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Encyclopedia > Virtue ethics

Virtue ethics is currently one of three major approaches in normative ethics. It may, initially, be identified as the one that emphasizes the virtues, or moral character, in contrast to the approach which emphasizes duties or rules (deontology) or that which emphasizes the consequences of actions (consequentialism). The origins of this theory date at least back to Plato and Aristotle (it, arguably, has roots in Chinese philosophy that are even more ancient). Although modern virtue ethics does not have to take the form known as "neo-Aristotelian", almost any modern version still shows that its roots are in ancient Greek philosophy by the employment of three concepts derived from it. These are arete (excellence or virtue) phronesis (practical or moral wisdom) and eudaimonia (usually translated as happiness or flourishing.) Shortcut: WP:CU Marking articles for cleanup This page is undergoing a transition to an easier-to-maintain format. ... This Manual of Style has the simple purpose of making things easy to read by following a consistent format — it is a style guide. ... Normative ethics is the branch of the philosophical study of ethics concerned with classifying actions as right and wrong, as opposed to descriptive ethics. ... For other uses, see Plato (disambiguation). ... Aristotle (Greek: AristotélÄ“s) (384 BC – March 7, 322 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. ... Aristotelianism is a tradition of philosophy that takes its defining inspiration from the work of Aristotle. ... Arete (Greek: , pronounced in English ) in its basic sense means goodness or excellence of any kind. ... Phronesis is a term used by Aristotle in Nicomachean ethics to describe practical wisdom or the ability to act on what one knows are good for man. ... This article does not cite its references or sources. ...

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Virtue ethics contrasted with other ethical systems

The methods of virtue ethics are in contrast to the dominant methods in ethical philosophy, which focus on actions. For example, both deontological ethics and consequentialist systems try to provide guiding principles for actions that allow a person to decide how to behave in any given situation. Action, as a concept in philosophy, is what humans can do. ... In ethics, deontological ethics or deontology (Greek: Deon meaning obligation or duty) is a theory holding that decisions should be made solely or primarily by considering ones duties and the rights of others. ... Consequentialism refers to those moral theories that hold that the consequences of a particular action form the basis for any valid moral judgement about that action. ...


Virtue ethics focuses on what makes a good person, rather than what makes a good action. As such it is often associated with a teleological ethical system - one that seeks to define the proper telos (goal or end) of the human person. Teleology (telos: end, purpose) is the philosophical study of design, purpose, directive principle, or finality in nature or human creations. ...


Historical origins and development

Like much of the Western tradition, virtue ethics seems to have originated in ancient Greek philosophy. Discussion of what were known as the Four Cardinal Virtues - prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance - can be found in Plato's Symposium. The virtues also figure prominently in Aristotle's moral theory (see below). The Greek idea of the virtues was later incorporated into Christian moral theology. During the scholastic period, the most comprehensive consideration of the virtues from a theological perspective was provided by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae and his Commentaries on the Nicomachean Ethics. The idea of virtue also plays a prominent role in the moral philosophy of David Hume. The term Western World or the West can have multiple meanings depending on its context. ... Virtue (Greek αρετη; Latin virtus) is the habitual, well-established, readiness or diposition of mans powers directing them to some goodness of act. ... Prudence, by Luca Giordano Allegory of Prudence, by Simon Vouet Look up Prudence, prudence in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... J.L. Urban, statue of Lady Justice at court building in Olomouc, Czech Republic Justice is the ideal, morally correct state of things and persons. ... Fortitude, or Strength, sometimes also called Courage, is one of the Four Cardinal Virtues of the Catholic Church. ... Temperance is the practice of moderation. ... For other uses, see Plato (disambiguation). ... The Symposium is a philosophical dialogue of Plato, written sometime after 385 BCE. It is a gathering of intellectually diverse, and apparently wise men who are of one mind about love, that the best kind is between an older man, the erastes, and his beloved boy, the eromenos. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged into Christianity. ... Saint Thomas Aquinas [Thomas of Aquin, or Aquino] (c. ... Summa theologiae, Pars secunda, prima pars. ... David Hume (April 26, 1711 – August 25, 1776)[1] was a Scottish philosopher, economist, and historian. ...


