In this paper I have argued that the best option in this time of great moral crisis is a return to the virtue ethics of the ancients. Moral rules are too abstract and too rigid, and it is difficult to apply them to complex situations and decisions. They, however, still retain their normative force for use the application of national and international law. Utilitarianism, on the other hand, fails to distinguish between qualitative values of the virtues and external quantities of pleasure, and sometimes the hedonic calculus produces unrealistic and even absurd moral obligations.What's next--a quote from Socrates, Aristotle, or Jesus?
As opposed to a rule based ethics, where the most that we can know is that we always fall short of the norm, virtue ethics is truly a voyage of personal discovery. Ancient virtue ethics always aim at a personal mean that is a creative choice for each individual. Virtue ethics is emulative--using the sage or savior as a model for virtue--whereas rule ethics involves conformity and obedience. The emulative approach engages the imagination and personalizes and thoroughly grounds individual moral action and responsibility. Such an ethics naturally lends itself to an aesthetics of virtue: the crafting of a good and beautiful soul, a unique gem among other gems.
[thanks to Online Papers in Philosophy, a fantabulous site]