Talk:Virtue ethics

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In the "Achieving Eudaimonia" sections of this article, at the end, we read:

It is possible to argue that eudaimonia can also be seen as the achievement and stabilisation in the waking consciousness of a profound state of meditation arising because practise of virtues has allowed prolonged one-pointed attention known as samadhi Enlightenment (concept) in some contemplative traditions. This approach to the virtues as important prerequisities to successful meditation resembles that of 20th century Buddhist monks of the Thai Forest Tradition such as Ajahn Thate and Ajahn Maha Bua, as practised in ancient times in the contemplative universities such as Nalanda in Northern India as well as numerous schools of mysticism from most religious faiths.

Aside from being not too well written, really, what is the point of this paragraph? Not that Buddhist ethics aren't interesting, but to haphazardly (and loosely) attempt connect eudaimonia with samadhi in such a small space really seems fruitless to me. I'm removing it, unless someone can improve this entry or argue otherwise. T of Locri (talk) 17:33, 24 June 2009 (UTC)

Hospital example[edit]

The example I gave (of the hospital) comes from some half-remembered text I read years ago, it would be nice to give a reference. Anyone recognise it? Evercat 00:23 6 Jul 2003 (UTC)

Sorry, I forgot to post a summary for my first (substantial) edit. I added brief references to Greek, Christian and modern writers who focused on virtue ethics. Once that was done, the example seemed kind of lost. Where it was it interrupted the flow, and at the end it seemed like an orphan. Think it needs amplification before coming back in. Where it was was fine for the length of article it was at that time.

Moss Hart 03:42 24 Jul 2003 (UTC)

Oh well. Away it goes, I guess. :-) Evercat 11:19 24 Jul 2003 (UTC)

Possible incorporation on page on perfectionism[edit]

I was wondering if the page on perfectionism be incorporated into this one. May help with some referencing. Kamahasanyi (talk) 16:53, 30 May 2008 (UTC)


A virtue is a disposition or a tendency to act in a specific way or do what is right. It is a habit, an inner motivation manifesting itself through outward conduct. The basis of our virtue ethic comes from both Greek and Biblical influences. The Bible places more weight on virtue than on the rules of conduct. Up until the modern era, the history of ethics gave equal weight to both virtue and conduct. Plato studied virtues such as courage, wisdom, temperance, and justice. Aquinas later added the virtues of love, faith, and hope. Aristotle looked at the weakness of the will that undermined the moral character of man.

It is not enough to have a moral reasoning about what we should do and not do, we must have a moral tendency to choose and do what is right. This makes a reliable and responsible person. I have heard that more than half of America's young people have had sexual intercourse by the time they are seventeen. Is it because they are morally ignorant, or because they have flawed moral reasoning? Knowing what is right will have no effect on a person without a virtuous inner disposition.

The article already mentions the four cardinal virtues of Greek philosophy in the "Historical origins" section, but does not mention the three theological virtues of love, faith, and hope expounded by Aquinas. This could be a valuable addition to the article. Someone should consider adding, perhaps to the "Historical origins" section.--Jjhake 04:04, 23 January 2006 (UTC)

What is the Greek plural for eudaimon?[edit]

From the 'Acheiving eudaimonia' section: "This is why, for many virtue ethicists, such as Aristotle, only older people can be truly called a eudaimon as only they have enough practical experience of life." It seems to me that 'a eudaimon' should be pluralized, or the sentence should be rephrased. Anyone know Greek plurals? WhiteC 06:46, 24 January 2006 (UTC)

The plural of eudaimon would be eudaimones, however, I would leave the sentence as is. Ig0774 02:01, 26 January 2006 (UTC)
Why? 'Older people' is plural isn't it? WhiteC 18:02, 26 January 2006 (UTC)
Grammatically, you are, of course, right. But 'older people' may each individually be referred to in the singular, thus "a eudaimon rather than eudaimones. Besides which, Aristotle and the other "virtue ethicists" (G.E.M. Anscombe and Philippa Foot) I am familiar with tend to focus on the more individual nature of virtue (i.e. my virtue). Thus, I would favor rephrasing the sentence, if you feel that some change is necessary. Sorry that my last comment didn't make that sufficiently clear. Ig0774 06:27, 12 February 2006 (UTC)
Ah! Yes, that makes sense. Thankyou. I changed the article to keep 'eudaimon' in it. WhiteC 01:05, 13 February 2006 (UTC)
I would change the sentence to read "This is why, for many virtue ethicists, such as Aristotle, only older people can be truly called eudaimon..." 'eudaimon' is an adjective, not a noun.

