Virtue ethics, virtue theory and moral theology

Authored by: Glen Pettigrove

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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The virtues have long played a central role in Christian moral teaching. It is not surprising, then, that over the centuries theologians have produced a number of interesting versions of an ethics of virtue. Although they hearken back to and are profoundly shaped by a shared set of canonical texts, theological commitments, and ritual observances, many of these virtue-focused accounts of ethics differ quite markedly from one another. The perfectionism of Wesley’s A Plain Account of Christian Perfection is as different from the agapism of Edwards’s The Nature of True Virtue as it is like it. And neither of them could easily be confused with the works of Josef Pieper, who was one of the most important contributors to twentieth-century Thomistic ethics. Given the length, breadth and sophistication of this tradition, Christian moral theology offers a wealth of resources for contemporary virtue ethicists, whether they are working within a Christian theological framework or not. This chapter will highlight four strands within recent theologically informed work on virtue ethics, each of which is directly relevant to current controversies in moral philosophy: (a) Thomistic virtue ethics, (b) narrativist virtue ethics, (c) neo-Augustinian virtue ethics and (d) divine motivation theory. Along the way it will shed light on what it means to offer a virtue ethic, as opposed to a virtue theory.

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