Virtue ethics has been a recurring theme of political philosophy in the emergence of classical liberalism or republicanism, particularly in the Scottish Enlightenment that was carried to the British North American colonies and influenced the Founders of the United States. An exemplar of this was George Washington, who summarized his moral philosophy in a few words said on the final day, September 17, 1787, of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Many of the participants were dissatisfied with the Constitution they had just drafted, and concerned about its prospects for adoption and success. Washington is reported to have said, "Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair. The event is in the hands of God." He was saying that we are not morally responsible for outcomes, which largely result from factors we cannot control, and that while it is virtuous to do one's duty, sometimes we have to venture into new territory, creating new duties for ourselves not previously established. When we do that, our guide is the good opinion of those we admire as virtuous, and that the most virtuous members of society provide the standards for making moral decisions, by their own virtuous examples.


Achieving eudaimonia

Eudaimonia is a state variously translated as "happiness" or "human flourishing". The latter translation is more accurate; eudaimonia is not a subjective, but an objective, state. It characterizes the well-lived life, irrespective of the emotional state of the person experiencing it. According to Aristotle, the most prominent exponent of eudaimonia in the Western philosophical tradition, eudaimonia is the proper goal of human life. It consists of exercising the characteristic human quality-- reason-- in the characteristic human community-- the polis or city-state. Reason is a term used in philosophy and other human sciences to refer to the faculty of the human mind that creates and operates with abstract concepts. ... A polis (πολις) — plural: poleis (πολεις) — is a city, or a city-state. ... A city-state is a region controlled exclusively by a city. ...


Although eudaimonia was first popularized by Aristotle, it now belongs to the tradition of virtue ethics generally. For the virtue ethicist, eudaimonia describes that state achieved by the person who lives the proper human life, an outcome which can be reached by practicing the virtues. A virtue is a habit or quality that allows the bearer to succeed at his, her, or its purpose. The virtue of a knife, for example, is sharpness; among the virtues of a racehorse is speed. Thus to identify the virtues for human beings, one must have an account of what the human purpose is. There is, and always has been, sharp disagreement on this question: thus, as Alasdair MacIntyre observed in After Virtue, thinkers as diverse as Homer, Aristotle, the authors of the New Testament, Thomas Aquinas, and Benjamin Franklin have all proposed lists of the virtues, these lists often fail to overlap. Aristotle praises magnanimity but does not mention faith; the New Testament does the reverse. Alasdair Chalmers MacIntyre (born January 12, 1929 in Glasgow, Scotland) is a philosopher primarily known for his contribution to moral and political philosophy but known also for his work in history of philosophy and theology. ... After Virtue is a highly regarded book on moral philosophy by Alasdair MacIntyre published in 1981 with a second edition appearing in 1984. ... Homer (Greek Hómēros) was a legendary early Greek poet and aoidos (singer) traditionally credited with the composition of the Iliad and the Odyssey. ... John 21:1 Jesus Appears to His Disciples--Alessandro Mantovani: the Vatican, Rome. ... Saint Thomas Aquinas [Thomas of Aquin, or Aquino] (c. ... Benjamin Franklin (January 17 [O.S. January 6] 1706 – April 17, 1790) was one of the most well known Founding Fathers of the United States. ... Magnanimity is the generosity of the victor to the defeated. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ...


Aristotle categorized the virtues as moral and intellectual. Aristotle identified nine intellectual virtues, the most important of which were sophia (theoretical wisdom) and phronesis (practical wisdom). The moral virtues included prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. Aristotle argued that each of the moral virtues was a mean (see Golden Mean) between two corresponding vices. For example, the virtue of courage is a mean between the two vices of cowardice and foolhardiness. Where cowardice is the disposition to act more fearfully than the situation deserves, and foolhardiness is the disposition to show too little fear for the situation, courage is the mean between the two: the disposition to show the amount of fear appropriate to the situation. Character traits necessary for right action and correct thinking. ... In philosophy (especially that of Aristotle), the golden mean is the felicitous middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency; for this meaning, see golden mean (philosophy). ... Cowardice is a vice that is conventionally viewed as the corruption of prudence, to thwart all courage or bravery. ...


Virtue ethics outside the Western tradition

Non-Western moral and religious philosophies, such as Confucianism, also incorporate ideas that may appear similar to those developed by the ancient Greeks. Like ancient Greek ethics, Chinese ethical thought makes an explicit connection between virtue and statecraft. However, where the Greeks focused on the interior orientation of the soul, Confucianism's definition of virtue emphasizes interpersonal relations. Confucian temple in Jiading district, Shanghai. ... Public affairs is a catch-all term that includes public policy as well as public administration, both of which are closely related to and draw upon the fields of political science as well as economics. ...


