Virtue Ethics and the Treatment of Animals

Rosalind Hursthouse

in The Oxford Handbook of Animal Ethics

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780195371963
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Virtue Ethics and the Treatment of Animals

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This article considers a theory that most philosophers view as deriving historically from the work of the ancient Athenian-Macedonian philosopher Aristotle. It shows how virtue ethics promotes the paradigm that we should think about moral rights and wrongs in our treatment of animals in terms of virtues and vices rather than in terms of consequences or rights and duties. The article argues that two leaders in the field of ethics and animals, Peter Singer and Tom Regan, each implicitly picks out one virtue, but one virtue only—a too concentrated focus that renders their moral theories unsatisfactory. This discussion holds that we ought to be thinking in terms of all of the virtues and vices pertinent to the moral problems that arise in human uses of nonhuman animals. It suggests that many theories have made this path difficult because of an undue focus on the concept of moral status.

Keywords: Aristotle; virtue ethics; moral right; animal treatment; Peter Singer; Tom Regan; moral status

Article.  13422 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Moral Philosophy ; Philosophy of Science

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