Aristotle

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Unlike both utilitarianism and rights-based theories, virtue theory assumes human beings and the planet Earth have intrinsic purpose, from which moral commandments flow.

A defining feature of the evolution of western ethics has been the displacement of the language of virtue for that of utility and rights. While virtue(...)

Paper nautilus: a glossy white fan of a shell, so fragile that the sun infused it, gleaming through every tight fold. Illustration: Michael Viney

Once, walking the tideline on my first Greek island, I came upon a most beautiful oceanic artefact. It covered the palm of my hand and there weighed a(...)

The cast of ‘Friends’: Aristotle says older people often pursue the friendship of usefulness, young people most frequently the friendship of pleasure. Photograph: Reuters

“Who is the greatest thinker of all time?” is the sort of pub question guaranteed to produce a lack of consensus. BBC Radio 4 ran a survey on the matt(...)

Photograph: iStock

I think that forgiveness – in certain contexts at least – is overrated. Philosophically, it is made more complex by being (like a lot of moral concep(...)

‘There is something about what we are which incarnates unconditional worth.’ Photograph: Thinkstock

Talking of metaphysics brings to mind the Dara Ó Briain line about herbal medicine: “We tested it all, and the stuff that worked became ‘medicine’.” M(...)

German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, Luxembourg’s finance minister Pierre Gramegna and eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem: forgiveness of debt has been a great boon to Germany. Photograph: Stephanie Lecocq

For most of human history the moral opprobrium associated with credit was attached to the lender, not the borrower. Aristotle and Plato poured scorn o(...)

‘We can’t hide from children that there are some things that are complicated.’ Photograph: Thinkstock

Plans are afoot to create a short course in philosophy in the new junior cycle, but even this modest reform faces barriers. A crowded curriculum, o(...)

Fresh attempts are being made to teach moral character in the classroom. Photograph: David Sleator

Parents and educators are increasingly asking how best they can pass on values to young people in the absence of religion. Commonly, the discussion(...)

Immanuel Kant: ‘The duty of care includes care of oneself’

The controversy surrounding the Tuam mother-and-child home has highlighted how societal values have changed in Ireland. We have a radically differe(...)

A Valentine’s Day display in a Tokyo shop. Photograph: Yuya Shino/Reuters

Love is a word much bandied about, and not just on St Valentine’s Day. But what is love, and can it be explained without resorting to cliche or(...)

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