Intelligent Virtue by Julia Annas

Have you ever wondered whether your ethical life is all it should be? Have you wondered upon what foundation it should be built? Julia Annas ( and offers her own account of, and defence of, a theoretical approach known as ‘Virtue Ethics‘ (

Intelligent Virtue (2011) presents a distinctive new account of virtue and happiness as central ethical ideas. Annas argues that exercising a virtue involves practical reasoning of a kind which can illuminatingly be compared to the kind of reasoning we find in someone exercising a practical skill. Rather than asking at the start how virtues relate to rules, principles, maximizing, or a final end, we should look at the way in which the acquisition and exercise of virtue can be seen to be in many ways like the acquisition and exercise of more mundane activities, such as farming, building or playing the piano. This helps us to see virtue as part of an agent’s happiness or flourishing, and as constituting (wholly, or in part) that happiness. We are offered a better understanding of the relation between virtue as an ideal and virtue in everyday life, and the relation between being virtuous and doing the right thing. Enquire at your local library or available at

Go on to read Rosalind Hurtshouse On Virtue Ethics (1999) in Oxford University Press. The author presents a full exposition and defence of her neo-Aristotelian version of virtue ethics. She shows how virtue ethics can provide guidance for action, illuminate moral dilemmas, and bring out the moral significance of the emotions. Deliberately avoiding a combative stance, she finds less disagreement between Kantian and neo-Aristotelian approaches than is usual, and she offers the first account from a virtue ethics perspective of acting ‘from a sense of duty’. She considers the question which character traits are virtues, and explores how answers to this question can be justified by appeal to facts about human nature.  Enquire at your local library or available at

Into your stride now, reach for The Cambridge Companion to Virtue Ethics (2013) edited by Daniel C. Russell. In this volume of newly commissioned essays, leading moral philosophers offer a comprehensive overview of the subject. They examine the theoretical structure of virtue ethics and its place in contemporary moral theory and other topics discussed include the history of virtue-based approaches to ethics, what makes these approaches distinctive, what they can say about specific practical issues and where we can expect them to go in the future. Enquire at your local library or available at

For a lifetime of reflection on Virtue Ethics follow the bibliographies in The Stanford Encyclopedia at

To hear Julia Annas speak use the link to the ‘philosophybites’ website.

200 pages in Oxford University Press paperback edition

First published 28 April 2011

ISBN 978-0199228775

Julia Annas

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