Research Article

Virtue Ethics and the Problem of Indirection: A Pluralistic Value-Centred Approach

Christine Swantona1

a1 University of Auckland


Many forms of virtue ethics, like certain forms of utilitarianism, suffer from the problem of indirection. In those forms, the criterion for status of a trait as a virtue is not the same as the criterion for the status of an act as right. Furthermore, if the virtues for example are meant to promote the nourishing of the agent, the virtuous agent is not standardly supposed to be motivated by concern for her own flourishing in her activity. In this paper, I propose a virtue ethics which does not suffer from the problem. Traits are not virtues because their cultivation and manifestation promote a value such as agent flourishing. They are virtues in so far as they are habits of appropriate response (which may be of various types) to various relevant values (valuable things, etc.). This means that there is a direct connection between the rationale of a virtue and what makes an action virtuous or right.