Aristotle defined virtue as “a purposive disposition, lying in a mean that is relative to us, and determined by a rational principle, and by that which a prudent man would use to determine it. It is a mean between two kinds of vice, one of excess and the other of deficiency” (as cited in Van Hooft 2006, p. 60).
This entry focuses on virtue ethics as a branch of moral philosophy. It provides an overview of virtue theory, definition of key terms, and an account of its relevance to contemporary public administration. Many different theories have resulted from virtue theory, but this entry does not attempt to account for them. Not all virtue theory emanates directly from Aristotle – for example, ancient Persian philosophy emphasized virtue ethics in both public and private life (Frye 1975). While this entry’s account of virtue comprises largely of Aristotelian concepts, it does, occasionally, refer to ancient...
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