Was Kant a virtue ethicist?

In Monika Betzler (ed.), Kant's Ethics of Virtues. De Gruyter. pp. 61-76 (2008)
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You might think a simple “No” would suffice as an answer. But there are features of Kant’s ethics that appear to be strikingly similar to virtue oriented views, so striking that some Kantians themselves have argued that Kant’s ethics in fact shares these features with virtue ethics. In what follows, I will argue against this view, though along the way I will acknowledge the features of Kant’s view that make it appear more like a kind of virtue ethics than it really is. My plan is to first set out the distinctive features of what is nowadays called “virtue ethics”, those features that make it a genuine alternative to other normative theories. I then consider the features Kant’s view might share in common with virtue ethics and the case for saying that it is, therefore, fundamentally the same sort of theory. I follow these two sections with an argument against this position. I want to warn you at the outset, however, that my argument itself will be quite unsurprising, since it is an argument that has been central to the way in which most philosophers have understood Kant’s ethics. Any novelty I can claim here is in my account of what makes virtue ethics a genuine alternative to other normative theories, and my defense of this argument against those, in particular Barbara Herman, who have apparently found the argument unpersuasive



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Robert Johnson
Norwich University

Citations of this work

Virtue Ethics.Rosalind Hursthouse & Glen Pettigrove - 2022 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Kant's moral philosophy.Robert N. Johnson - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Motive and Right Action.Liezl van Zyl - 2010 - Philosophia 38 (2):405-415.

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