Virtue Theory and Abortion Author(s): Rosalind Hursthouse Source: Philosophy & Public Affairs, Vol. 20, No. 3 (Summer, 1991), pp. 223-246 Published by: Wiley Stable URL: . Accessed: 29/08/2013 15:50 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected] . Princeton University Press and Wiley are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Philosophy &Public Affairs. This content downloaded from 18.104.22.168 on Thu, 29 Aug 2013 15:50:08 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
ROSALIND HURSTHOUSE Virtue Theory and Abortion The sort of ethical theory derived from Aristotle, variously described as virtue ethics, virtue-based ethics, or neo-Aristotelianism, is becoming better known, and is now quite widely recognized as at least a possible rival to deontological and utilitarian theories. With recognition has come criticism, of varying quality. In this article I shall discuss nine separate criticisms that I have frequently encountered,most of which seem to me to betray an inadequate grasp either of the structure of virtue theory or of what would be involved in thinking about a real moral issue in its terms. In the first half I aim particularly to secure an understandingthat will reveal that many of these criticisms are simply misplaced, and to articulate what I take to be the major criticism of virtue theory. I reject this criticism, but do not claim that it is necessarily misplaced. In the second half I aim to deepen that understanding and highlight the issues raised by the criticisms by illustrating what the theorylooks like when it is applied to a particular issue, in this case, abortion. VIRTUE THEORY Virtue theory can be laid out in a framework that reveals clearly some of the essential similarities and differences between it and some versions of deontological and utilitarian theories. I begin with a rough sketch of fa- Versions of this article have been read to philosophy societies at University College, Lon- don, Rutgers University, and the Universities of Dundee, Edinburgh, Oxford, Swansea, and California-San Diego; at a conference of the Polish and British Academies in Cracow in I988 on "Life, Death and the Law," and as a symposium paper at the Pacific Division of the American Philosophical Association in I989. I am grateful to the many people who contributed to the discussions of it on these occasions, and particularly to Philippa Foot and Anne Jaap Jacobson for private discussion.