Speaking of which .. if a section of Virtue ethics is devoted to eudaimonism, then shouldn't epicureanism and hedonism at least be referred to, for the sake of completeness ? Bokske (talk) 20:18, 11 May 2008 (UTC)

Go ahead and refer to them, if you like. Seems to me there's a much closer connection to eudaimonism than to the other two traditions, though.Talented Mr Miller (talk) 17:33, 14 May 2008 (UTC)


I've included a reference to David Brion Davis' work to illustrate the idea that the practice of the virtues does not preclude contemplation, and amendation, of what constitutes virtue and the good life, as some critics of the tradition have averred. There should really be a footnote to Davis in the main page, but I don't know how to add one. If anybody does, I would appreciate it if they could add it on my behalf. The work in question is Davis' monograph The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution.Talented Mr Miller 16:47, 14 February 2007 (UTC)

Reconsidering organization[edit]

Perhaps it would be best to reorganize the entry to emphasize, at the beginning of the article, how contemporary normative ethics conceives of the distinction between deontological, consequentialist and virtue-focused approaches, and framing the article's structure around the central question of the definition of virtue.

Any thoughts?

Sounds like a fine idea to me.Talented Mr Miller 18:30, 5 September 2006 (UTC)
Your suggestion would improve upon the current opening. The first two sentences of the entry are an exact copy (plagarism) of the beginning of the "Virtue Ethics" entry written by R. Jay Wallace (Professor at Berkelely, I think) for Stanford's Encyclopedia of Philosophy. - Baikaiwen 19:14, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
Ten months later, I've given it a go. No more plagiarism, and I hope a sharper definition of the key concepts of the tradition and how it differs from other traditions.Talented Mr Miller 16:10, 5 July 2007 (UTC)

Aristotle and the polis[edit]

The most recent edit detaches the idea of virtue from its place in the polis. It seems to me that for Aristotle the role of the polis as the site where virtue is exercised is fundamental: bringing in Plato muddies the waters and mischaracterizes Aristotle. (One of the difficulties with using Aristotle's ethics as a guide today, as MacIntyre has argued, is that Aristole presumes the polis and we no longer live in them.) Any thoughts? Barring objections, I'm going to remove the reference to Plato in a few days. Talented Mr Miller 16:47, 14 February 2007 (UTC)


"The idea of virtue also plays a prominent role in the moral philosophy of David Hume."

Anyone mind telling me how? Hume is often seen as a forerunner of utilitarianism, whose moral philosophy verges on this theory--which conflicts with virtue ethics.

"It must still be allowed, that every quality of the mind, which is useful or agreeable to the person himself or to others, communicates a pleasure to the spectator, engages his esteen, and is admitted under the honourable denomination of virtue or merit. Are not justice, fidelity, honour, veracity, allegiance, chastity, esteemed solely on account of their tendency to promote the good of society? Is not that tendency inseparable from humanity, benevolence, lenity, generosity, gratitude, moderation, tenderness, friendship, and all the other social virtues?" Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, ed. Beauchamp, p. 151.
Maybe it would be a good idea for the article to explain the difference between virtue ethics, strictly speaking, and character utilitarianism? - :Well said. One might go further and point out, pace MacIntyre, that many Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment philosophers have used the vocabulary of virtue, but have used it to describe merely a disposition to obey the rules, or to maximize utility. 'Virtue' in this sense is quite hollowed out compared to 'virtue' as used by virtue ethicists.Talented Mr Miller 14:36, 3 April 2007 (UTC)
Hume explicitly says that moral judgments properly speaking are always about character, never about action. If that doesn't define one as a virtue ethicist I don't know what does. The Treatise has extensive chapters on several of the classical virtues, but almost nothing on anything remotely consequentialist if further proof is needed. Hume resembles a utilitarian in absolutely no important respect that I can think of, whereas the virtues are clearly central to his moral thinking. (He does hold that human happiness is the point of practical reason, including morality - but so did Aristotle, the definitive virtue theorist. That alone hardly marks one as a utilitarian.) (talk) 04:25, 27 September 2009 (UTC)

Not encyclopedic?[edit]

