I was recently reading about the potential effects of violent media, such as film, on people. I noticed that the effects of film were being condemned using language that was rather utilitarian. Such films are said to be problematic because that kind of influence could cause the spectator to become violent and harm others in the future.
However, this kind of argument seems, to me, to be remarkably similar to virtue ethics - where it is wrong to cultivate the wrong kind of character (in this case, a violent character). It would seem the wrongness of cultivating certain kinds of character stems precisely from the kind of influence that character has on its surroundings, which actually sounds rather consequentialist.
So I wonder, is virtue ethics really just utilitarian ethics, but with a focus on the person performing the action rather than on the potential victims? Or is there more to it than that?
This is a wonderful question, deserving of many responses, so let mine be brief. I would suggest that because a virtuous character is deemed to be the desired telos of human being, it is a type of consequentialism, but it is not utilitarianism. Utility, strictly defined, demands to maximize benefits and minimize harms, based on the reality of sentient beings' capacity to suffer. This foundational point is very different than Aristotle and more recent virtue approaches that focus on the goodness of the individual's character per se. This said, I cannot read Mill on the cultivation of higher pleasures without hearing echoes of Aristotle! Perhaps we seek ethical types to be more differentiated than they are. For the purpose of teaching, I draw bright lines between types, but when I read Kant's discussion of the only possible good in this world or beyond it is that of the good will - it is a matter of character that he is discussing! I think addressing violence from the standpoint of character...