Elisabeth Anscombe

  • In 1958 Anscombe published a paper titled “Modern Moral Philosophy” that changed the way we think about normative theories.
  • She criticised modern moral philosophy’s pre-occupation with a law conception of ethics. A law conception of ethics deals exclusively with obligation and duty.
  • Anscombe criticised theories such as Mill’s Utilitarianism and Kant’s deontology for their relience on universally applicable principles.
  • These approaches rely on universal principles and rigid moral code. Further, these rigid rules are based on a notion of obligation that is meaningless in modern, secular society because they make no sense without assuming the existence of a lawgiver – an assumption we no longer make.
  • Taking her inspiration from Aristotle, Anscombe called for a differnet version of philosophy. Returning to concepts such as character, virtue and flourishing. She also emphasised the importance of the emotions and understanding moral philosophy.

Alasdair MacIntyre

  • Alasdair’s ideas acted as a stimulus for the increased interest in virtue.
  • He attempts to give an account of virtue. MacIntyre looks at a large number of historical accounts of virtue that differ in their lists of virtues and have incompatible theories of the virtues.
  • He concludes that these differences are attributable to different practices that generate different conceptions of the virtues.
  • Each account of virtue requires a prior account of social and moral features in order to be understood.
  • Thus, to understand Homeric virtue you must look at its place in Ancient Greek society.
  • Virtues, then, are exercised within practices that are coherent, social forms of activity and seek to realize goods internal to the activity.

Philippa Foot

  • Recognises the importance of the persons own reasoning in the practice of virtue.
  • Foot argues that a virtue does not operate as a virtue if resulting in a bad end.
  • Virtues are good for us and also help us to correct harmful human passions and temptations.

Rosalind Hursthouse

  • Doesn’t agree with Aristotle’s conclusions.
  • Virtues are virtues because they help a person achieve eudaemonia – a good thing for human life.
  • She viewed Virtues as shaping the virtuous persons practical reasoning in characteristic ways, not just shaping their actions/attitudes.

Michael Slote

  • Mostly based on our common-sense ideas and intuitions about what counts as a virtue.
  • Prefers to use the word admirable to describe an action, rather than ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ which need qualifying or explaining.
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