3 Tutorials that teach Virtue-Based Ethics
Take your pick:
Virtue-Based Ethics

Virtue-Based Ethics

Author: Glenn Kuehn

Identify the characteristics and descriptors of virtue-based ethics

See More
Try a College Course Free

Sophia’s self-paced online courses are a great way to save time and money as you earn credits eligible for transfer to over 2,000 colleges and universities.*

Begin Free Trial
No credit card required

28 Sophia partners guarantee credit transfer.

253 Institutions have accepted or given pre-approval for credit transfer.

* The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE Credit®) has evaluated and recommended college credit for 21 of Sophia’s online courses. More than 2,000 colleges and universities consider ACE CREDIT recommendations in determining the applicability to their course and degree programs.


Source: Image of Socrates, Creative Commons, http://bit.ly/29ZntMM

Video Transcription

Download PDF

Hello. I'm Glen. And this is the ethics tutorial on virtue-based ethics. As we go through the tutorial, please keep in mind the definition of ethics. And we have a few key terms for this tutorial.

They are-- virtue-based ethics-- a theory of ethics that maintains that an action is to be evaluated based on how that action informs the aspects of the agent's character. Virtue-- is a character trait of moral value. A vice is a character trait of moral disvalue.

In this tutorial, we will be covering the relationship of virtue and vice to character, and then the relationship of character and action. First, let's look at the virtues and vices and their relationship to character.

Virtues and vices are character traits. They are aspects of our character that are revealed through us. Now obviously, virtues are ones that are desirable, and vices are ones that are not desirable. Some examples of each-- examples of virtues include things like courage, and loyalty, honesty, generosity, patience, justice, and modesty, among others. And you can easily look these up. Typical vices include things like cowardice, dishonesty, greed, impatience, injustice, vanity, and vulgarity.

Since certain virtues, this is something to note, since certain virtues should be cultivated by everyone, there's a universality to them, and certain vices also really should not be cultivated by any one. Virtue ethics can therefore be seen as an objectivist theory of ethics. It's objective in that it should generally apply to everyone.

Now this section is on the virtue ethics, which is an ethical theory about character. However, of course ethics has everything to do with how we behave. Now the relationship here between character and action is that action reveals the character we have. Actions can develop or reinforce and even strengthen personal characteristics. There is, therefore, an inherent relationship between these.

And even given this relationship we can see the unique position that virtue-based ethics has when compared to other ethical theories that we've considered. For example, deontology and egoism are both focused on intent and motivations. Utilitarianism is focused on consequences.

Virtue-based ethics is focused on developing character traits, that which is within us that is part of who we are that we wish to cultivate or in cases of vices that we wish to get rid of. Therefore, although we always look at the action, we want to know what it's based on. And here the action informs the character of the agent.

Therefore for virtue-based ethics, the primary question that we are dealing with is not how should I act or how should I behave, instead, it's what kind of person do I want to be, or what kind of person would do the following? It's about the type of person you want to be, about the type of person I want to be. And so let's look at two examples of actions that are based on how it informs our character. And informs it's just our way of saying how it reveals our character.

So let's say you steal money from your child's piggy bank. Generally, not a good thing, this doesn't sound right. But for virtue-based ethics, we ask the question, what kind of a person does this? What kind of a person would steal money from their own child's piggy bank? And it would be seen by virtue-based ethics as being, of course, morally bad, but it would be bad because it's based upon the vice of greed. It is a greedy person who would do this thing.

What about being a successful greeter at a place like Walmart? Well, what kind of a person does that? What kind of a character is exhibited by a person who successfully engages their job as a greeter in Walmart. Well, it's a good friendly person. Right? This is a morally good thing to do. It's a manifestation of friendliness. So that is the character that is evaluated in this circumstance. Certainly an unfriendly, unkind person would not make a good greeter at this kind of a place.

So in this tutorial, we have seen the relationship of virtue and vice to character and also of the relationship between character and action.

Notes on “Virtue-Based Ethics”

(00:00 – 00:42) Introduction, Things to Keep in Mind, Key Term

(00:43 – 01:00) Content of Tutorial

(01:01 – 02:16) Virtue, Vice, and Character

(02:17 – 03:40) Action and Character

(03:41 – 05:30) What Kind of Person…?

(05:31 – 05:46) Summary

Terms to Know

A character trait of moral disvalue


A character trait of moral value

Virtue-Based Ethics

A theory of ethics that maintains that an action is to be evaluated based on how that action informs the aspects of the agent's character