Situationism and character: new directions

Authored by: Nancy Snow

The Handbook of Virtue Ethics

Print publication date:  November  2013
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9781844656394
eBook ISBN: 9781315729053
Adobe ISBN: 9781317544777


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Virtue ethics has developed as a type of theoretical alternative to deontology and consequentialism (e.g. Hursthouse 1999; Swanton 2003; Adams 2006; Russell 2009; Annas 2011). It takes virtue to be the primary concept of ethical concern, as opposed to rules (deontology) and consequences (consequentialism). Traditionally, virtue is thought to be a type of global or robust trait implicated in producing regular behaviour across many different types of situations. Thus, according to virtue ethicists, if someone possesses the virtue of courage, she can be expected to be courageous in many different kinds of situations – on the battlefield, when facing serious illness, in standing up against prejudice, in blowing the whistle on corruption, and so on. Good character, for virtue ethicists, is a constellation of coherently organized virtues, which are thought to be deeply entrenched in the fabric of personality. In a person of good character, the virtues work together harmoniously, and, in some versions of virtue ethics (e.g. Hursthouse 1999; Annas 2011), are necessary for happiness or flourishing.

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