Normally when the term virtue ethics is used, it is in reference to the western conception of virtue ethics, rather than any of the schools of East Asian ethical thought.


Contemporary virtue ethics

Although some Enlightenment philosophers (e.g. Hume) continued to emphasize the virtues, with the ascendancy of utilitarianism and deontology, virtue ethics moved to the margins of Western philosophy. The contemporary revival of virtue ethics is frequently traced to the philosopher G. E. M. Anscombe's 1958 essay, Modern Moral Philosophy and to Philippa Foot, who published a collection of essays in 1978 entitled Virtues and Vices. Since the 1980s, in works like After Virtue and Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry, philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre has made an effort to reconstruct a virtue-based ethics in dialogue with the problems of modern and postmodern thought. Following MacIntyre, Stanley Hauerwas, American Methodist theologian, has also found the language of virtue quite helpful in his own project. More recently, Rosalind Hursthouse has published On Virtue Ethics and Roger Crisp and Michael Slote have edited a collection of important essays titled Virtue Ethics. The Age of Enlightenment (from the German word Aufklärung, meaning Enlightenment) refers to either the eighteenth century in European and American philosophy, or the longer period including the seventeenth century and the Age of Reason. ... David Hume (April 26, 1711 – August 25, 1776)[1] was a Scottish philosopher, economist, and historian. ... Utilitarianism (from the Latin utilis, useful) is the ethical doctrine that the moral worth of an action is solely determined by its contribution to overall utility. ... In moral philosophy, deontology is the view that morality either forbids or permits actions, which is done through moral norms. ... Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe (March 18, 1919 – January 5, 2001) (known as Elizabeth Anscombe, published as G. E. M. Anscombe) was a British analytic philosopher, a theologian and a pupil of Ludwig Wittgenstein. ... Year 1958 (MCMLVIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Philippa Ruth Foot (1920-), born in Bosanquet, is a British philosopher, most notable for her works in ethics. ... 1978 (MCMLXXVIII) was a common year starting on Sunday. ... After Virtue is a highly regarded book on moral philosophy by Alasdair MacIntyre published in 1981 with a second edition appearing in 1984. ... Alasdair Chalmers MacIntyre (born January 12, 1929 in Glasgow, Scotland) is a philosopher primarily known for his contribution to moral and political philosophy but known also for his work in history of philosophy and theology. ... Andy Warhols iconic Marilyn Monroe Postmodernism is an idea that has been extremely controversial and difficult to define among scholars, intellectuals, and historians, because the term implies to many that the modern historical period has passed. ... Dr. Stanley Hauerwas Stanley Hauerwas (b. ... This article is about the current denomination in the United States. ... Rosalind Hursthouse is a moral philosopher noted for her work on virtue ethics. ... Michael Slote is UST Professor of Ethics at the University of Miami and is author of From Morality to Virtue (1992) and Morals From Motives (2001). ...


Aretaic turn

The aretaic turn is a movement in contemporary moral philosophy and ethics to emphasize character and human excellence or virtue, as opposed to moral rules or consequences. This movement has been extended to other disciplines, including epistemology, politics, and jurisprudence. Aretaic is from the Greek arete, meaning excellence or virtue. Aretaic thus means of or pertaining to virtue or excellence. In contemporary philosophy, aretaic approaches are those which focus on human excellence or virtue. This article is being considered for deletion in accordance with Wikipedias deletion policy. ... This article does not cite its references or sources. ... Politics is the process by which groups make decisions. ... Jurisprudence is the theory and philosophy of law. ... Arete (Greek: , pronounced in English ) in its basic sense means goodness or excellence of any kind. ...


