Ethics Updates


Aristotle and Virtue Ethics

A Survey of Internet Resources on Aristotle and Virtue Ethics


On-line texts of Aristotle's works in moral philosophy:

Bjorn's Aristotle Page

Steven Darwall's lectures on Aristotle's ethics:

Philip Hallie,

Hugh LaFollette's "Ideas and Issues"

  • Interview with Sissela Bok, Department of Population Studies, Harvard University. Honesty in Public Life, Oct 26, 1997.
  • Interview with Matt Ridley, Science writer, UK. The Origins of Virtue, May 11, 1997.
  • Interview with Peter Singer on Greed.  Sept 24, 2000.

NPR's "Talk of the Nation"

Different Perceptions of Time   Host:  Juan Williams  Guests:  Dennis McCarthy Directorate of time for the United States Naval Observatory;  Robert Levine Professor of social psychology at California State University in Fresno, California; author of A Geography of Time: The Temporal Misadventures of A Social Psychologist, or How Every Culture Keeps Time A Little Bit Differently;  Kevin Birth  Associate professor of anthropology at Queens College of the City University of New York; author of Any Time is Trinidad Time: Social Meanings and Temporal ConsciousnessDescription:  Have you ever noticed that some people seem to have a lot of time on their hands, while others are constantly running out? Does the tick-tock of the clock change YOUR pace of life, influence your decisions? Who or what determines YOUR concept of time? How is time measured and has it changed historically? Does the perception of time change culturally? Join host Juan Williams and guests as they explore how Americans view and value time.  (December 27, 1999)

Respect   Host:  Ellen Silva   Guests:  Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot  Professor of Sociology and Education, Harvard University,  *Author, Respect: An Exploration (Perseus Books, 1999).  Description:  It's all too often a throw-away line for the grumpy: "No one has a sense of respect anymore." But what does respect MEAN today? For some, it's a distasteful marker of submission to authority, but others see respect as more egalitarian, a recognition of shared values and an acknowledgement of the essential dignity of all. Join Katherine Lanpher and guests for a look at respect-- what does it mean, and do we need it?   (December 22, 1999)

Suicide   Host:  Brooke Galdstone   Guests:   Tim Redman, Ph.D.  Professor of Literary Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas,  *Author, Ezra Pound and Italian Fascism (Cambridge University Press, 1991)
*Currently working on a biography of Ezra Pound:  Other Guests:  TBA.  Description:  Have you ever had the chance to meet someone you've always admired-- an author, a musician, an actor... only to find out they were unpleasant, unbalanced, or both? When we discover that an artist like Picasso battered his wife... does that affect our perception of his work? Does genius excuse bad behavior? And if not, why do so many people tolerate it? Join Brooke Gladstone and guests for a look at the relationship between genius and character.   (December 7, 1999)

Work Ethics and Beliefs   Host:  Melinda Penkava  Guests:  Adrian Furnham Ph.D. Professor of Psychology at the University of London, *Author of 30 books on organizational behavior and psychology, including, The Protestant Work Ethic: The Psychology of Work-Related Beliefs and Behaviours and The Psychology of Behaviour at Work;
James Hoopes Professor of American History at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., *Author of the forthcoming, Gurus (a history of managment ideas about how to get the most work out of people).  Description:  Self-reliance, ingenuity, postponing gratification and hard work have long been values associated with what it means to be an American. Often described collectively as the "Protestant Work Ethic," these values were indeed Protestant in origin but have, over time, and with the influx of immigrants from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, become an integral part of American culture. Where does the work ethic come from? How has it changed over the years? And what connection does it have to religion, culture and money? Join Melinda Penkava and guests for a look at today's American work ethic and the influence it has on our cultural, social and economic life.  (November 24, 1999)

Nelson Mandela Biography    Host:  Ray Suarez  Guests:  Archbishop Desmond Tutu;  Anthony Sampson Author, Mandela: the Authorized Biography (Knopf, 1999),  Former editor of the magazine Drum in Johannesburg; Ahmed Kathrada  Friend of Mandela for 50 years and fellow prisoner for 26,  Former member of South African Parliament, Former parliamentary advisor to Nelson Mandela,  Author of forthcoming book Letters from Robben Island (Michigan State University Press,1999).  Description:  Given the stratospheric expectations pinned on Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison, one would almost have expected disappointment. But over the course of his presidency, Mandela has demonstrated extraordinary leadership qualities that have won him almost universal admiration. Join Ray Suarez for a look at the life of Nelson Mandela, with the journalist who wrote his authorized biography.  (September 16, 1999)

