American philosophy of law has begun to make what has been called the aretaic turn. What is the aretaic turn in normative legal theory? This question has both a positive and a negative answer. Begin with the negative – the aretaic turn is a turn away from the domination of normative legal theory by consequentialist and deontological paradigms, including normative law and economics and Dworkin's theory of law as integrity. In other words, the aretaic turn rejects the dominant traditions in contemporary theorizing about the ends of law.
A more illuminating description of the aretaic turn can begin with a definition. The word to express virtue or excellence in classical Greek was arête, from which we derive the English word aretaic, of, or pertaining to, excellence or virtue. Thus, the aretaic turn is a turn toward a virtue-centered theory of law, to which we can give the name virtue jurisprudence. Virtue jurisprudence offers a rich and fruitful account of the nature, means, and ends of law that simultaneously dissolves old problems and poses a new set of challenges for legal theorists. A good place to start our investigation of the aretaic turn in the philosophy of law is with a statement of problems it attempts to address.
TWO ANTINOMIES: RIGHTS VERSUS CONSEQUENCES AND FORMALISM VERSUS REALISM
Contemporary legal theory is characterized by two antinomies: the antinomy of rights and consequences and the antinomy of realism and formalism.