The status of contemporary virtue ethics

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Natasza Szutta

Abstract

The article concerns contemporary virtue ethics which is, along with Kantian ethics and utilitarianism, considered to be one of the most important ethical theories. Generally, virtue ethics can be understood as an agent-centered ethics, focused on the question: what kind of person should I be?; rather than on the question: what should I do?; or it could be understood as a character ethics that criticizes the attempt to formulate universal rules and only accepts so-called rules of virtue, which are less abstract. Moral assessment is made in terms of the moral good rather than in terms of the moral right. Such ethics is opposed to Kantian ethics and utilitarianism, both interpreted as act-centered ethics or rule ethics.

The analysis of different versions of virtue ethics is made in the light of the main question of this article: are the two different approaches, that of agent-centered ethics and that of act-centered ethics, mutually exclusive (as virtue ethicists claim) or rather complementary (as is claimed by the advocates of Kantian and utilitarian aretologies)? The conclusion reached in the article is that both approaches should be treated as complementary rather than competitive. Projects whose aim is to supplement deontology with aretology have been proposed by such deontologists as O. O’Neill, O. Hőffe, R. Wolf, R. Louden, who interpret Kantian ethics in terms of virtue ethics. Also, the concepts of so-called utilitarianism of virtues (R. Crisp), utilitarianism of motives (R. Adams), and character utilitarianism (P. Railton) have been formulated.

The above conclusion leads to another question: should virtue ethics be treated as an autonomous ethical theory or is it possible only as a supplementation of other theories? In this paper I argue that virtue ethics should be reduced to aretology and treated as a necessary but not sufficient part of any ethical theory.

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How to Cite
Szutta, Natasza. 2004. “The Status of Contemporary Virtue Ethics”. Diametros, no. 1 (September):70-84. https://doi.org/10.13153/diam.1.2004.17.
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Author Biography

Natasza Szutta

Absolwentka Katolickiego Uniwersytetu Lubelskiego (studia magisterskie) i Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego (studia doktoranckie). Napisała i obroniła pracę doktorską pt. Główne koncepcje współczesnej etyki cnót (2003), pod kierunkiem prof. Joanny Górnickiej – Kalinowskiej. Jest adiunktem w Zakładzie Etyki i Estetyki Uniwersytetu Gdańskiego. Publikowała w Ethosie i Etyce.
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