Civility   Host:  Ray Suarez  Guests:  Mark Caldwell Literary critic, *Professor of English, Fordham University (Bronx, NY), *Author, A Short History of Rudeness: Manners, Morals and Misbehavior in Modern America (Picador-USA-St. Martin Press, July 1999); Camille Paglia Professor of Humanities, University of the Arts (Philadelphia, PA), *Columnist for Salon Internet Magazine, Author, Sex, Art and American Culture (1992), and Vamps & Tramps (Vintage 1994).  Description:  When it comes to uncivil behavior, everyone has their own horror story, whether it's agressive driving, loud neighbors, or just plain rudeness. Most people seem to agree that civility is on the decline in America, but is there ever a time when it's appropriate to be rude? Join Ray Suarez and guests to discuss the state of civility in America.  (June 30, 1999)

Francis Fukyama   Host:  Ray Suarez  Guests:  Francis Fukuyama Professor of Public Policy at the Institute of Public Policy at George Mason University and director of the Institute's International Commerce and Policy Program.
Author, The Great Disruption: Human Nature and the Reconstruction of Social Order (Free Press, 1999)
Author, Trust and The End of History and the Last Man.  Description:  Over the last 40 years, western nations have seen tremendous technological progress. They've also seen increases in crime, breakdown in families, and an erosion of confidence in public institutions. Some social critics see the latter trend as the beginning of a long downward slide in society's norms and morals. Author and political scientist Francis Fukuyama looks at the same facts in the broader context of history and human biology. He believes man, driven by his social nature, will inevitably reconstitute society into a viable form. Join Ray Suarez for a conversation with controversial author and political scientist Francis Fukuyama.  (June 1, 1999) 

Parental Responsibility   Host:  Ray Suarez  Guests: TBA
Description:  When young people commit horrific crimes such as last week's murder spree in Littleton, Colorado, people are desperate to find reasons why. In the rush to establish accountability, parents are often blamed for being inattentive to warning signs. Is this fair? And under the law, to what degree can parents be held liable for their children's crimes? Join Ray Suarez and guests for a look at if and how parents are held responsible for the actions of their children.  (April 27, 1999)

Forgiveness   Host:  Ray Suarez  Guests:  Frederic Luskin, Ph.D. Director of the Forgiveness Project at Stanford University, Research Fellow at the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Program at Stanford;  Fr. Drew Christiansen, S. J.  Senior Fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, Counselor to the U.S. Catholic Conference on Mideast Affairs, Co-editor of Peacemaking: Moral and Policy Challenges for a New World and the forthcoming Morals and Might (Westview), Former Director, Office of International Justice and Peace, U.S. Catholic Conference; John Borneman, Ph.D. Visting Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley, Author, Settling Accounts: Violence, Justice and Accountability in Postsocialist Europe (Princeton University Press, 1997).  Description:  Most everyone agrees that forgiveness is a virtue, but practicing forgiveness can be more difficult. After a war, how can societies look beyond injustices done and construct a future not poisoned by the past? Forgiveness is not just a spiritual matter- it can help societies avoid a cycle of revenge in which violence begets violence for generations. Join Ray Suarez and guests for a look at the many dimensions of forgiveness.  (April 20, 1999)

Science of Love   Host:  Ray Suarez  Guests:  John Gottman, Ph.D. Author, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (Crown Publishing, 1999), Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington, Seattle, WA,
Director of the Gottman Institute in Seattle.  Description:  Studies have shown that happily married people are healthier than people in bad relationships or divorcees. So how do you keep your marriage healthy? Psychologist John Gottman offers marital advice, but unlike most relationship gurus, he actually has scientific research to back up his theories. Gottman has studied hundreds of couples in his Seattle-based Family Research Laboratory, dubbed the "love lab." Join Ray Suarez and John Gottman for a look at what makes a marriage last.  (April 15, 1999)