In moral philosophy, the phrase aretaic turn refers to the renewed emphasis on human excellence or virtue in moral theory and ethics. One important moment in the aretaic turn was the publication by the Oxford philosopher G. E. M. Anscombe of "Modern Moral Philosophy", which criticized utilitarian and deontological approaches to moral theory and suggested a return to Aristotelian themes in moral philosophy. In the 1960s and 1970s, this led to the re-emergence of the ancient Greek ethical school of virtue ethics. Important work was done by Philippa Foot, Peter Geach, John McDowell, and others. Contemporary philosophers working on virtue ethics include Rosalind Hursthouse, Michael Slote, and Christine Swanton. In 'The Schizophrenia of Modern Ethical Theories' Crisp and Slote 1997 Michael Stocker summarises the main aretaic criticisms of Deontological and Consequentionalist ethics. One of the most influential pieces of work in modern times dealing with ethics, G. E. M. Anscombes article, Modern Moral Philosophy, was originally published in the journal Philosophy 33, No. ... Aristotelianism is a tradition of philosophy that takes its defining inspiration from the work of Aristotle. ... Philippa Ruth Foot (1920-), born in Bosanquet, is a British philosopher, most notable for her works in ethics. ... Peter Thomas Geach (born 1919) is one of the foremost contemporary British philosophers. ... John Henry McDowell (born 1942) is a contemporary philosopher, formerly a fellow of University College, Oxford and now University Professor at the University of Pittsburgh. ... Rosalind Hursthouse is a moral philosopher noted for her work on virtue ethics. ... Michael Slote is UST Professor of Ethics at the University of Miami and is author of From Morality to Virtue (1992) and Morals From Motives (2001). ...


The aretaic turn in moral philosophy is paralleled by analogous developments in other philosophical disciplines. These include epistemology, where a distinctive virtue epistemology has been developed by Linda Zagzebski and others. In political theory, there has been discussion of virtue politics, and in legal theory, there is a small but growing literature on virtue jurisprudence. Kingfisher College Chair of the Philosophy of Religion and Ethics, University of Oklahoma. ... In the philosophy of law, virtue jurisprudence is the name given to theories of law related to virtue ethics. ...


Aretaic approaches to morality, epistemology, and jurisprudence have been the subject of intense debates. One criticism that is frequently made focuses on the problem of guidance. How does the idea of a virtuous moral actor, believer, or judge provide the guidance necessary for action, belief formation, or the decision of legal disputes?


Criticisms of virtue ethics

As with all other schools of ethical theory, there are objections to virtue ethics.


Some claim a problem with the theory is the difficulty of establishing the nature of the virtues. Different people, cultures and societies often have vastly different opinions on what constitutes a virtue. For example, many would have once considered a virtuous woman to be quiet, servile, and industrious. This conception of female virtue no longer holds true in many modern societies (see also cultural relativism). Proponents of virtue ethics sometimes respond to this objection by arguing that a central feature of a virtue is its universal applicability. In other words, any character trait defined as a virtue must reasonably be universally regarded as a virtue for all sentient beings. According to this view, it is inconsistent to claim for example servility as a female virtue, while at the same time not proposing it as a male one. Cultural relativism is the principle that an individual humans beliefs and activities make sense in terms of his or her own culture. ...


Other proponents of virtue ethics, notably Alasdair MacIntyre, respond to this objection by arguing that any account of the virtues must indeed be generated out of the community in which those virtues are to be practiced: the very word 'ethics' implies 'ethos'. That is to say that the virtues are, and necessarily must be, grounded in a particular time and place. What counts as virtue in fourth-century Athens would be a ludicrous guide to proper behaviour in twenty-first-century Toronto, and vice-versa. To take this view does not necessarily commit one to the argument that accounts of the virtues must therefore be static: moral activity-- that is, attempts to contemplate and practice the virtues-- can provide the cultural resources that allow people to change, albeit slowly, the ethos of their own societies. MacIntyre appears to take this position in his seminal work on virtue ethics, After Virtue. One might cite (though MacIntyre does not) the rapid emergence of abolitionist thought in the slave-holding societies of the eighteenth-century Atlantic world as an example of this sort of change: over a relatively short period of time, perhaps 1760 to 1800, in Britain, France, and British America, slave-holding, previously thought to be morally neutral or even virtuous, rapidly became seen as vicious among wide swathes of society. While the emergence of abolitionist thought derived from many sources, the work of David Brion Davis, among others, has established that one source was the rapid, internal evolution of moral theory among certain sectors of these societies, notably the Quakers. Alasdair Chalmers MacIntyre (born January 12, 1929 in Glasgow, Scotland) is a philosopher primarily known for his contribution to moral and political philosophy but known also for his work in history of philosophy and theology. ... After Virtue is a highly regarded book on moral philosophy by Alasdair MacIntyre published in 1981 with a second edition appearing in 1984. ... This article is about the abolition of slavery. ... Wiktionary has related dictionary definitions, such as: slave Slave may refer to: Slavery, where people are owned by others, and live to serve their owners without pay Slave (BDSM), a form of sexual and consenual submission Slave clock, in technology, a clock or timer that synchrnonizes to a master clock... The Atlantic world is an organizing concept for the historical study of the Atlantic Ocean rim from the fifteenth century to the present. ... David Brion Davis is Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University. ... The Religious Society of Friends, commonly known as Quakers, or Friends, is a religious community founded in England in the 17th century. ...


