Stoicism on Morality: Virtue Ethics VS Consequentialism in 21st Century (2023)

There aredifferentviews when it comes to morality. But these are the two questions we will investigate today.

“Does the end justify the means?”


“Should one live a virtuous life?”

At the end of this article, I’ll give you a little insight on how to use this information as someone who aspires to pursue their life’s purpose.

Related article: My Ultimate Vision For You: Why Stoic Leaders Exists?

But before we start, let’s get the definitions out of the way.

Consequentialism is the philosophical position which judges the good of an action by its results and consequences. Its essence is best captured by the aphorism “The end justifies the means.”

The essence: “What will the outcome of my decisions will be?”

Virtue can be described as the excellence of character. Therefore,Virtue ethics holds virtuous acts above everything else.It is one of the three normative ethics. It measures action against a set of virtues, the goal beinga virtuous person.

  • Stoicism is a great example of virtue ethics. Stoicism holds the virtues of wisdom, justice, fortitude and temperance among other things. Virtue ethics emphasize the character of the person making the decision.

The essence: “Are my actions motivated by virtue?”

Once upon a time, there was a famous painter. He decided to make a painting of the noblest person in the world. He traveled far and wide, and finally, on a mountain, came across a saint who was famous for his wisdom.

When he saw him, the saint was surrounded by innumerable followers who worshipped him like God. When the painter requested the saint to let him do his painting, the saint agreed. The painter made his painting and kept it in his drawing-room.

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Many years passed. The painter decided that he should now paint the wickedest man of the world. He again traveled far and wide, and finally, in a prison, he found a person undergoing punishment for innumerable heinous crimes.

He took permission from the jailer to paint the wicked man, and upon securing it, brought him home. The wicked man asked, ‘Why do you want to make my painting?’ ‘Because you are the most wicked person in this world,’ replied the painter.

In the drawing-room, the painter asked the wicked man to sit on a chair and he started painting him. The wicked man saw before him the painting of the noblest man and asked the painter, ‘Who is that man?’

‘He is the noblest man in this world,’ the painter replied

Upon hearing this, the wicked man wept and wept.

‘Why are you crying?’ asked the painter. ‘Are you feeling ashamed about yourself, sitting opposite the noblest man of the world?’

No,’ replied the man. ‘The other painting is also mine.

Stoics believed that the greatest challenge of life is to maintain the moral values and ethics in our life. It is too easy to slip from the cliff and lose everything in the process leading to a life of ignominy and shame.

It is true that you may not be able to rise again.

Here is what a consequentialist would say about ethics.

“I don’t care being honest or virtuous. if I want to take something, then I’d do everything in my power to do so. I may lie and be cunning but at the end I takewhat I want. What matters is only the end result.

From this perspective, consequentialism is the representation of human greediness. If the end always justifies the means, it is okay to bring misery to people as long as you benefit from it.

You can kill the annoying colleagueas long as he is out of your way. You can go to the extreme and live a life out of virtue which Stoics hold above all things.

Imagine you and your friend, Anna areenjoying a tea party. Since you are such good friends, she knows you drink it with sugar thus pours some into your cup.

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When you drink the tea, however, sweats start to ooze from your skin and in seconds you die due to suffocation.

Apparently the white substance Anna thought as “sugar” was actually a deadly poison.

In this circumstance, as you might see that Anna didn’t mean to kill you. It was a mistake, an unfortunate accident. However, the question remains,

“Would you charge Anna with murder?”

Apart from the fact that dead people can’t charge otherswith murder, if the end justifies the means; it would take only seconds to figure out the answer.

Jail is the onlydestination for Anna. The intent is irrelevant. She poisoned you and therefore caused your death. These are the irrefutable facts. The “accident” is nothing but a pettyexcuse.

Yet most people wouldn’t think this way. If it really was an accident, it would be unfair to punish Anna as a cold-blooded murderer. She is not a threat to society.

It was an accident, therefore, she doesn’t deserve a full penalty. However, consequentialism sees no difference between an accident of murder and a real intention of murder.

Let’s say you just startedyour own blog, you have a website, you are a creator and you have been writing content/making videos on the topic of your life’s purpose.

Here is the problem.

Nobody cares about you.

In this circumstance, a consequentialistwould do anything so that people would come and care about his work.

He would pour a lot of money to advertising and marketing. He would sometimes lower the quality of his products so that he can market more. And when he does get the attention, he would pride himself as doing valuable and meaningful work.

Why? Because, he thinks if he doesn’t get recognition, the work he isdoing is completely meaningless.

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But, wait a minute, how true is this?

Your work doesn’t suddenly gain value when you get recognition. Recognition and society approval is arbitrary from the work you do.

It may be true that touching the other people’s heartsgives meaning to your work but the attention you get from them is not a direct indication of your work’s “meaning”.

Here is an example: A Justin Bieber music video has millions of clicks but your educational video content which actually adds value to people’s lives has only 50 views.

Where is the justice in this?

There is no justice.

As the late great Arthur Schopenhauer said;

Stoicism on Morality: Virtue Ethics VS Consequentialism in 21st Century (1)

“A personwho writes for fools is always sure of a large audience”

Understand that this is how society works. Accept it. Your job is to set realistic expectations and trust yourself on this journey.