Nature of Evil   Host: Ray Suarez  Guests:  Gitta Sereny Author, Cries Unheard: Why Children Kill: The Story of Mary Bell, Albert Speer: His Battle With Truth, and Into That Darkness: An Examination of Conscience;
Elaine Pagels Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion, Princeton University, Author, The Gnostic Gospels, Adam, Eve and the Serpent, The Origin of Satan; Robert Coles Professor of Social Ethics, Harvard University,
Professor of Psychiatry and Medical Humanities at Harvard Medical School, Author of many books, most recently The Secular Mind and The Moral Intelligence of Children: How to Raise a Moral Child (Random House)
Description:  What causes a man to pick up a machete or gun and kill his neighbor? Some people think of evil as a rare aberration among humans, but sometimes entire societies engage in horrific acts. Is evil simply part of human nature, or is it something more mysterious? Ray Suarez and guests explore the nature of evil.  (April 8, 1999)

Return to Modesty   Host:  Ray Suarez  Guests:  Wendy Shalit Author A Return To Modesty [Free Press, January 11, 1999]; Elizabeth Austin Essayist whose work has appeared in the The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, US News and World Report, and The Washington Monthly. Description:  The time-honored virtue of modesty may be making a comeback. With equal rights for women came the freedom to compete and be as aggressive as the boardroom, and in the bedroom. But a growing number of women, and some men, are saying sexual freedom is not that desirable after all. Join us as we explore the nineties version of sexual modesty and how a return
to a more traditional concept of love and sex might affect relations between the sexes.   (January 11, 1999)

A Bibliographical Survey of Aristotle and Virtue Ethics Hinman, Ethics: A Pluralistic Approach to Moral Theory

Biliographical essays are drawn from Lawrence M. Hinman, Ethics: A Pluralistic Approach to Moral Theory, 3rd Edition [Wadsworth, 2002] © 2002


The classic source for discussions of the virtues is Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (abbreviated EN). It is available in a number of translations. For a list of Aristotle's works available on the web, see the Reference Room of Ethics Updates (; this includes links to the Perseus Project at Tufts University, a superb site which includes both Greek text and English translations of Aristotle’s works as well as extensive critical apparatus. Helpful commentaries/introductions to EN include Christopher Biffle’s A Guided Tour of Selections from Aristotle’s "Nicomachean Ethics" (Mountain View, California: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1991) and Roger Sullivan’s Morality and the Good Life (Memphis: Memphis State University, 1977). The account of the virtues in EN is supplemented, and occasionally contradicted, in Aristotle’s other major work in ethics, the Eudemian Ethics (EE). For a translation and commentary on Books I, II, and VIII of EE, see Woods, Aristotle’s "Eudemian Ethics" (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982). In addition to EN and EE, Aristotle’s Politics and his Rhetoric contain important sections relating to the virtues.

General works on Aristotle

General works on Aristotle include Sir David Ross’s Aristotle, W. K. C. Guthrie’s section on Aristotle in his A History of Greek Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). Works specifically on his ethics include Nancy Sherman’s The Fabric of Character: Aristotle’s Theory of Virtue (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989); John Cooper’s Reason and Human Good in Aristotle (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1975); W. F. R. Hardie’s Aristotle’s Ethical Theory (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980); Richard Kraut's Aristotle on the Human Good (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989); Troels Engberg-Pedersen’s Aristotle’s Theory of Moral Insight; Sarah Broadie’s Ethics with Aristotle (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991); and Julia Annas, The Morality of Happiness (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993). Two excellent anthologies of articles on Aristotle’s ethics are Amélie Rorty’s Essays on Aristotle’s Ethics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980) and Barnes, Schofield, and Sorabji’s Articles on Aristotle: 2; Ethics and Politics (New York: St. Martin’s, 1977); the latter contains an excellent bibliography. One of the most fascinating treatments of Aristotle’s ethics is to be found in Part Three of Martha Nussbaum’s The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986); also see her The Therapy of Desire: Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994). For a perceptive discussion and evaluation of Aristotle’s ethics in light of current work in feminist ethics, see Marcia Homiak, "Feminism and Aristotle’s Rational Ideal," in A Mind of One’s Own: Feminist Essays on Reason and Objectivity (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1993), pp. 1-18.

