Skip to main content

Virtue ethics has its theoretical roots in ancient Greek and Chinese ap- proaches to the question of how to live well as a human being—that is, how to live a good life. A “good life” in this sense is one that expresses excellences of human character. In both ancient and modern forms of virtue ethics, character traits—or virtues and vices— are the units of moral analysis and the specific forms of human excellence. If we want to know whether a given re- sponse to a dangerous situation is morally good or bad, we should ask whether it is courageous (or expressive of other relevant virtues) or rash or overly fearful (or expressive of other relevant vices). When we answer that question, we are, at the same time, answering whether the response is an excellent human response and, as a sort of yardstick, we may look to a compari- son with ideal examples by asking, “What would virtuous person X do?”