The Practicality of Ancient Virtue Ethics: Greece and China

Virtue ethics has been charged with being unable to provide solutions to practical moral issues. In response, the defenders of virtue ethics argue that normative virtue ethics exists. The debate is significant on its own, yet both sides of the controversy approach the issue from the assumption that moral philosophy has to tell us what we should do. In this essay, I would like to examine the question regarding the practicality of virtue ethics in a different way. Virtue ethics is an ancient approach shared by both ancient Greek philosophers and classic Chinese Confucians, and indeed, ancient Greeks call ethics practical science. How, then, do the ancients themselves view the issue of practicality? This essay shows that there is a notion of practicality which is prominent in both ancient Greek and ancient Chinese virtue ethics but is neglected in today’s ethics. According to this notion, ethics is to transform one’s life. The essay also raises a prospect of the revival of this notion
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DOI 10.1007/s11712-010-9175-0
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