For a little over the past decade, scholarship utilizing virtue ethics’ insights has appeared in the contexts of private law, such as contract and property, legal ethics and, more recently still, constitutional law. Of particular note is Professor Larry Solum’s extensive and path-breaking work, culminating most recently in an edited collection titled Virtue Jurisprudence. This scholarly movement is a manifestation of the broader revival of virtue ethics in the philosophy academy occurring since at least 1958, when Elizabeth Anscombe published Modern Moral Philosophy.
Virtue ethics has a long and storied past that includes its two foundational figures, Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas. Its basic insight is that human ethical life is best understood as focusing on virtue and character, not rules or consequences. Virtue is an entrenched disposition of character that enables one to act, to live, and to be well.