Valor Defined: The American Soldier

The patriot's blood is the seed of Freedom's tree. ~Thomas Campbell

Valor; The American Soldier


Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you,

Jesus Christ and the American Soldier

One died for your soul; the other for your freedom.

A Definition

Virtue theory is a branch of moral philosophy that emphasizes character, rather than rules or consequences, as the key element of ethical thinking. In the West virtue ethics was the prevailing approach to ethical thinking in the ancient and medieval periods. The tradition suffered an eclipse during the early modern period, as Aristotelianism fell out of favour in the West. Virtue theory returned to prominence in Western philosophical thought in the twentieth century, and is today one of the three dominant approaches to normative theories (the other two being deontology and consequentialism).

A system of virtue theory, having offered an account of the good life, then identifies those habits and behaviors that will allow a person to achieve that good life: these habits and behaviors are the virtues (arête). In the course of one's activities one will have opportunity to practice these virtues. Sometimes these virtues will be, or will seem to be, in conflict with one another: a common dilemma is the apparent conflict between honesty and compassion, when telling a friend the truth (about his appearance, say) would hurt that friend's feelings. In such cases the agent must exercise her practical wisdom (phronesis) to resolve the conflict. Ultimately, a lifetime of practicing these virtues will allow the agent to flourish and live the good life (eudemonia). In fact, in most accounts, practicing the virtues partially constitutes eudemonia rather than being merely a means to that end.

This schema of the moral life strongly differs from those offered by virtue theory's predominant rivals, deontological and consequentialist ethics. These systems aim to articulate principles or rules that provide an agent the ability to decide how to act in a given situation. Consequentialist and deontological theories often still employ the term 'virtue', but in a restricted sense, namely as a tendency or disposition to adhere to the system's principles or rules. These very different senses of what constitutes virtue, hidden behind the same word, are a potential source of confusion.

This disagreement over the meaning of virtue points to a larger conflict between virtue theory and its philosophical rivals. A system of virtue theory is only intelligible if it is teleological: that is, if it includes an account of the purpose (telos) of human life, or in popular language, the meaning of life. Obviously, strong claims about the purpose of human life, or of what the good life for human beings is, will be highly controversial. Virtue theory's necessary commitment to a teleological account of human life thus puts the tradition in sharp tension with other dominant approaches to normative ethics, which, because they focus on actions, do not bear this burden.