You do not have Javascript enabled. Some elements of this website may not work correctly.

Virtue ethics holds that the morality of our action stems from its relationship to the virtues, and our moral character.

Virtue ethics attempts to reorient morality away from focusing on particular actions and toward the individual's character. This is contrasted with views that hold that the morality of an action stems from its relationship to a set of rules or duties (deontology) or its consequences (consequentialism).

Different virtue ethicists have different ways of characterizing virtues, but most tie their views closely with those of Aristotle. Aristotle argued that virtues like courage or honesty are a middle ground between two different extreme character traits. Courage, for example, is a middle ground between cowardice and recklessness. The virtuous agent, though, possesses not just one virtue, but a host of virtues that need to be balanced with one another. Aristotle, and most other virtue ethicists, introduce the idea of a perfectly virtuous agent to address this. For any given action, the right action is not the one which merely instantiates one virtue; it is whatever action the ideal agent would do in those circumstances. Aristotle also held that the truly flourishing human life (Eudaimonia) is only attainable by having a virtuous character.

Further reading

Hursthouse, Rosalind. 2012. Virtue ethics. In Edward Zalta (ed.), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Wikipedia. 2016. Virtue ethics.