Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: November 2019

16 - The Revival of Virtue Ethics

from Section Three - Analytic Moral, Social, and Political Philosophy


In the second half of the twentieth century, an influential strain of ethical thinking conceptualized itself as a revival of an ancient ethical tradition, as against modern moral philosophy, and in particular as a recovery of two central ethical concepts: virtue and eudaimonia. This revival paved the way for virtue ethics to be regarded as one of the “big three” approaches in ethics, alongside deontological and consequentialist approaches. Early developments of virtue ethics were eudaimonist, harking back to ancient Greek philosophers, especially Aristotle. Now, virtue ethics is understood as a genus, eudaimonist virtue ethics being only one species (Swanton 2003: 1), and virtue has become an important concept for other approaches in ethics, and in other areas of philosophy, such as epistemology. In this chapter, we provide a sketch of this revival, beginning with the features of modern moral philosophy, discontent with which provided the impetus for the revival, and concluding with some speculations about future developments of virtue ethics and the concept of virtue.