Critical Virtue Ethics

Document Type : Research Paper


Universität Paderborn Institut für Evangelische Theologie


Since the publication of Anscombe’s famous paper “Modern Moral Philosophy” (1958), virtue ethics has become a matter of discussion among scholars. At least four charges have been raised against virtue ethics, one of which is the charge of promoting undue enthusiasm regarding the moral fitness of human beings. This article explores the limits of virtue ethics with regard to the frailty of human virtuousness. After giving a report of the charges raised against virtue ethics from the perspective of empirical ethics, the author presents the idea of what he would like to call critical virtue ethics as seen by three Lutheran thinkers: Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Luther himself. He will demonstrate that the empirical contestation of virtue ethics shows a remarkable resemblance to insights found in Luther, Kant and Nietzsche. And finally, the writer draws tentative conclusions about the future of critical virtue ethics.


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