Aristotle and the Virtues

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124 Scopus citations


Aristotle is the father of virtue ethics, and virtue ethics is hot. Yet Aristotle's accounts of the individual virtues remain opaque, for most contemporary commentators of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics have focused upon other matters. By contrast, this book takes Aristotle's detailed description of the individual virtues to be central to his ethical theory. Working through the Nicomachean Ethics virtue by virtue, explaining and generally defending Aristotle's claims, the book brings each of Aristotle's virtues alive. A new Aristotle emerges, an Aristotle fascinated by the details of the individual virtues. Justice and friendship hold special places in Aristotle's virtue theory. Many contemporary discussions place justice and friendship at opposite, perhaps even conflicting poles of a spectrum. Justice seems to be very much a public, impartial, and dispassionate thing, while friendship is paradigmatically private, partial, and passionate. Yet in Aristotle's view they are actually symbiotic. Justice is defined in terms of friendship, and good friendship is defined in terms of justice. Virtue ethics is not only about being good; it is also about becoming good. The book reconstructs Aristotle's account of moral development. Certain character types serve as stages of moral development. Certain catalysts and mechanisms lead from one stage to the next. Explaining why some people cannot make moral progress specifies the preconditions of moral development. Finally, the book describes Aristotle's quest to determine the ultimate goal of moral development: happiness.

Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages464
ISBN (Electronic)9780191738890
ISBN (Print)9780199693726
StatePublished - May 24 2012


  • Aristotle
  • Ethics
  • Friendship
  • Happiness
  • Justice
  • Moral development
  • Nicomachean ethics
  • Virtue
  • Virtue ethics


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