Virtue ethics is a group of theories in moral philosophy that has its roots in ancient greek philosophy with Aristotle being largely influential. Contrary to other theories in normative ethics, which tend to ask "what actions are right?", virtue ethics tends to ask the question "what kind of person do I want to be?", and instead of defining one's moral duties by nature, virtue ethics seeks out the "good life" and what conditions and characteristics make up this "good life". Virtue ethics prescribes that we imagine a picture of the good life and of the good person and act in accordance to those ideals. .
In virtue ethics the standard of right action is as follows: "An act is morally right just because it is one that a virtuous person, acting in character, would do in that situation" (Shafer-Landau 253). According to this standard, actions are not right because of the results they yield, or because they follow a strictly formulated rule, but are right because they are done as a virtuous person would do in that situation. This virtuous person, serving as a role model, is described as a "moral exemplar". .
A key theme in virtue ethics is the recognition of moral complexity. Within virtue ethics, the idea that a straightforward set of rules or definitive method of outlining our moral duty in each situation is clearly rejected for a different, less precise set of rules with much more room for situational exceptions. Therefore, in regards to moral complexity, virtue ethics applies the notion that there is no predetermined way to react to something because morality can not be set in stone. For example, it is considered virtuous to always to always give to those in need. But consider a scenario in which someone needs money for an unjust cause, such as purchasing assault weapons to massacre a school bus full of children. It would be clear in this situation that always giving to those in need may require the consideration of a situational exception.