Contemporary ethical debate about clinical practice centres primarily on the individual resolution of dilemmas, an approach which is incompatible with the social constructionist focus on human interdependence. Many constructionists argue that virtue ethics (VE) offers a more useful perspective on ethics than either consequentialism or deontology. From this perspective, the purpose of ethics is not to specify the right act in a particular situation, but to understand ethical and unethical practices conceptually, i.e. how these are learned, and how these contribute to and develop the ethical life in an ethical environment. Criticisms of VE are considered alongside discussion of its implications for clinical practice with people who have intellectual disability.