Virtue Bleg

Yes, well, I realize that the genuine article is not transferable. 

I am teaching a 400-level course on virtue ethics next spring.  I’m looking for reading-list suggestions.  They need to be relatively short, readable, accessible to majors.  I’d ideally like a broad selection of ancient/modern/contemporary, East/West, religious/secular.  I’m also a fan of intro-level hand-holding kinds of texts for students, so any suggestions on that front would be welcome as well.  Thanks! 

14 Replies to “Virtue Bleg

  1. A few thoughts:
    1. MacIntyre – “After Virtue”
    2. Aristotle – Nicomachean Ethics
    3. Aquinas – Commentary on Nicomachean Ethics
    4. Anscombe – Modern Moral Philosophy
    5. Hauerwas – Any number of works…
    6. Pinckaers – Sources of Christian Ethics and Morality: The Catholic View
    Also – good listings: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-virtue/
    http://ethics.sandiego.edu/theories/aristotle/
    http://wwwuser.gwdg.de/~sophia/schroth/bvirtue.pdf
    http://wwwuser.gwdg.de/~sophia/schroth/cvirtue.pdf

  2. Rosalind Hursthouse has some very accessible work. You can either use the first chapter from her book, On Virtue Ethics that describes a neo-Aristotelian account of right action, or her article, “Normative Virtue Ethics.”
    Both the chapter and the article cover her account of right action, and are very approachable.

  3. You should check out the Daniel Statman collection “Virtue Ethics: A Critical Reader”. Statman’s introductory chapter provides a clear and concise overview of contemporary virtue ethics. The collection also contains some seminal works that are great for a 400-level class, such as Watson’s “On the Primacy of Character”, and Slote’s “From Morality to Virtue”. The collection also contains seminal critiques of virtue ethics by Solomon and Louden. You may also want to check out “Midwest Studies in Philosophy Volume XIII, Ethical Theory: Character and Virtue”.

  4. Michael Stocker, “The Schizophrenia of Modern Ethical Theories.” Important essay, short and very accessible. Useful as a tool to compare virtue ethics with other ethical theories.

  5. Try the collection by Joran Graf Haber entitled ‘Doing and Being: Selected Readings In Moral Philosophy’

  6. Foot’s “Consequentialism and the Virtues” or some such title (collected in the Sheffler Consequentialism and Its Critics is by my lights one of the better papers sympathetic to virtue theory. Some of the secondary literature on Aristotle by people like Irwin and Cooper is also good, but it has been decades since I looked at it.

  7. Hi Heath,
    Glad to hear that you plan to cover non-Western v.e.
    In China the big v.e. theorists are the Confucians. Rather than asking your students to decipher the pithy aphorisms of Confucius himself, however, I’d recommend either Mengzi (Mencius) or Xunzi (Hsün Tzu)–the other two philosophers in the classical Confucian trinity. Most of the relevant selections are translated in Ivanhoe and Van Norden’s Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy.
    Each philosopher is given about 35 pages. If that’s too long for your purposes I can list some of the greatest hits.
    For secondary literature on Confucian v.e., I’d recommend choosing a short chapter or two from Ivanhoe’s Confucian Moral Self Cultivation. Another possibility is Van Norden’s “Virtue Ethics and Confucianism.” These are all very accessible.

  8. If you want to include some Buddhist ethics, I recommend considering this:
    “Buddhist Ethics: A Very Short Introduction,”
    Damien Keown
    He does a nice job of briefly situating Buddhist ethics in the context of western theory & has covers both theoretical and applied topics.
    If you have any interest in Buddhist primary sources, I have had good luck getting students interested in the “The Dhammapada” – the Fronsdal translation is one of several good ones.

  9. I also had good luck discussing this in a class on happiness:
    “Virtue and Eudaimonism,” by Julia Annas, Social Philosophy and Policy (Winter 1998), 15(1):37-55.
    It has a nice discussion of some ancient views of happiness and virtue (and their connection) and contrasts that package with “our” current view of happiness, virtue, and their connection.

  10. Virtue Ethics edited by Roger Crisp and Michale Slote from the Oxford Readings In Philosophy series contains many excellenat articles, some of which have been mentioned by others.
    I also recommend The Lakota Way: Stories and Lessons for Living by Joseph M. Marshall III. It is a collection of Lakota stories that reflect on various virtues. It is valuable as offering a different perspective on understanidng virtues.

  11. Hi Heath.
    Two books that I think do a good job of laying a broadly eudaimonistic approach to ethics is James Wallace’s “Virtues and Vices” (Cornell Press from the 70’s I think) and Richard Kraut’s recent “What Is Good and Why” (Harvard, 2007). Foot’s “Natural Goodness”, of course, does this as well, though I think the Wallace and Kraut are more worked out and accessible.

  12. Hi Heath.
    For an example of virtue in practice, I pair some Epictetus with an essay by Navy Vice Admiral James Stockdale. For those who don’t know, Stockdale says he owes his survival as a tortured POW in Vietnam to Epictetus’s brand of stoicism. He has a very compelling story, recounted in his booklet “Courage Under Fire” and elsewhere (see, for example, http://www.usna.edu/ethics/Publications/Stoicism2.pdf). The students are often quite moved by it. For more on this there is, of course, Nancy Sherman’s book _Stoic Warriors_.

  13. I have no wish to shut off this thread, but I do wish to thank all those who commented, especially my esteemed former colleagues. So thank you! I’ll begin researching these suggestions this summer.

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