Contemporary Virtue Theory

The contemporary resurgence of interest in the virtues begins with Philippa Foot’s "Virtues and Vices" in her Virtues and Vices and Other Essays In Moral Philosophy (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1978), pp. 1-18 and Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue, 2nd edition (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984). Several reviews of the recent literature are noteworthy: Arthur Fleming’s "Reviewing the Virtues," Ethics, Vol. 90 (1980), pp. 587-95; Gregory Pence’s "Recent Work on the Virtues," American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 21, No. 4 (October, 1984), pp. 281-97 and his "Virtue Theory," A Companion to Ethics, edited by Peter Singer (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1991), pp. 249-58; Marcia Baron’s "Varieties of Ethics of Virtue," American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 22 (January, 1985), 47-53; Gregory Trianosky’s "What Is Virtue Ethics All About?" American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 4 (October, 1990), pp. 335-44; and Phillip Montague, "Virtue Ethics: A Qualified Success Story," American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 1 (January, 1992), pp. 53-61. For an insightful analysis into historical views of virtue, see Richard White, "Historical Perspectives on the Morality of Virtue," The Journal of Value Inquiry, Vol. 25 (1991), pp. 217-31. Also see the excellent bibliography in The Virtues, edited by Robert B. Kruschwitz and Robert C. Roberts (Belmont, California: Wadsworth, 1987). Other collections of contemporary articles on virtues and vices include Sommers and Sommers, Vice and Virtue in Everyday Life, 3rd Edition (San Diego: Harcourt, Brace and Jovanovich, 1992); Vol. XIII of Midwest Studies in Philosophy (1988) on virtue theory; the special double issue on the virtues in Philosophia, Vol. 20 (1990); Flanagan and Rorty’s Identity, Character, and Morality (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990); Halberstam’s Virtues and Values (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1988); Virtue, edited by John W. Chapman and William A. Galston (New York: New York University Press, 1992) and John Deigh’s Ethics and Personality: Essays in Moral Psychology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992). On the more popular front, see William Bennett, The Book of Virtues (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993). Joel Kupperman’s Character (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991) presents a character-based ethical theory that places the discussion of particular virtues and vices within the context of the individual’s character. For a utilitarian approach to virtue, see John Kilcullen, "Utilitarianism and Virtue," Ethics, Vol. 93, No. 3 (April, 1983), pp. 451-66.


Aristotle’s discussion of courage appears primarily in his Nichomachean Ethics, Book III, Chapters 6-9. David Pears’ "Courage as a Mean" in Rorty’s Essays on Aristotle’s Ethics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980) is an insightful, detailed consideration of Aristotle’s views on this virtue; for a critique of Pears' position, see Michael Stocker's "Courage, the Doctrine of the Mean, and the Possibility of Evaluative and Emotional Coherence" in his Plural and Conflicting Values (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), pp. 129-64. Douglas Walton’s Courage (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986) provides a standard account of courage that focuses on courageous actions rather than character, while Lee Yearley’s Mencius and Aquinas: Theories of Virtue and Conceptions of Courage (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990) offers an interesting cross-cultural comparison between the thought of an early Confucian and a medieval Christian. For a provocative picture of courage which also recognizes its negative side, see Amélie Rorty’s "Two Faces of Courage" in her Mind in Action (Boston: Beacon Press, 1988). Also see Chapter Two, "Courage," in John Casey’s Pagan Virtue (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990). On ordinary courage in adolescent girls, see Lyn Mikel Brown and Carol Gilligan, Meeting at the Crossroads: Women’s Psychology and Girl’s Development (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992) and Annie Rogers’ paper, "The Development of Courage in Girls and Women," Harvard Educational Review (1993). For an account of Rhonda Cornum’s experiences as a prisoner of war, see, She Went to War by Rhonda Cornum as told to Peter Copeland (Novato, California: Presidio Press, 1992). For an insightful discussion of gender and virtue in Aristotle, see "Gendered Virtue: Plato and Aristotle on the Politics of Virility," Chapter Four of Stephen G. Salkever's Finding the Mean (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), pp. 165-204.