In the criticisms section, in the paragraph beginning "Some virtue ethicists, like Phillipa Foot, might respond to this overall objection...", the phrase "like Phillipa Foot" was recently removed with an edit summary saying "not encyclopedic". I'm not sure what about this inclusion isn't encyclopedic, but regardless, the arguments presented in this section are in desperate need of attribution, so I am reinstating the reference to Foot. I would also strongly encourage those editors who are well-versed in the literature on this topic to add attribution that would organize this section into a conversation between particular philosophers rather than a hypothetical exchange between Some Philosophers, Other Philosophers, and One Might Say. - AdelaMae (t - c - wpn) 08:54, 5 November 2007 (UTC)

You should not really bring individuals into it until you have a source (if one is well versed, it really shouldn't be hard 2 find 1). I have removed the reference to Foot and put a fact tag in its place. digitalemotion 23:41, 24 January 2008 (UTC)

Classical republicanism[edit]

I've rewritten the historical section. Before there was a basic contradiction in the article in that the earlier bits emphasized the tradition's eclipse in the early modern period, while the later bits emphasized its role in the American Founding. I've attempted to draw the distinction between virtue ethics and classical republicanism to deal with this confusion, but it may be too long.Talented Mr Miller (talk) 19:22, 11 July 2008 (UTC)

Hmm, my footnote isn't displaying properly... —Preceding unsigned comment added by Talented Mr Miller (talkcontribs) 19:23, 11 July 2008 (UTC)

Contentious and unrepresentative claims[edit]

Throughout at least the header, which is as far as I could get without barfing, there are highly contentious claims such as "Virtue theory is not actually in conflict with deontology or teleology as those two viewpoints deal with which actions a person should take in any given scenario, virtue theorists simply argue that developing morally desirable virtues for their own sake will help aid moral actors when such decisions need to be made." or referring to virtues as "inherent" that simply don't represent current ethical theory. I am just beginning to dig into the massive literature on this subject but it's already clear that not only does this article get as much wrong as right, but this isn't even the benign sort of oversimplification one gives to first-year undergrads, it's just garbage. (talk) 04:31, 27 September 2009 (UTC)


The 'greatest happiness principle' was Bentham not Mill, as Mill says in the first few words of his book Utilitarianism. The Harm (sometimes known as 'Least Harm') principle was Mill.

--Torched-Geek (talk) 01:31, 7 December 2009 (UTC)

'Teleological Necessity'[edit]

Someone has rightly highlighted the need for citations in the 'Distinctions' section at the bottom on "Virtue theory's necessary commitment to a teleological account of human life". I'm coming to this page for background information before starting to research virtue ethics, and I can already see telos as not being necessary for virtue ethics to hold weight. One simply has to place value on the virtues themselves. There need not necessarily be any ulterior aim. At very least I would like some citation in this section to point towards where this is being said elsewhere so as to engage with this position. --Erenaeoth (talk) 22:08, 6 November 2013 (GMT)

Moral and intellectual virtues[edit]

The article states that "Aristotle categorized the virtues as moral and intellectual. Aristotle identified nine intellectual virtues, the most important of which was wisdom; sophia (theoretical wisdom) and phronesis (practical wisdom). The other eight moral virtues include: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance"

This does not make much sense. It could perhaps be argued that Aristotle identifies nine intellectual virtues, but it is hardly uncontroversial. And there are definitely more than nine moral virtues discussed in the Nicomachean Ethics. Moreover, "prudence", which is here listed as a moral virtue, can only be a translation of phronesis, which has already been mentioned as an intellectual virtue (correctly so). Paukum (talk) 15:37, 19 November 2013 (UTC)

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Hi all. It's been a few years since anyone's touched this article. I'm writing my dissertation on virtue ethics and so thought I'd overhaul it. I'm starting with restructures so that there is a clear (introduction, history, topic 1, topic 2) approach that works very well on other philosophy articles (like the philosophy of science article for instance).

Then I'll add a ton of citations. I've got dozens of books and hundreds of articles in mind from my research.

Then I'll revise the Lede. My favorite part, but must save it for last.

Please review my changes and improve them or let me know what else to improve. Thanks, CircularReason (talk) 06:16, 5 May 2016 (UTC)

History of virtue citations?[edit]

Explaining the history of virtue and how it came about is highly important in understanding virtue ethics. However, nothing is cited in this section. Where is the information coming from? Every fact does not have a point of reference. Aristotle and Plato are mentioned in this section, but adding more information about them and how their work introduced the idea of virtue will give a better understanding of what virtue is. Nayeli8rojas (talk) 03:53, 15 October 2016 (UTC)