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On Virtue Ethics [Paperback]

By Rosalind Hursthouse (Author)
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Item description for On Virtue Ethics by Rosalind Hursthouse...

Virtue ethics is perhaps the most important development within late 20th-century moral philosophy. Rosalind Hursthouse, who has made notable contributions to this development, now presents a full exposition and defence of her neo-Aristotelian version of virtue ethics. She shows how virtue ethics can provide guidance for action, illuminate moral dilemmas, and bring out the moral significance of the emotions. Deliberately avoiding a combative stance, she finds less disagreement between Kantian and neo-Aristotelian approaches than is usual, and she offers an account from a virtue ethics perspective of acting from a sense of duty.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Oxford University Press, USA
Pages   504
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.5" Width: 5.42" Height: 0.65"
Weight:   0.75 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Feb 7, 2002
Publisher   Oxford University Press
Edition  Revised  
ISBN  0199247994  
ISBN13  9780199247998  

Availability  0 units.

More About Rosalind Hursthouse

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Rosalind Hursthouse is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the Open University.

Rosalind Hursthouse has an academic affiliation as follows - The Open University Auckland University University of Auckland The Ope.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Ethics & Morality
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > General
3Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Greek & Roman

Reviews - What do customers think about On Virtue Ethics?

A philosophically interesting and important book   Feb 21, 2006
I cannot help but take issue with H. Gintis's uninformed and uncharitable review of this book. The philosophical community regards this work as an important and interesting contribution to the literature in virtue ethics and ethical theory more generally. Certainly, many philosophers disagree with Hursthouse on various points, but this is compatible with believing that it is a philosophically important book.

Hursthouse takes pains to make her work readable to those without extensive philosophical training. Although the ideas are philosophically sophisticated, the language is engaging and accessible. It is well worth reading for those who want to know more about one of the great philosophical traditions in ethics.
100% Worhwhile  Jul 17, 2004
This is a really valuable book. A lot of philosophers have been talking for the past twenty years about "Virtue Theory" as an approach in normative ethics that can rival deontology and utilitarianism for depth, plausibility and coherence. But Hursthouse's book is the first that I'm aware of to attempt a full statement of precisely what it is that makes the approach distinctive. And anyone who's familiar with the work of other philosophers (e.g. Elizabeth Anscombe, John McDowell, Bernard Williams) who've been viewed as the standard-bearers for VT during this period of time will be able to recognize that it's an unqualified success in at least this respect.

So, does the book actually make VT seem appealing? Well, there's some excellent stuff on how to distinguish rule-based approaches from character based approaches to ethical evaluation. And there's a wonderfully subtle discussion of precisely how Aristotlelian accounts of the moral significance of a person's motivations differ from those traditionally given by Kantians. There's also some very silly stuff at the end though. Her discussion of the difference between human beings and animals is jaw-droppingly simplistic - really, almost Philistine. Like Foot and McDowell, she fails to register the fact that thousands of very smart people have thought about this subject in zoology, anthropology and biology departments around the world and that it might be at least somewhat worthwhile to take a bit of glance at what they have to say. And at the end she delivers a stunning battery of ad hominems against Bernard Williams for daring to suggest that the Aristotelian notion of a distinctive human function doesn't stand up to careful and impartial scrutiny.

Even in these areas, though, what Hursthouse says is far from being out of step with the views propagated by other writers in the VT tradition. If one is left with the slightly disappointing impression that the VT approach might after all be little more than the fetish of a couple of generations of clever, but slightly wooly Oxbridge humanists, it's hard to see how she herself can be blamed for this.

When deontology's getting you down...  Jul 31, 2000
I read this book in a philosophy course at Dartmouth, and wrote a 20-page paper on it. For those not familiar, virtue ethics has recently come into fashion as an alternative to both deontological (rule-based) and consequentialist (results-based) ethics.

Hursthouse is a big fan of Aristotle (although she does "update" a few of his sexist remarks), and often hearkens back to his discussion of "the virtues," and the idea that there is no set of rules that can ever properly encompass every situation -- rather, the ideal virtuous agent is someone who is actually _skilled_ at ethics, and simply knows the virtuous thing to do.

An example that might help get across the idea of virtue ethics -- take a classic ethical case such as Ayn Rand's example of a man whose wife is very sick and who spends extraordinary amounts of money to save her life. It turns out, however, that he could have spent the same amount of money and saved the lives of ten women he didn't know. The utilitarian says that the lives of ten are more important than the life of one. The virtue ethicist says that the fact that we place the interests of loved ones above the interests of strangers is good -- a vital part of humanity we would not want to sacrifice to some mathematical moral calculation. And who would want to live in a world where we forsake our spouses to save strangers?

The book also contains a very interesting chapter on naturalism in ethics. Overall, a very worthwhile read, especially if your entire background in ethics consists of Kant, Bentham, Mill, etc.

A note -- this is not the most abstruse philosophy text I've ever read, but I wouldn't suggest approaching it without some sort of academic philosophy background.


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