Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Thomas Williams, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Joanne B. Waugh, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brook J. Sadler, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Deni Elliott, Ed.D.


Aquinas, Aristotle, Charity, Noddings, Unity


The goal of this thesis is to develop the foundation and structure for a virtue ethics theory grounded in a specific notion of care. While there has been a recent revival of interest in virtue ethics theory, the theory has its roots in Aristotle's work as well in the medieval writings of Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas worked out many of Aristotle's ideas in much more detail. However, while Aquinas offers a very rich and compelling ethical theory, it is problematic because it is very tightly wrapped in his theology. A key component in Aquinas's theory is charity. Charity is one of Aquinas's theological virtues, which express the relationship between humans and God. Charity is the love of God and of neighbor and he construes it as the foundation for all the other virtues. My thesis explores the idea of replacing charity with the virtue of care. The virtue of care to be used in this essential role is primarily based on recent work on the ethics of care by Nel Nodding. The virtue of care, as I develop it, combines three interrelated parts: instinctive, maternal and relational care. By comparing and contrasting care and charity, I demonstrate that the virtue of care can fill the role of charity. In this capacity care can serve as a naturalistic foundation for a virtue ethics theory. Since the ethics of care is relatively new, it has yet to take shape. I propose building a care-based virtue ethics theory on the structure of Aquinas's theory. This new care-based virtue ethics theory also benefits from utilizing many of the components of Aristotle's theory which are found in Aquinas's work. My argument is that care can fulfill the role of charity in Aquinas's theory. Care-based virtue ethics theory is a completely naturalistic version of Aquinas's virtue ethics theory. My thesis contains both the foundation for this different kind of care-based virtue ethics theory and some direction for future work on revising Aquinas's theory using the virtue of care. The essence of this care-based virtue ethics theory is captured in the notion I outline of a virtuoso human.