Which variety of virtue ethics?

Julia Annas

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


As interest in virtue ethics has developed and spread, a variety of accounts of virtue, and of virtue ethics, has emerged. We are now familiar not only with neo-Aristotelian accounts (still the most popular) but also target-centered, exemplarist, agent-based and sentimentalist accounts, as well as accounts based on Kant, utilitarianism and other theories. This blossoming in a former desert is to be heartily welcomed, but it also produces a new issue for virtue ethics. How are we to evaluate, or even compare, these different versions? If we ignore tensions and conflicts between different versions, virtue may appear to be too pliable a concept, easily integrated into widely different theories and so raising doubts about its robustness as a central ethical concept. Yet attempts to judge virtue, and virtue ethics, by fitness, or not, to prior constraints on ethical concepts or theories risk begging important questions. With this in mind, I begin on a comparative project by (briefly) setting out two versions of virtue ethics and asking how well they compare in responding to some tasks and expectations of ethical theory. This is not a (hopeless) attempt to contrast theory with something completely non-theoretical, but simply a first move in the complex issue of asking what ethical theories do for us, and which do it best. The two accounts are those of Aristotle and Nietzsche.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationVarieties of Virtue Ethics
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781137591777
ISBN (Print)9781137591760
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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