What's Aristotelian about neo‐Aristotelian Virtue Ethics?

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 98 (3):671-696 (2019)
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Abstract

It is commonly assumed that Aristotle's ethical theory shares deep structural similarities with neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics. I argue that this assumption is a mistake, and that Aristotle's ethical theory is both importantly distinct from the theories his work has inspired, and independently compelling. I take neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics to be characterized by two central commitments: (i) virtues of character are defined as traits that reliably promote an agent's own flourishing, and (ii) virtuous actions are defined as the sorts of actions a virtuous agent reliably performs under the relevant circumstances. I argue that neither of these commitments are features of Aristotle's own view, and I sketch an alternative explanation for the relationship between virtue and happiness in the Nicomachean Ethics. Although, on the interpretation I defend, we do not find in Aristotle a distinctive normative theory alongside deontology and consequentialism, what we do find is a way of thinking about how prudential and moral reasons can come to be aligned through a certain conception of practical agency.

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Sukaina Hirji
University of Pennsylvania

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