ABSTRACT

In this chapter we consider virtue ethics and the ethics of care. In Section 8.1 we first characterize virtue ethics. Then we discuss the virtue theories of Aristotle and Adam Smith in Sections 8.2 and 8.3, respectively. As most virtue ethics theories take their inspiration from Aristotle, his theory is a logical starting point for describing and explaining virtue ethics. However, as Aristotle’s socioeconomic world was a very different one from ours, his framework and concerns can be difficult to grasp and apply in the modern world without either a major effort in translation or drastic simplification. Whereas Adam Smith was working within the extended virtue ethical tradition that began with Plato and Aristotle and was particularly indebted to Aristotle, his virtue ethics is more familiar with modern economics, since he was also an enlightenment philosopher concerned with integrating that tradition with liberal individualism. What makes Smith particularly apt for application to economic life is that he himself saw and described the appearance of a commercial society characterized by an enormously increased division of labor, formal property rights and individual mobility. Section 8.4 describes recent theories of virtues of MacIntyre and Bruni and Sugden that have been developed in the context of a modern market economy and are therefore even more directly applicable to the evaluation of current market institutions. Section 8.5 closes with the ethics of care, which has some similarities with virtue ethics, but has its own focus.