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Hursthouse, Rosalind, , . Normative Virtue Ethics
1996, in Roger Crisp (ed.), How Should One Live? Essays on the Virtues. Oxford University Press. 19-36.
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Abstract: Shows that virtue ethics can specify right action and defends the view that the sort of practical guidance it provides accommodates several conditions of adequacy that any normative ethics should meet. It is argued that (1) it generates an account of moral education, (2) it incorporates the view that moral wisdom cannot simply be acquired from textbooks, and (3) it can resolve resolvable dilemmas or moral conflicts but is not committed in advance to there being no such things as irresolvable dilemmas.

Introduction: A common belief concerning virtue ethics is that it does not tell us what we should do. This belief is sometimes manifested merely in the expressed assumption that virtue ethics, in being ‘agent-centred’ rather than ‘act-centred’, is concerned with Being rather than Doing, with good (and bad) character rather than right (and wrong) action, with the question ‘What sort of person should I be?’ rather than the question ‘What should I do?’ On this assumption, ‘virtue ethics’ so-called does not figure as a normative rival to utilitarian and deontological ethics. Anyone who wants to espouse virtue ethics as a rival to deon­tological or utilitarian ethics will find this common belief voiced against her as an objection: ‘Virtue ethics does not, because it can­not, tell us what we should do. Hence it cannot be a normative rival to deontology and utilitarianism.’ This paper is devoted to defending virtue ethics against this objection.

Comment: This is an easy-to-understand, concise argument in favour of the viability of virtue ethics. It is a useful illustration of the practical application of Aristotelian moral theory and would aid students understanding of that type of view and its implications if assigned as a supplement. Easy to understand even for those relatively unfamiliar with the issues, it is suitable as part of a first introduction to virtue ethics for undergraduates.

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Swanton, Christine, , . A Virtue Ethical Account of Right Action
2001, Ethics 112(1): 32-52.
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Introduction: It is a common view of virtue ethics that it emphasizes the evaluation of agents and downplays or ignores the evaluation of acts, especially their evaluation as right or wrong. Despite this view, some contemporary proponents of virtue ethics have explicitly offered a virtue ethical criterion of the right, contrasting that criterion with Kantian and consequentialist criteria. I too believe that though the virtues themselves require excellence in affective and motivational states, they can also provide the basis of accounts of rightness of actions, where the criteria for rightness can deploy notions of success extending beyond such agent-centered excellences. They can do this, I shall claim, through the notion of the target or aim of a virtue. This notion can provide a distinctively virtue ethical notion of rightness of actions. In this article I make two basic assumptions: first, that a virtue ethical search for a virtue ethical criterion of rightness is an appropriate search, and second, since virtue ethics in modern guise is still in its infancy, relatively speaking, more work needs to be done in the exploration of virtue ethical criteria of the right.

Comment: This paper attempts to develop virtue ethics by outlining a way that a clear concept of right action can form a part of it, as well as describing and addressing some of the gaps in modern virtue ethics. It would be useful as part of an in-depth examination of virtue ethics, either in a course on normative ethics or perhaps as a look at how the virtue ethics of the ancients could be adapted to be relevant for modern society. Though it requires some background knowledge of virtue ethics, in a context where that has been provided it would be suitable for undergraduate students.

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Swanton, Christine, , . Virtue Ethics
2011, in Christian Miller (ed.), The Continuum (or Bloomsbury) Companion to Ethics.
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Introduction: Part I of this article discusses the nature of virtue ethics as a type of normative ethical theory, alongside primarily consequentialism and Kantianism. However, since the virtue concepts are central to all types of virtue ethics, attention needs to be paid to the notion of virtue as an excellence of character, and related notions such as the virtue concepts as aplied to actions (e.g., kind act). Part II discusses the notion of virtue as an excellence of character, while part III further elucidates the nature of virtue ethics by considering a number of central but selected issues, such as the notion of virtuous action and virtue ethical conceptions of right action. Needless to say not all of interest can be treated here.

Comment: A good, detailed overview of virtue ethics, including a good examination of the degree of diversity virtue ethical views can have. It would serve as a good first introduction to the topic, either in an undergraduate course on moral theory generally or virtue ethics specifically.

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