The explicitly philosophical literature on compassion is relatively limited. The best pieces are Lawrence Blum’s "Compassion," Explaining Emotions, edited by A. O. Rorty (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), pp. 507-18; Nancy Snow’s "Compassion," American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 28, No. 3 (July, 1991), pp. 195-205; and Adrian M. S. Piper, "Impartiality, Compassion, and Modal Imagination," Ethics, Vol. 101, No. 4 (July, 1991), pp. 726-57; also see the section on compassion in Richard Taylor’s Good and Evil (New York: Macmillan, 1970). For a perceptive and intriguing discussion of the place of compassion in contemporary American life, see Robert Wuthnow’s Acts of Compassion (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991). The story of the village of Le Chambon is recounted in Philip Hallie’s Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed (New York: Harper Colophon, 1979) and his articles, "Skepticism, Narrative, and Holocaust Ethics," Philosophical Forum and his "From Cruelty to Goodness," Vice and Virtue in Everyday Life, edited by Christina Sommers and Fred Sommers, 3rd edition (San Diego: Harcourt, Brace and Jovanovich, 1992).

Self-Love and Self-Respect

There is an extensive literature on the issue of self-love and self-respect. For an insightful discussion of Aristotle's position on this issue, see Marcia Homiak's "Virtue and Self-Love in Aristotle's Ethics," The Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 11, No. 4 (December, 1981), pp. 633-51. On the relationship between self-love and friendship in Aristotle, see especially Richard Kraut's Aristotle on Human Good (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989). One of the most influential contemporary philosophical articles on self-respect is Thomas Hill's "Servility and Self-Respect," reprinted in his Autonomy and Self-Respect (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991). Interesting responses to Hill's article include Larry Blum, Marcia Homiak, Judy Housman, and Naomi Scheman, "Altruism and Women's Oppression;" Philosophical Forum, Vol. 5 (1975), pp. 222-47; George Sher, "Our Preferences, Ourselves;" and Marilyn Friedman's "Moral Integrity and the Deferential Wife," Philosophical Studies, Vol. 47, No. 1 (1985), pp. 141-50. On the relationship between self-respect and race, see Michelle M. Moody-Adams, "Race, Class, and the Social Construction of Self-Respect," Philosophical Forum, Vol. XXIV, Nos. 1-3 (Fall-Spring, 1992-93), pp. 251-66. For a superb discussion of self-interest and related concepts that challenges the traditional dichotomy between self and other, see Kelly Rogers, "Beyond Self and Other," Social Philosophy & Policy, Vol. 14, No. 1 (Winter, 1997), pp. 1-20.


For a brief but excellent overview of issues about pride, see Lawrence Becker’s "Pride," Encyclopedia of Ethics, edited by Lawrence C. Becker and Charlotte B. Becker (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1992), Vol. II, pp. 1013-15. Also see Gabriele Taylor, Pride, Shame and Guilt: Emotions of Self-Assessment (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985) and Norvin Richards, Humility (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992).

Discussion Questions

  1. Human Flourishing. For Aristotle, virtues are those strengths of character that promote human flourishing. But exactly what is human flourishing? Address yourself to both the substantive and the epistemological issues that this question raises. Can you give any examples of someone who is clearly not flourishing? Are there any difficulties in knowing whether someone is flourishing? Are there many different legitimate conceptions of human flourishing? If so, how do you deal with these difficulties?
  2. Gender and Virtue. I have suggested that there are typically some gender differences in our society in regard to virtues such as courage and compassion. Based on your own experience, do you think this is true? Are there any other virtues in our society that exhibit gender differences? Are there any vices that are valued differently in men and women? Are there reasons why virtues and vices should be different for women and for men?
  3. The Virtue of Forgiveness. Join a discussion of the issue of forgiveness on the World Wide Web at One of the virtues not discussed in this chapter is forgiveness. Think about the place of forgiveness in a person’s character. Is it ever possible to be too forgiving? not forgiving enough? Does not forgiving sometimes play a positive role in our lives? How does too little forgiveness detract from human flourishing? Why is it sometimes hard not to forgive another? If it is possible to be too forgiving, how could this detract from human flourishing? Why is it sometimes hard to forgive? How does forgiving—and not forgiving—yourself relate to human flourishing? How does self-forgiveness differ from forgiveness of other people? Explain.
  4. Flourishing and Contingency. Aristotle said "count no man happy until he is dead." What does this mean? Is it true? Why must virtue (and human flourishing) wait that long?
  5. Courage. The movies Glory and The Color Purple present quite different views of courage. Compare these two movies in regard to the relationship between courage and gender. What does such a comparison suggest about this relationship?
  6. Courage and Violence. Is Gandhi courageous? If so, what does that suggest about the relationship between courage and violence? How does this contrast with the picture of the relationship between courage and violence in Glory? Is the willingness to fight necessarily a sign of courage?