Aretai is a Greek term meaning “character excellences”. Its Latin translation into virtutes, gives birth to the English virtues, as well as to most of the other modern translations of the term. Ancient and medieval ethics, as well as most part of modern ethics, were focused on character development and virtue cultivation. Nowadays, this term may sound obsolete in the ordinary language. However, contemporary Virtue Ethics has revived the very notion of arete as the basis for opposing moral theories based on moral obligation, i.e. deontological ethics, as well as those focused on the consequences of our acts, i.e. consequentialism and utilitarianism. Indeed, these theories seem to provide unsatisfactory solutions to the current ethical challenges, whose complexity calls for a theory that can highlight the importance of attentiveness and creativity, as well as of other new practical and intellectual abilities.


Aretai – Center on Virtues is an interdisciplinary research center that gathers scholars from several Italian universities and establishes research collaborations and partnerships with international research centers or institutes, such as the Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing (ISHE) at University of Oklahoma (link), the Jubilee Center for Character and Virtues at University of Birmingham, and the Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life Project at University of Chicago.

The broad goal of Aretai, the first center on virtues in continental Europe,  is that of developing philosophical research on what it means to flourish and be fulfilled as human beings. The center aims also to provide insights into how to foster virtue in education as well as to promote empirical studies on virtues. Therefore, philosophers, psychologists, and linguists who have joined the center work together at Aretai’s projects. The center promotes academic research as well as public events related to education, organizes seminars and conferences, funds research scholarships, etc.

News: Conference Oxford 5th-7th 2017

Main research topics (in progress):

Contemporary Virtue ethics
Virtues in Aristotle and Aquinas


Civic virtues
Virtues within legal reasoning.
The ethos of democracy; political prudence as the main virtue of the democratic citizen

Epistemic virtues in contemporary philosophy, particularly in the epistemology of religion. Classic (Aristotle), medieval (Aquinas) and modern (Reid) sources of virtue epistemology