Virtue Ethics

Julia Annas

in The Oxford Handbook of Ethical Theory

Published in print June 2007 | ISBN: 9780195325911
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Virtue Ethics


In the tradition of Western philosophy since the fifth century bc, the default form of ethical theory has been some version of what is nowadays called virtue ethics. Virtue ethics is best approached by looking at the central features of the classical version of the tradition. Modern virtue ethical theories have not yet achieved such a critical mass of argument and theory, and most are as yet partial or fragmentary. This article builds up, cumulatively, a picture of the entire structure of classical virtue ethics, and then sees how different versions of it result from ignoring or rejecting parts of that structure. The result, while unavoidably schematic, helps to clarify the various debates that are growing up in virtue ethics, and helps to orient those who are less familiar with the terrain and are sometimes puzzled by the recent proliferation of theories with the name virtue ethics.

Keywords: Western philosophy; ethical theory; virtue ethics; classical virtue ethics; debates

Article.  10513 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Moral Philosophy

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