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Virtue Ethics

In everyday life, morality seems less a matter of producing some good consequences or of even complying with certain rules, and more a matter of being a certain sort of person--a person with a character marked by distinctively moral dispositions, such as kindness, sensitivity to the needs of others, respectfulness, fairness, courage, seriousness of purpose, and so on.  It is not the goodness of our goals or the rightness of our rules that makes us moral, but the goodness of our dispositions.  The traditional name for such good dispositions is virtues, and thus this approach--which stems from Aristotle and other ancient moral thinkers is called virtue ethics.  Here too, there is an important truth.  The people we think of as moral do not seem to tote up consequences or to subject their actions to abstract moral rules. Rather they react morally, that is, with sensitivity to others’ needs, with a desire to be fair and generous, with a courage that is less the result of reflection than the consequence of a character that would not think of shrinking from doing what’s right.


Google Web Directory: Virtue Ethics

Internet Encyclopedia: Virtue Ethics (definition, history and contemporary issues)

Philip Cafaro provides a 'simplified (not too….) introduction' to virtue ethics.

The Ethics Updates information on virtue ethics include the online texts of Aristotle’s works in moral philosophy, related websites, and RealAudio Lectures. 

Virtue Ethics Without Character Traits claims virtue ethics can be saved from some traditional criticisms.

Moral Systems & Issues

Virtue Ethics
Teaching Ethics

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But virtue ethics encounters difficulty when it tries to account for the goodness of the virtues. Why is the disposition to fairness or to kindness good while a disposition to self-aggrandizement or to callousness is not good?  Without an account of the goodness of the moral dispositions, virtue ethics is less an answer to the question “What is moral?,” than it is to the question “To what does morality properly apply?” Its answer is that it properly applies to people’s characters rather than to their actions or to rules.  But it leaves us still in need of valid standards of morality by which to distinguish good from bad character traits.  Thus virtue ethics is dependent on the sort of moral reflection that we just saw in utilitarianism and we will see in deontological ethics.

Bill Bennett, the former Drug Czar who advocated beheading drug dealers, has authored The Book of Virtues, A Treasury of Great Moral Stories

A more scholarly treatment of the subject appears in Virtue Ethics, part of the Oxford Readings in Philosophy

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