PHEB708 Virtue ethics


The aim of this course is to introduce and develop some of the major topics of Virtue ethics. It begins with the question about the ancient roots in Platonistic and Aristotelian views on “arete” and encompass some general principals and systematic answers in the history of moral philosophy. The questions are connected to very basic understandings about human nature, happiness, wisdom, ethical feelings, traditional normative ethical positions. Special accent is the difference of Virtue ethics in comparison with deontology, consequentialism and utilitarianism. Authors discussed range from Plato and Aristotle to Diderot, Hume, Kant, William James, Philippa Foot and Alasdair MacIntyre. This course will help students become better skilled in understanding and intelligently discussing many difficult problems of virtue in philosophical perspective, especially how Virtue ethics continue to emphasize today the virtues and where we can find any future directions for adequate accounting with practice and theory.

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Prof. Lidia Denkova, PhD

Course Description:


After completing successfully this course the students will:

• 1) know

The central authors and moral writings with their basic concepts and profound impact on the development of contemporary thought;

2) are capable of:

Understanding and approaching in a critical way the most valuable philosophical problems in the field of Virtue Ethics and Moral everyday life.

• Good general knowledge and strong interest in moral philosophy

Full-time Programmes

Types of Courses:

Language of teaching:


  1. Introduction to Virtue Ethics. The classical roots. What exactly means “arete”?
  2. How do Ethics and Moral philosophy differ in various traditions? How can we define “human nature”?
  3. Epistemic, practical and virtue concepts. Reason and wisdom
  4. Platonic Virtue Ethics: Justice in hierarchy of “most valuables”. Platonic dictionary of cardinal virtues. The Good.
  5. The deep meaning ot “arete” and “dynamis” in greek philosophy. The most important question of Socrates: how best to live?
  6. Eudaimonia and modern views on happiness and wisdom.
  7. Is the evil a result of ignorance? The absolute and relative “Good”. Natural Goodness. Virtues and vices.
  8. Virtue and character. Fundamental questions, concepts and influence of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.
  9. Reason, passions and free choice: Virtue ethical theories in the Age of Enlightenment (Kant, Hume, Diderot. Montesquieu versus Hobbes).
  10. The “justification problem” for Virtue ethics, deontology and utilitarianism. Virtues versus duties and rules. “After Virtue”.
  11. The level of metaethics
  12. How relevant are the Objections to Virtue ethics?
  13. Virtue Ethics and the moral consistency of art
  14. Virtue ethics and politics: The extended modern form of neo-machiavellianism
  15. Comparative approach in the questioning about self-consciousness: egoism, altruism, compassion, dignity, human values in: “The Moral philosopher and the Moral life” by William James and “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula Le Guin


Suggested Readings:

1. Aristotle. Nicomahean Ethics, Second Edition, Hackett Publishing Company, 1999.

2. Plato. Complete works. Edited by John M. Cooper. Hackett Publishing Company, 1997.

3. MacIntyre, Alasdair, 1985, After Virtue, London: Duckworth, 2nd Edition.

4. Russell, Daniel C., 2008a, “Agent-Based Virtue Ethics and the Fundamentality of Virtue”, American Philosophical Quarterly, 45: 329–48.

5.Baruch Spinoza. Ethics Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect and Selected Letters. 2nd Edition. Hacklett Classics, 1992.

6.Russell, Daniel C., 2009, Practical Intelligence and the Virtues, New York: Oxford University Press.

7. The Cambridge Companion to Virtue Ethics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

8. David Hume. A treatise of Human Nature. Dover Publications, 2003.

9. Paul Bloomfield. The Virtues of Happiness: A Theory of the Good Life. New York : Oxford University press, 2014.

10. Entries related to Virtue Ethics, Аpplied ethics and deontological Ethics in Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy:


11. B. Williams. Moral Luck. Cambridge – Cambridge University Press, 1981.

12. D. Gauthier. Morals by Agreement. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986.

13. Ethics in Practice. An Anthology. Edited by Hugh LaFollette. Blackwell Publishing, 2004.

14. H. Steiner. An Essay on Rights. Oxford – Blackwell, 1994.

15. J. Raz. The Morality of Freedom. Oxford, 1986.

16. Philippa Foot. Natural Goodness. Clarendon Press Oxford, 2001.

17. Philippa Foot, Virtues and Vices. Oxford - Blackwell, 1978.

18. Chappell, T. (ed.), 2006, Values and Virtues, Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2014, Knowing What to Do, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

19. Clarke, Bridget, 2010, “Virtue and Disagreement”, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 13: 273–91.

20. Welchman, Jennifer (ed.), 2006, The Practice of Virtue: Classic and Contemporary Readings in Virtue Ethics, Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.

21. John Gray. The Virtues of Toleration. Postliberalism. Studies in Political Thought, 1993.

22. J. Rawls. A Theory of Justice. Cambridge-Harvard Univ. press. 1971.