Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Teaching organisation

This unit is offered in synchronous national mixed-mode and involves 150 hours of focused learning. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials, online learning, videoconferencing, or supervision. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Recent years has seen a strong revival in the ancient idea of the virtues as a key component to a flourishing moral life. This unit provides students with the opportunity to explore the fundamental role that virtue plays in ethical theory. Students will examine various approaches to virtue ethics, various criticisms that have been levelled at this approach, as well as analyse how the other major moral theories— especially ‘deontology’ and ‘utilitarianism’ (that instead focus on moral duty and consequences of actions)—make room for the virtues. They will examine various conceptions of how the virtues should be understood, their scope, and their role in practical moral reasoning. As they develop an understanding of the history of virtue theory, students will also reflect on how virtue theory can provide fresh insights into current moral issues.

The unit’s aim is to enable students to engage in constructive moral dialogue on the basis of a deep understanding of the role that virtue plays in the development of moral character. It also provides a platform for the development and enhancement of critical thinking skills that are important across a range of occupations or professions. 

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - identify and demonstrate comprehension of key concepts and theories concerning virtue ethics, and how this approach relates to rival normative ethical theories. (GA5)

LO2 - critically analyse selected debates concerning virtue ethics, assessing its strengths and short comings vis-à-vis those of other normative theories. (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9)

LO3 - effectively present a coherent and well-reasoned philosophical position that is reflective of an understanding of current theories and debates. (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9)

Graduate attributes

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include:

  • The project of ethics and the role of virtue in that project
  • The structure and nature of virtue
  • Aristotelian and neo-Aristotelian accounts of virtue
  • Agent-based virtue ethics
  • Target centered views of virtue
  • Virtue, character and moral development
  • Virtue in utilitarian and deontological moral theorizing.
  • Virtues in the political life
  • Virtue, vice, and the good life.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit is offered in synchronous national mixed-mode and involves 150 hours of focused learning. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials, online learning, videoconferencing, or supervision. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment.

The unit has been designed as a blend of collaborative learning, along with direct instruction to ensure that students develop an understanding of important virtue theories along their cognate normative concepts. Unit activities are designed to ensure that students attain the ability to think critically and reflectively about the role of virtue in the ethical life. To those ends, students will be asked to engage in online discussions, provide written critiques of significant theories, and present their reasoned opinion on distinct philosophical positions.

These forms of instruction and engagement are designed to support students’ attainment of the learning outcomes. Direct instruction assists students in the identification and comprehension of important virtue theoretical accounts of normative ethics, while the written critiques and online discussions provide a venue for critical analysis that enable students to demonstrate the ability to assess the role and place of virtue in normative theorising.  

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy for this unit in philosophy is designed to facilitate the understanding of virtue ethics and its relationship to ethical theorising as well as deepen students’ abilities to assess normative action in relation to ethical character.

The early task is a relatively lightly weighted piece that assesses students’ understanding of essential terminology and theoretical material. The second task builds on this by assessing their ability to apply this basic knowledge to pertinent debates, as well as to begin to define their own positions on those debates. Both of these early tasks pave the way toward the final task, the research essay, in which they are required to select an important debate and to undertake further research in the field with a view to developing a critically-developed position of their own. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Written analysis task

Requires students to demonstrate understanding of key concepts and debates.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA3, GA4, GA8, GA9

Written analysis task or presentation

Requires students to demonstrate understanding of key concepts and debates and express a reasoned opinion of their own.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA3, GA4, GA8, GA9

Argumentative/Research Essay

Requires students to critically analyse an important debate in the field and to develop a coherent position.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA3, GA4, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Annas, J. (2011) Intelligent Virtue. New York: Oxford University Press.

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics. (2020) Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Birondo, N. and Braun, S. (eds.) (2017) Virtue’s Reasons: New Essays on Virtue, Character and Reasons. New York: Routledge.

Crisp R. and Slote, M. (eds.) (1997) Virtue Ethics. United States: Oxford University Press.

Driver, J. (2001) Uneasy Virtue. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Hurka, T. (2001) Virtue, Vice, and Value. New York: Oxford University Press.

Russell, D. (2009) Practical Intelligence and the Virtues New York: Oxford University Press.

Slote, M. (2001) Morals from Motives. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Snow, N. (2010) Virtue as Social Intelligence: An Empirically Grounded Theory New York: Routledge.

Swanton, C. (2003) Virtue Ethics: A Pluralistic Account. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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