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Amelie Rorty Essays Aristotles Ethics Of Virtue



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ISSN: 00780979

Subjects: Law, Political Science, Social Sciences, Philosophy, Humanities, Law

Collections: Arts & Sciences XIV Collection

1Lutz, Cora, “Musonius Rufus: The Roman Socrates,” in Yale Classical Studies, Volume X, ed. Bellinger, A. R. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1947), 110.

2 Examples of contemporary but classically styled virtue ethics include Russell, Daniel's Practical Intelligence and the Virtues (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009); Annas, Julia's Intelligent Virtue (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011); Becker, Lawrence's A New Stoicism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001); and Hursthouse, Rosalind's On Virtue Ethics (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001). The most recent example is the largely metaethical focus on classical eudaimonism in LeBar, Mark's The Value of Living Well (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).

3Annas, Julia, “Virtue Ethics and Social Psychology,” A Priori2 (2003): 20–34.

4Aristotle, , Nicomachean Ethics, trans. Ross, W. D. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1908), 1145a31–2, cf. 1178a16–20.

5 Lawrence Becker, A New Stoicism, 50.

6 Instead, thinking in terms of virtue is so “unmysterious that it is easily seen to be open to anyone who embarks on learning to be virtuous to begin with.” Annas, Intelligent Virtue, 56. Richard Sorabji had previously explained the misleading impression that reading select portions of Aristotle might give. He writes, “The emphasis on habit at the beginning of Book 2 is only one of many cases. Nonetheless, (Aristotle) does not always fail to prepare us for his total view, and I would in particular resist the suggestion that he has left us unprepared for the account of practical wisdom in Book 6. On the contrary, he begins to pave the way in Book 1, when he says in chapter 13 that the virtue of character belongs to the part of the soul that listens to reason. Books 2–4 continue with the preparation, by repeatedly saying that the mean in virtue is in accordance with logos or orthos logos [right reason].” Sorabji, Richard, “Aristotle on the Role of Intellect in Virtue,” Essays on Aristotle's Ethics, Rorty, Amelie, ed., (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 218.

7Johnson, Robert, “Virtue and Right,” Ethics113 (2003): 818, 823.

8 When John Doris first developed his “situationist” critique of Aristotelian virtue ethics, he was accused of leaving the role of practical rationality out of his description of Aristotelian ethics. Doris reformulated his critique to include practical rationality. Doris, John, The Moral Psychology Handbook (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 370. Concerns about how realistic the recommendations of the classic accounts of virtue are can also be found in the following articles. Merritt, Maria, “Character,” Journal of Moral Philosophy6 no. 1 (2009): 23–49. Miller, Christian, “Social Psychology and Virtue Ethics.” The Journal of Ethics7 (2003): 365–92. Also, “Social Psychology, Mood, and Helping: Mixed Results for Virtue Ethics,” Journal of Ethics13 (2009): 145–73.

9 Daniel Russell, Practical Intelligence and the Virtues, 21.

10Ibid., 21–23.

11Wiggins, David, “Deliberation and Practical Wisdom,” in Essays on Aristotle's Ethics, ed. Rorty, Amélie O. (Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1980), 233.

12Porphyry, , “On Abstinence from Animal Food, Book the Second,” The Select Works of Porphyry, Taylor, Thomas, trans. (London: T. Rodd1823), 45–80,

13 “But if someone should say that God gave animals for our use, no less than the fruits of the earth, yet it does not follow that they are, therefore, to be sacrificed, because in so doing they are injured, through being deprived of life.” Porphyry, On Abstinence from Animal Food, Book 2, pp. 45–80.

14 Some examples of articles like this are quite wonderful. McMullin, Irene, “A Modest Proposal: Accounting for the Virtuousness of Modesty,” The Philosophical Quarterly60, no. 241 (2010): 783–807.

15 Another example of excellent work done in this manner: McDougall, Rosalind, “Parental Virtue: A New Way of Thinking about the Morality of Reproductive Constraints,” Bioethics21 (2007): 181–90. McDougall develops an account of parental virtues and explains that they lead to different behaviors (such as not being ready to abandon a child who develops a disability).

16 Rosalind Hursthouse, On Virtue Ethics, 244.

17Ibid., 227. The immediate context of this “oversimplifying” is a discussion of naturalism and she points out that her methodology keeps her from begging the question by providing a naturalistic justification of (i). She does not want to “start with claims about how things are in regards to human beings eating meat.” She wants to start with a well-justified account of temperance. Once she has that, meat eating can meaningfully be decried as a way of seeking excessive pleasure through eating.

18Steiner, Gary, Anthropocentrism and Its Discontents (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005), 15. Contemporary environmental ethicists such as Holmes Rolston explain their general opposition to standard virtue ethics as follows, “We may say, before callous destruction of passenger pigeons, bison, or desert fish: ‘No self-respecting person would do that.’ Yes, but the reason is that my respect for the other, which ought to be realized and respected within myself, is diminished, not that my self-respect per se has tarnished. It is virtuous to recognize the rights of other persons, but the motivating force is their rights that I appreciate, not my self-respect. With the fish in jeopardy, we should care for a form of life that has an intrinsic value.” Rolston, HolmesIII, “Environmental Virtue Ethics: Half the Truth but Dangerous as a Whole,” in Environmental Virtue Ethics, ed. Cafaro, Philip and Sandler, Ronald (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005), 68.

19Hursthouse, Rosalind, “Virtue Theory and Abortion.” Philosophy and Public Affairs20 no. 3 (1991): 223–46.