Do not beat yourself up about clicks on your videos or visits to your blogs. If you want to become famous, if you want the attention and fame, make a contract with a casting agency and produce a high-quality music video.

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That is certainly a lot easier if you just want the money.

ButIf you do meaningful work for the minority (you should), do not expect the majority to respond –especiallyfourteen year old little girls who watch Justin Bieber all day.

Don’t Get Me Wrong…

Although I point out that it is foolish to expect huge fame, I donot mean to completely refrain from advertising and marketing. If you do meaningful work, you want people to see it, otherwise what is the point?

You need enough recognition so that you can make enough money to keep doing what you love. Andthanks to the recognition, you also reach more people.

Now, that’s a win-win situation if I see one.

“For any kind of business to exist, you need marketing. Period.”

So the key here is finding the balance when it comes to content creation and marketing. You’ll only succeed to make a positive impact in the world if you can balance both of these metrics.

If you become too lost in theory, your voice won’t be heard. If you become too practical, then you lose the substance and core.

Do not aim for the fame and recognition you see with what majority holds as valuable ( ex. entertainment) when what you do is what minority holds as valuable (ex. education, self development).

For more on this, I strongly recommend reading my in depth review on the fantastic book“Ego is the enemy” by Ryan Holiday.

Before we wrap it up, consider joining my free email course. There is much exclusive content waiting for you there.

If you’ve found value in this article, don’t forget to share this episode with a friend on social media.

If you liked this article, you might also like these:

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Until next time, have a great day!


How is consequentialism different from Stoicism? ›

Stoic ethics is a kind of virtue ethics, so that one's easy to knock out. Consequentialism is by definition mutually exclusive with virtue ethics: one takes situations or outcomes as the fundamental starting point of ethics, while the other takes characters traits as its foundation.

Is virtue ethics still relevant today? ›

However, the key idea within Aristotle's virtue ethics about the cultivation of certain issues within the individual through practice and looking to the advice of other cultivated individuals for guidance is as relevant now as it has ever been.

Is virtue ethics appropriate for modern society? ›

They believe that the transformation of virtue ethics to utilitarianism and the normative ethics of deontology indicates that virtue ethics are not appropriate for modern society, and it faces the dilemma of modern society's changing social structure.

Is Stoicism a virtue ethic? ›

It is well known that Stoicism is a type of virtue ethical philosophy, in that respect similar to a number of other ones that developed in ancient Greek and Roman times, beginning of course with the Peripatetic school of Aristotle.

What does Stoicism say about morality? ›

The Stoics maintained, quite controversially among ancient ethical thought, that the only thing that always contributes to happiness, as its necessary and sufficient condition, is virtue. Conversely, the only thing that necessitates misery and is “bad” or “evil” is the corruption of reason, namely vice.

What is the biggest problem with consequentialism? ›

Consequentialism is sometimes criticized because it can be difficult, or even impossible, to know what the result of an action will be ahead of time. Indeed, no one can know the future with certainty.

How does virtue ethics apply today? ›

Virtue ethics is an agent-based approach to ethics. This approach focuses on the fundamental character and motivations of the individual moral agent. Moral behavior is not limited or attached to a rule or any guidelines, but rather involves the individual rationally pursuing moral excellence as a goal in and of itself.

What is the biggest problem with virtue ethics? ›

The alleged problem with virtue ethics is that it fails to appreciate the perspectivai, theory ladenness, and intractability of dispute, for it is commonly assumed that in virtue ethics a virtuous agent is both the determinant of right action and the repository of sound reasoning about which actions are right.

What is the biggest objection to virtue ethics? ›

Here are some common objections to virtue ethics. Its theories provide a self-centered conception of ethics because human flourishing is seen as an end in itself and does not sufficiently consider the extent to which our actions affect other people.

Is Stoicism similar to utilitarianism? ›

However, Stoicism is not compatible with utilitarianism – the former thinks “virtue is the only good”, whereas the latter tries to maximize the total happiness.

What is the difference between consequentialism and kantianism? ›

i. Concept of Consequentialism as ethical theory is based upon nature of consequences be it utility, welfare, or pleasure. Kantianism is based upon moral imperatives which are absolute.

What is the difference between consequentialism and welfarism? ›

It is welfarist: The only thing that is good in itself and not just a means to another good is the happiness or well-being of individuals. It is consequentialist: whether an action is right or wrong is determined solely by its consequences.

What makes Stoicism different? ›

Stoics acknowledge that people don't have control over all, or even much, of what happens in life. And they emphasize that worrying about things outside of their control is unproductive, or even irrational to a person who wants to attain tranquility.


1. Aristotle's Ancient Greek Virtue Ethics
(History With Hilbert)
2. Utilitarianism: Crash Course Philosophy #36
3. Plato's Cave Ep. 2.5 - Aristotelian Virtue Ethics vs Consequentialism
(Jordan Myers)
4. Objections to Virtue Ethics
(Brandon Gillette)
5. 10. Virtue and Habit II
6. Virtue Ethics
(The Ethics Centre)
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