Situationism and virtue ethics on the content of our character

Ethics 114 (3):458-491 (2004)
Abstract
Situationist social psychologists tell us that information about people’s distinctive character traits, opinions, attitudes, values, or past behavior is not as useful for determining what they will do as is information about the details of their situations.1 One would expect, they say, that the possessor of a given character trait (such as helpfulness) would behave consistently (helpfully) across situations that are similar in calling for the relevant (helping) behavior, but under experimental conditions, people’s behavior is not found to be cross-situationally consistent (the likelihood that a person who has behaved helpfully on one occasion will behave helpfully on the next is hardly above chance).2 Instead, across a range of situations, the person’s behavior tends to converge on the behavioral norm for those situations. So situationists reason that people’s situations, rather than their characters, are the explanatorily powerful factors in determining why different people behave differently. They add that if behavior does not covary with character traits, then ordinary people, “folk psychologists” who try to explain and predict..
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    Citations of this work BETA
    Gilbert Harman (2009). Skepticism About Character Traits. Journal of Ethics 13 (2/3):235 - 242.
    Joel J. Kupperman (2009). Virtue in Virtue Ethics. Journal of Ethics 13 (2-3):243 - 255.

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