Virtue Ethics: Objectives and Readings

Some philosophers have said we should figure out what act is right only as a secondary issue. The important first questions should be character. We should figure out who the good people are. Only then can we ask what a good person would do in our situation — exactly the "What Would Jesus Do?" approach, except that philosophers don't necessarily pick Jesus as the ethical model. Aristotle proposed this sort of approach, which has had a resurgence of popularity in the last few decades.

OPTIONAL: View online introductory lecture on Aristotle's ethics by Professor Lawrence Hinman of the University of San Diego.


After studying this material, you should be able to:

  1. Explain the difference between a deontic and an aretaic normative ethical theory.

  2. Explain why an aretaic thinker would reject deontic approaches.

  3. Explain Aristotle's notion of the Golden Mean.

  4. Think about who (if anyone) in the contemporary world might be a moral role model.

You will write about Aristotle's ethics for your final paper.

Week 14 Aretaic (virtue-based) systems JR Ch 13
Phillip Hallie "From Cruelty to Goodness" (SS)
Aristotle "Happiness and the Virtues" (SS)
"Habit and Virtue" (SS)



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