Suppose it is obvious that someone in need should be helped.A utilitarian will point to the fact that the consequences of doing so will maximize well-being, a deontologist to the fact that, in doing so the agent will be acting in accordance with a moral rule such as “Do unto others as you would be done by” and a virtue ethicist to the fact that helping the person would be charitable or benevolent.To possess a virtue is to be a certain sort of person with a certain complex mindset.A significant aspect of this mindset is the wholehearted acceptance of a distinctive range of considerations as reasons for action.We conclude with a look at some of the directions in which future research might develop.
Each of the above-mentioned approaches can make room for virtues, consequences, rules.
An honest person cannot be identified simply as one who, for example, practices honest dealing and does not cheat.
If such actions are done merely because the agent thinks that honesty is the best policy, or because they fear being caught out, rather than through recognising “To do otherwise would be dishonest” as the relevant reason, they are not the actions of an honest person.
Indeed, any plausible normative ethical theory will have something to say about all three.
What distinguishes virtue ethics from consequentialism or deontology is the centrality of virtue within the theory (Watson 1990; Kawall 2009).