Virtue and Law

Terence H. Irwin

in The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Philosophy

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780195379488
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Virtue and Law

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Recent writers have commended Aristotle to the attention of contemporary moral philosophers on the grounds that he is a virtue theorist. If one commends Aristotle as a virtue theorist, one may be inclined to commend some medieval moralists as well. However, medieval moralists also raise difficulties for critics who seek to place them in a tradition of virtue theory, for they also connect morality with the requirements of natural law. Meanwhile, Thomas Aquinas's discussion of natural law makes it clear why it is reasonable to cultivate the virtues, and what difference they make to the right application of complex moral principles to specific situations. This article considers different versions of virtue theory, Aquinas and Aristotle, the link between virtue and law, natural law and its precepts, and the role of prudence.

Keywords: Aristotle; moral philosophy; virtue ethics; natural law; prudence; Thomas Aquinas

Article.  8284 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Law

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