AuthorSvatos, Michele Lynn
Committee ChairAnnas, Julia E.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractVirtue ethics is the view that virtue, happiness, flourishing, and human nature go together to constitute the core of ethics. However, this definition is far from precise. It raises questions about the foundation of virtue ethics, the logical relations between its main concepts (its "structure"), and its place in the standard taxonomy of moral theories as teleological or deontological. This work provides the analysis of the foundation, structure, and taxonomical classification of virtue ethics lacking in the contemporary literature. Such an analysis is necessary for successfully defending or attacking a modern version of virtue ethics. I argue that there are two main distinct forms which virtue ethics might take. Both are teleological, and neither is consequentialist: an analysis of virtue ethics reveals that the standard taxonomy of moral theories must be revised to allow for different sorts of non-consequentialism within a broader class of teleological theories. The foundation of the first form of virtue ethics is happiness, thus resembling standard consequentialist theories. However, it differs from such theories in three ways: first, virtue is constitutive of rather than instrumental to happiness. Second, happiness is given objective rather than subjective content. Third, it rejects reductionism, hierarchy, and completeness. The alternative also rejects reductionism, hierarchy, and completeness. However, its foundation is human nature, which need not be identified with happiness. Such a theory is unavoidably naturalistic, and its need for an account of human nature raises many problems. Virtue ethics may take either of these broadly teleological yet unique forms. The first is more similar to other teleological theories, and is most viable. Its unique structure provides many advantages as well as some unique challenges. Only careful attention to structural and foundational details in the further development of virtue ethics will determine whether its benefits outweigh its faults.