Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 July 2022
While virtue ethics is distinguished from deontology and consequentialism by its focus on the actor and their character rather than specific acts, it can nonetheless be illuminating to analyze particular acts through a virtue ethics prism. Such an analysis may be helpful in coming to understand why, in a specific situation, the actor came to their act. The point here is not so much to appraise the act and assess whether it was good or bad but rather whether the act can be made understandable – and perhaps justifiable – in light of the circumstances of the case and the agent’s character. Put differently, and perhaps more accurately, the idea underlying what follows is that their conduct tells us something about the individual concerned and simultaneously suggests how difficult situations can be approached – atypical though they may be. Much conduct is hemmed in by the context in which it takes place, and thus there is little point in copying other people’s conduct. But it may be possible to draw broader lessons from looking at specific situations and how people responded.