Character, Virtue Theories, and the Vices
  • Publication Date: August 26, 1999
  • ISBN: 9781551112251 / 1551112256
  • 272 pages; 6" x 9"

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Character, Virtue Theories, and the Vices

  • Publication Date: August 26, 1999
  • ISBN: 9781551112251 / 1551112256
  • 272 pages; 6" x 9"

This book argues that the question posed by virtue theories, namely, “what kind of person should I be?” provides a more promising approach to moral questions than do either deontological or consequentialist moral theories where the concern is with what actions are morally required or permissible. It does so both by arguing that there are firmer theoretical foundations for virtue theories, and by persuasively suggesting the superiority of virtue theories over deontological and consquentialist theories on the question of explaining morally bad behavior. Virtue theories can give a richer account by appealing to the kinds of dispositions that make certain bad choices appear attractive. This richer account also exposes a further advantage of virtue theories: they provide the best kinds of motivations for agents to become better persons.


“ … a lucid distillation of central themes in the recent literature on virtue ethics, with distinctive emphases on responsibility for character and on a naturalistic account of the virtuous person’s flourishing.” — Thomas Hurka, University of Calgary

“McKinnon has managed to combine clarity and a keen awareness of contemporary theoretical issues with sensitivity to the enormous complexity of an ethics of character. This book advances the discussion of virtue ethics both in its theoretical form and in the details of character description.” — Linda Zagzebski, Author of Virtues of the Mind (Cambridge University Press)


1 Human Nature and Ethics

  1. Human Nature
  2. Naturalized Ethics
  3. Teleology and Naturalistic Explanations

2 Virtues and Vices

  1. Virtues
  2. Vices and Kinds of Bad Persons
  3. Virtues and Vices and Human Flourishing

3 The Role of Character in Virtue Theories

  1. Character: Naturalistic, Ethical, Metaphysical
  2. The Explanatory Roles of Virtue and Character in Virtue Theories
  3. Theoretically Problematic Issues
    1. Responsibility for Character
    2. ‘Character’ as a Normative Term
    3. Character-Construction and the Requirement of Self-Conscious Awareness

4 Moral Theories and the Vices

  1. The Implications for a Moral Theory of Assessing Persons Rather than Actions
  2. Traditional Explanations of Bad Behavior
  3. Virtue Theoretic Accounts of Wrong-Doing

5 Functional Goodness

  1. Human Nature and Good Persons
  2. Vices: Intellectual and Moral Deficiencies
  3. Wickedness

6 Practical Reasoning and The Unity of a Good Human Life

  1. Human Nature and Meaningful Choices
  2. Practical Reasoning and its Place in Ethical Theories

7 Some Particular Vices

  1. Cruelty
  2. Hypocrisy
  3. Envy
  4. Selfishness

8 Ethical Judgements

  1. Moralizing Perfectionisms
  2. Judging: Admonishment and Blame
  3. Character-Types and Ethics




Christine McKinnon teaches philosophy at Trent University.