Volume 36, Issue 3, July 2019
Robert C. Roberts
Is Kierkegaard a “Virtue Ethicist”?
Several readers of Kierkegaard have proposed that his works are a good source for contemporary investigations of virtues, especially theistic and Christian ones. Sylvia Walsh has recently offered several arguments to cast doubt on the thesis that Kierkegaard can be profitably read as a “virtue ethicist.” Examination of her arguments helps to clarify what virtues, as excellent traits of human character, can be in a moral outlook that ascribes deep sin and moral helplessness to human beings and their existence and salvation entirely to God’s grace. The examination also clarifies the relationship between virtues and character and between the practices of virtue ethics and character ethics. Such clarification also may provide a bridge of communication between Kierkegaard scholarship and scholars of virtue ethics beyond the theistic communities. In particular, I’ll argue that a character ethics that is not a virtue ethics would be suboptimal as an aid to the formation of Christian wisdom and sanctification. Kierkegaard’s character ethics is a virtue ethics.