Philosophy 174 - 9.4 Virtue Ethics

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Identify the central principles of virtue ethics.
  • Distinguish the major features of Confucianism.
  • Evaluate Aristotle’s moral theory.

Virtue ethics takes a character-centered approach to morality. Whereas Mohists and utilitarians look to consequences to determine the rightness of an action and deontologists maintain that a right action is the one that conforms to moral rules and norms, virtue ethicists argue that right action flows from good character traits or dispositions. We become a good person, then, through the cultivation of character, self-reflection, and self-perfection.

There is often a connection between the virtuous life and the good life in virtue ethics because of its emphasis on character and self-cultivation. Through virtuous development, we realize and perfect ourselves, laying the foundation for a good life. In Justice as a Virtue, for example, Mark LeBar (2020) notes that “on the Greek eudaimonist views (including here Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, and Epicurus) our reasons for action arise from our interest in [eudaimonia, or] a happy life.” The ancient Greeks thought the aim of life was eudaimonia. Though eudaimonia is often translated as “happiness,” it means something closer to “a flourishing life.” Confucianism, with its strong emphasis on repairing the fractured social world, connects the promotion of virtuous development and social order. Confucians believe virtuous action is informed by social roles and relationships, such that promoting virtuous development also promotes social order.

The content of this course has been taken from the free Philosophy textbook by Openstax