20 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1107b5–9 and 1117b25–27

21Broadie, Sarah, Ethics with Aristotle, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), note 67, p. 264. Broadie's concern is that even Aristotelian scholars have inadvertently depicted Aristotelian moral reasoning inaccurately. She suggests that there is “no encouragement from examples in the texts” to “depict the good Aristotelian agent as aiming to do something called “acting courageously,” “acting generously,” and so on. As she argues, virtue terms stand in as “surrogates” for actual practical rationality, p. 249.

22Epictetus, Discourses of Epictetus, Long, George, trans. (New York: Appleton and Company1904), 34–35. Epictetus is a Stoic, but as Annas, makes clear inThe Morality of Happiness (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), the core notions of classical virtue ethics can be found in the Epicureans, the Stoics, and the later Aristotelians. At the level of generality with which I am working, these versions share the same basic theoretical structure with each other and with several contemporary formulations of virtue ethics.

23Kametekar, Rachana, “Situationism and Virtue Ethics on the Content of Our Character,” Ethics114 (2004): 460. Also see Lawrence Becker, A New Stoicism, 56–58.

24 As recently as Annas's Intelligent Virtue was reviewed, a reviewer expressed the concern that “The criminal may seem to be organizing her life in a way that fits the structure of eudaimonistic happiness as Annas sketches it.” (Stonestreet, Erica Lucast, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, 8/19/2011,

25Hall, Lars, Johansson, P., and Strandberg, T., “Lifting the Veil of Morality: Choice Blindness and Attitude Reversals on a Self-Transforming Survey,” PLOS ONE7, no. 9 (2012): DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0045457. Discussed online:

26 Tom Hill deftly argues for some of the right attitudes towards nature yet he cautions that these attitudes are “not themselves moral virtues.” Instead, we should think of them as “a natural basis for appreciation of others and gratitude.” (And neither of these are virtues.) Hill makes it clear that the virtue in question would be “proper moral humility,” and that related attitudes are only “psychological preliminaries” to this virtue. Hill, TomJr., “Ideals of Human Excellence and Preserving Natural Environments,” Environmental Ethics: What Really Matters, What Really Works, Schmidtz, David and Willott, Elizabeth (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 189–99.

27Oliner, Samuel and Oliner, Pearl, The Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe (New York: Free Press, 1992). Also Monroe, Kristen, The Heart of Altruism: Perceptions of a Common Humanity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996).

28 I do not mean to ignore the longer-term research on attitudes that psychologists have found to be more stable than these professed political attitudes. A type of moral attitude, referred to as moral mandates, has been found to be more predictive of a person's behavior than even their moral judgments. But even this type of moral attitude, which recognizes some basic moral claims as universal, objective, and matters of fact, has not been found to track value in any predictable way across persons. Skitka, Linda, Bauman, C. W., Sargis, E. G., “Moral Conviction: Another Contributor to Attitude Strength or Something More?” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology88 no. 6 (2005): 895–917.

29Ibid., 915.

30 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1165a 27–30

31 See Cora Lutz, Musonius Rufus: The Roman Socrates, 44–47.

32Sripada, Chandra and Stich, Stephen, “A Psychological Framework for Norms,” The Innate Mind, Volume 2: Culture and Cognition, ed. Carruthers, Peter, Laurence, Stephen, and Stich, Stephen (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).

33 David Wiggins, “Deliberation and Practical Reason,” 228.

34Cicero, On Duties, III.4, eds. Griffin, M. T. and Atkins, E. M. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991).

35Haidt, Jonathan and Joseph, C., “The moral mind: How Five Sets of Innate Moral Intuitions Guide the Development of Many Culture-Specific Virtues, and Perhaps Even Modules,” The Innate Mind, Volume 3: Foundations and the Future, ed. Carruthers, Peter, Laurence, S., and Stich, S., (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 367–91. Also, Haidt, Jonathan, “The Emotional Dog and Its Rational Tail: A Social Intuitionist Approach to Moral Judgment,” Psychological Review108 (2001): 814–34.

36 Lawrence Becker, A New Stoicism, 57. Becker explains this process in contemporary terms.

37LeBar, Mark, “Virtue Ethics and Deontic Constraints,” Ethics119 (2009): 642–71. Also, “Aristotelian Constructivism,” Social Philosophy and Policy25, no. 1 (2008): 182–213.

38 Kristen Monroe, The Heart of Altruism: Perceptions of a Common Humanity, 11.

39 Oliner and Oliner, Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe, 257; Kristen Monroe, The Heart of Altruism: Perceptions of a Common Humanity, 185.

40 “Significantly more rescuers are currently involved in community activities.” Oliner and Oliner, Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe, 245.

41 Oliner and Oliner, Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe, 199.

42 Kristen Monroe, The Heart of Altruism: Perceptions of a Common Humanity, 11.

43 Here are some examples of explanations provided in interviews: “Everybody does it.” “That's what you're supposed to do.” “What else was there to do?” Monroe, The Heart of Altruism: Perceptions of a Common Humanity, 11. The reasoning, as may be obvious, was not even indirectly explained in terms of self-benefit. Monroe did not interview one rescuer who believed her actions helping others were going to benefit her in the afterlife.

44 Rosalind Hursthouse, On Virtue Ethics, 127.

45 Julia Annas, Intelligent Virtue, 28–29. Annas is great on the reasons moral exemplars might give. First they might just describe the details of the situation as they have found relevant to their action—these might be factual matters. When pressed they should be able to “give an account” but it will not be a formal account akin to one an ethicists would provide in a paper.

46Kramer, Ariel, New York Times, March 10, 2012,

47Solomon, Deborah, New York Times, December 10, 2009,