More and more philosophers have advocated varieties of virtue-based ethics that challenge moral theory traditionally founded on moral obligation and the delineation of what is right or wrong in given situations. Virtue ethics, which focuses upon the character of moral agents more than on the moral status of their actions or the consequences of those actions, has become one of the most important and stimulating areas of contemporary ethical theory. "Understanding Virtue Ethics" is an accessible and lively introduction to the subject. It provides a broad overview of the history of virtue ethics from Aristotle to Nietzsche as well as examining the ideas of such contemporary writers as Ricoeur and Levinas. Major themes dealt with by moral theory are examined and how a virtue ethics approach to them differs from those of other traditions is explored. Practical problems of moral complexity such as abortion, euthanasia, and integrity in politics, and how they might be approached from a virtue perspective are considered. The charges of relativism and egoism that are often mounted against virtue ethics are rebutted and virtues that are especially relevant to contemporary life, namely, courage, taking responsibility, and reverence are examined in depth. Finally, the author argues that virtue ethics is highly relevant to our understanding of the moral dimensions of professional roles.
Introduction 1. Distinguishing virtue ethics from the ethics of duty 2. Aristotle's ethics 3. A brief history of virtue from the Stoics to Levinas 4. Reconciling virtue and justice 5. Some important virtues 6. Virtue and applied ethics Questions for discussion and revision Further reading Index