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Assignment Questions

The Approaches of Aristotle to Ethics

Discuss Aristotle’s approach to ethics. Sometimes he is said to have initiated “virtue ethics,” locating virtue in a person’s character rather than in their actions. Therefore, by Aristotle’s light, the person is primary. A virtuous act is an act performed by a virtous person. For example, an act of courage could not be identified in the abstract, it would have to be an act in a particular context performed by a couragous person.

Sometimes this approach is criticized as circular. How do you know who is couragous? You find someone who habitually performs couragous acts. How do you know what acts are couragous? They are acts performed by a person with couragous character.

Is this circularity fatal to Aristotle’s approach? If so, show why this is so. If not, discuss how the circularity problem might be solved.

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