Introduction: Virtue ethics in modern moral philosophy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingForeword/postscript

5 Scopus citations


Virtue ethics has a very long history - longer than any other tradition in moral philosophy - stretching back to the ancient Greek philosophers and, a world away, ancient Chinese philosophers as well. Its central concepts are the excellences of character, such as fairness, courage, and self-control, and it focuses on how such excellences help us live good lives, treat ourselves and others well, and share thriving communities. What makes virtue ethics different from other approaches in moral philosophy? One way to answer that question would be to point out the distinctive way that it treats the notion of rightness: right action, in virtue ethics, can be understood only with the aid of an account of the virtues, which in turn can be understood independently of right action (see Watson 1990; Hursthouse 1999, chap. 1; D. Russell 2009, chap. 2). The trouble with this answer, though, is that it is so very broad, and there is enormous diversity among virtue ethicists as to how the relation between rightness and virtue might be made more precise (see van Zyl, this volume). More than that, virtue ethicists disagree over how important the notion of “right action” is in the first place (see the chapters by Chappell and Swanton in this volume).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to
Subtitle of host publicationVirtue Ethics
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9780511734786
ISBN (Print)9781107001169
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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