Another objection to virtue ethics is that the school does not focus on what sorts of actions are morally permitted and which ones are not, but rather on what sort of qualities someone ought to foster in order to become a good person. In other words, while some virtue ethicists may not condemn, for example, murder as an inherently immoral or impermissible sort of action, they may argue that someone who commits a murder is severely lacking in several important virtues, such as compassion and fairness. Still, antagonists of the theory often object that this particular feature of the theory makes virtue ethics useless as a universal norm of acceptable conduct suitable as a base for legislation. Some virtue theorists concede to this point, but respond by opposing the very notion of legitimate legislative authority instead, effectively advocating some form of anarchism as the political ideal. Others argue that it is possible to base a judicial system on the moral notion of virtues rather than rules. Some virtue ethicists, like Phillipa Foot, might respond to this overall objection with the notion of a "bad act" also being an act characteristic of vice. That is to say that those acts which do not aim at virtue, or stray from virtue, would constitute our conception of "bad behavior". Although not all virtue ethicists agree to this notion, this is one way the virtue ethicist can re-introduce the concept of the "morally impermissible". It has been suggested that Idiot compassion be merged into this article or section. ... Justice is a concept involving the fair and moral treatment of all persons, especially in law. ... Legislation (or statutory law) is law which has been promulgated (or enacted) by a legislature or other governing body. ... In politics, authority (Latin auctoritas, used in Roman law as opposed to potestas and imperium) is often used interchangeably with the term power. However, their meanings differ. ... Anarchist redirects here. ... Philippa Ruth Foot (1920-), née Bosanquet, is a British philosopher, most notable for her works in ethics. ... The software program VICE (all caps), standing for VersatIle Commodore Emulator, is an emulator for Commodores 8-bit computers, running on Unix, MS-DOS, Win32, Mac OS X, OS/2, Acorn RISC OS, and BeOS host machines. ...


See also

Aristotle (Greek: Aristotélēs) (384 BC – March 7, 322 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. ... Aristotelianism is a tradition of philosophy that takes its defining inspiration from the work of Aristotle. ... G. E. M. Anscombe (18 March 1919 – 5 January 2001) (born Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe, also known as Elizabeth Anscombe) was a British analytic philosopher. ... Philippa Ruth Foot (1920-), born in Bosanquet, is a British philosopher, most notable for her works in ethics. ... Rosalind Hursthouse is a moral philosopher noted for her work on virtue ethics. ... Alasdair Chalmers MacIntyre (born January 12, 1929 in Glasgow, Scotland) is a philosopher primarily known for his contribution to moral and political philosophy but known also for his work in history of philosophy and theology. ... After Virtue is a highly regarded book on moral philosophy by Alasdair MacIntyre published in 1981 with a second edition appearing in 1984. ... The Seven Virtues were derived from the Psychomachia (Contest of the Soul), an epic poem written by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (c. ... Personification of virtue (Greek ἀρετή) in Celsus Library in Ephesos, Turkey Virtue (Latin virtus; Greek ) is moral excellence of a person. ... In the philosophy of law, virtue jurisprudence is the name given to theories of law related to virtue ethics. ...

Further reading

  • Virtue: Confucius and Aristotle by Jiyuan Yu

Jiyuan Yu is a moral philosopher noted for his work on virtue ethics. ...

External links


  Results from FactBites:
 
Virtue ethics - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (2200 words)
The virtue of a knife, for example, is sharpness; among the virtues of a racehorse is speed.
Hume) continued to emphasize the virtues, with the ascendancy of utilitarianism and deontology, virtue ethics moved to the margins of Western philosophy.
The contemporary revival of virtue ethics is frequently traced to the philosopher G.
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