Cover image for Introduction to virtue ethics : insights of the ancient Greeks
Introduction to virtue ethics : insights of the ancient Greeks
Devettere, Raymond J.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Washington, D.C. : Georgetown University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
ix, 195 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BJ171.V55 D48 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



This fascinating examination of the development of virtue ethics in the early stages of western civilization deals with a wide range of philosophers and schools of philosophy--from Socrates and the Stoics to Plato, Aristotle, and the Epicureans, among others. This introduction examines those human attributes that we have come to know as the "stuff" of virtue: desire, happiness, the "good," character, the role of pride, prudence, and wisdom, and links them to more current or modern conceptions and controversies.

The tension between viewing ethics and morality as fundamentally religious or as fundamentally rational still runs deep in our culture. A second tension centers on whether we view morality primarily in terms of our obligations or primarily in terms of our desires for what is good. The Greek term arete , which we generally translate as "virtue," can also be translated as "excellence." Arete embraced both intellectual and moral excellence as well as human creations and achievements. Useful, certainly, for classrooms, Virtue Ethics is also for anyone interested in the fundamental question Socrates posed, "What kind of life is worth living?"

Author Notes

Raymond J. Devettere teaches health care ethics at Emmanuel College and Boston College.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

The renewed interest in "virtue ethics" among philosophers in recent years has spawned a phenomenal amount of literature that reproduces, analyzes, and describes the ethical systems of the ancient Greeks and Romans. These systems constitute the historical origins of the idea that morality is a way of living well and not a body of speculative doctrine or dogma. Devettere (Boston College) makes another contribution to this literature. Unlike some more analytically detailed accounts of the moral philosophy of the ancients (e.g., Sarah Broadie's Ethics with Aristotle, CH, Oct'91), Devettere's book is intended only as an introduction that might encourage the reader to go on to read some of the authors discussed. Devettere covers Socrates, Aristotle, the Stoics, and the Epicureans in an introductory but authoritative fashion. This book is especially useful for its analyses of Stoic and Epicurean philosophers, some of whose writings have come down to us either only indirectly or in a very fragmentary manner. A welcome addition to the history of the philosophy of virtue ethics, this book contains almost 50 pages dedicated to a glossary, an index, and valuable bibliographical essays. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Especially useful for general readers and lower- and upper-division undergraduate students. P. A. Streveler West Chester University of Pennsylvania

Table of Contents

Part 1 Desire, Happiness, and Virtue
1 The Origin of Ethics
2 Happiness
3 Character Virtue
Part 2 Prudence and Character Virtue
4 The Prudence in Socrates and Plato
5 Prudence in Aristotle
6 Prudence in Stoicism