Virtue ethics  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Virtue ethics (or aretaic ethicsfrom the Greek arete) emphasizes the role of one's character and the virtues that one's character embodies for determining or evaluating ethical behavior. Virtue ethics is one of the three major approaches to normative ethics, often contrasted to deontology which emphasizes duty to rules and consequentialism which derives rightness or wrongness from the outcome of the act itself.

The difference between these three approaches to morality tends to lie more in the ways in which moral dilemmas are approached, rather than in the moral conclusions reached. For example, a consequentialist may argue that lying is wrong because of the negative consequences produced by lying—though a consequentialist may allow that certain foreseeable consequences might make lying acceptable. A deontologist might argue that lying is always wrong, regardless of any potential "good" that might come from lying. A virtue ethicist, however, would focus less on lying in any particular instance and instead consider what a decision to tell a lie or not tell a lie said about one's character and moral behavior. As such, the morality of lying would be determined on a case-by-case basis, which would be based on factors such as personal benefit, group benefit, and intentions (as to whether they are benevolent or malevolent).

Contemporary 'aretaic turn'

Although some Enlightenment philosophers (e.g. Hume) continued to emphasize the virtues, with the ascendancy of utilitarianism and deontology, virtue theory moved to the margins of Western philosophy. The contemporary revival of virtue theory is frequently traced to the philosopher G. E. M. Anscombe's 1958 essay "Modern Moral Philosophy". Following this:

The aretaic turn in moral philosophy is paralleled by analogous developments in other philosophical disciplines. One of these is 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 body of literature on virtue jurisprudence. The aretaic turn also exists in American constitutional theory, where proponents argue for an emphasis on virtue and vice of constitutional adjudicators.

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; opponents, such as Robert Louden in his article "Some Vices of Virtue Ethics", question whether the idea of a virtuous moral actor, believer, or judge can provide the guidance necessary for action, belief formation, or the decision of legal disputes.


See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Virtue ethics" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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