary approach. Nonetheless, many
scholars believe that principles and virtues cannot be separated – neither is
primary, but each serves to balance the other. Professionals are called upon to
perform certain actions for certain kinds of people.
Religions And Virtues
In Christianity, the three theological virtues are faith, hope and love, a list
which comes from 1 Corinthians 13:13 are faith,hope and love . The same chapter
describes love as the greatest of the three, and further defines love as
"patient, kind, not envious, boastful, arrogant, or rude."
Christian scholars frequently add the four Greek cardinal virtues (prudence,
justice, temperance, and courage) to the theological virtues to give the seven
virtues; for example, these seven are the ones described in the Catechism of the
Catholic Church, sections 1803–1829.
The Bible mentions additional virtues, such as in the "Fruit of the Holy
Spirit," found in Galatians 5:22-23: "By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit it
is benevolent-love: joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, benevolence,
faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is absolutely no law against
such a thing.
The medieval and renaissance periods saw a number of models of sin listing the
seven deadly sins and the virtues opposed to each.
Virtue is a much debated and an evolving concept in ancient scriptures of
Hinduism. The essence, need and value of virtue is explained in Hindu philosophy
as something that cannot be imposed, but something that is realized and
voluntarily lived up to by each individual. For example, Apastamba explained it
"virtue and vice do not go about saying - here we are!; neither the Gods, Gandharvas, nor ancestors can convince us - this is right, this is wrong; virtue
is an elusive concept, it demands careful and sustained reflection by every man
and woman before it can become part of one's life.
Virtues lead to punya in Hindu literature; while vices lead to pap. Sometimes,
the word punya is used interchangeably with virtue.
The Bhagavad Gita - considered one of the epitomes of historic Hindu discussion
of virtues and an allegorical debate on what is right and what is wrong - argues
some virtues are not necessarily always absolute, but sometimes relational; for
example, it explains a virtue such as Ahimsa must be re-examined when one is
faced with war or violence from the aggressiveness, immaturity or ignorance of
In Islam, the Quran is believed to be the literal word of God, and the
definitive description of virtue while Muhammad is considered an ideal example
of virtue in human form. The foundation of Islamic understanding of virtue was
the understanding and interpretation of the Quran and the practices of Muhammad.
Its meaning has always been in context of active submission to God performed by
the community in unison.
The motive force is the notion that believers are to
"enjoin that which is virtuous and forbid that which is vicious" (al-amr
bi-l-maʿrūf wa-n-nahy ʿani-l-munkar) in all spheres of life (Quran 3:110).
Another key factor is the belief that mankind has been granted the faculty to
discern God's will and to abide by it. This faculty most crucially involves
reflecting over the meaning of existence.
Therefore, regardless of their
environment, humans are believed to have a moral responsibility to submit to
God's will. Muhammad's preaching produced a "radical change in moral
values based on the sanctions of the new religion and the present religion, and
fear of God and of the Last Judgment". Later Muslim scholars expanded the
religious ethics of the scriptures in immense detail.
In Jainism, attainment of enlightenment is possible only if the seeker possesses
certain virtues. All Jains are supposed to take up the five vows of ahimsa (non
violence), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non stealing), aparigraha (non
attachment) and brahmacharya (celibacy) before becoming a monk.
These vows are
laid down by the Tirthankaras. Other virtues which are supposed to be followed
by both monks as well as laypersons include forgiveness, humility,
self-restraint and straightforwardness. These vows assist the seeker to escape
from the karmic bondages thereby escaping the cycle of birth and death to attain
Virtues are what makes a person a good man
. Values are what makes a person a good citizen. Virtue concentrates on the character of a person. Virtue can
stem from an individual's spirituality or moral compass. It serves as a guide to
our consistent everyday actions. Virtue is what continues to drive us
towards goodness even when no one is looking.
Values can be defined by mainly what society deems as good
. It does not have
from a spiritual place. Values are composed of what actions, characteristics,
or traits an
individual can have or display that would be considered morally upright or
commendable. It can be said that values can be taught or given, but virtues
come from within. Some characteristics that can fall under the category of
virtues are honesty, integrity, kindness, courage, wisdom, fairness, compassion,
fidelity, and commitment (Pozgar, 2012).
Ambition, intelligence, experience, tolerance, attractiveness, adaptability,
dignity, sense of duty, drive, cleanliness, and many others can be considered
under the term values.
- Perry : Realms of Values (1954)
- Lewis : Knowledge and Valuation (1945)
- Deway : In Encyclopedia of Philosophy ( 1967) Vol. 6
- Ross : ‘The Right And the Good’. (1930)
- Nielson : Problems of Ethics In Encyclopedia of Philosophy Vol. 3-4
- Hiriyanna : Indian Conception of Values (1975)
- Meara,Schmidt & Day,1996
- Kleist & White , 1997 , p.129
- Ibrahim , 1996; Vasquez , 1996
- Kitchener, 1996
- Bersoff, 1996
- Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M.
Metzger and Allen Wikgren, The Greek New Testament, 4th ed. (Federal Republic of
Germany: United Bible Societies, 1993, c1979)
- Klaus K. Klostermaier (1996), in Harvey Leonard Dyck and Peter Brock (Ed),
The Pacifist Impulse in Historical Perspective, see Chapter on Himsa and Ahimsa
Traditions in Hinduism, ISBN 978-0802007773, University of Toronto Press, pages
- Bearman et al. 2009, Akhlaq