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Is Aristotle a Virtue Ethicist?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRereading Ancient Philosophy
Subtitle of host publicationOld Chestnuts and Sacred Cows
EditorsVerity Harte, Raphael Woolf
PublisherCambridge University Press, Cambridge
ISBN (Electronic)9781108163866
E-pub ahead of printDec 2017


  • Is Aristotle a Virtue Ethicist?_AUFDERHEIDE_PublishedonlineDecember2017_GREEN AAM

    Aufderheide_Aristotle_and_virtue_ethics_FINALedited_acadedu.pdf, 216 KB, application/pdf

    Uploaded date:05 May 2017

    Version:Accepted author manuscript

    This material has been published in 'Rereading Ancient Philosophy
    Old Chestnuts and Sacred Cows' by / edited by Verity Harte [Ed.] and Raphael Woolf [Ed.]. This version is free to view and download for personal use only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works. © Cambridge University Press.

King's Authors


The chapter explores whether we should take Aristotle to be a virtue ethicist, understood as distinct from consequentialist and deontological approaches. For Aristotle the decisive questions whether virtue is prior to ethically good action or vice versa is equivalent to the question which mean is prior, the one characterising virtue or the one characterising good action. I argue that Aristotle would not seem to be a virtue ethicist because a) the definition of virtue in EN 2.6 tends towards priority of action, even if it also attributes an important role to the wise person, and b) an examination of the role of the good person in EN 3.4 confirms the priority of the good action over the virtuous state that aims at such actions. Aristotle’s status, however, need not be permanent: if virtue ethicists were to leave our classification of ethical systems aside to emphasise more what is distinctive about their approach — a sustained study of virtue — Aristotle would rightly be their forerunner.

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