David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Mind 111 (441):47-68 (2002)
This paper examines the implications of certain social psychological experiments for moral theory—specifically, for virtue theory. Gilbert Harman and John Doris have recently argued that the empirical evidence offered by ‘situationism’ demonstrates that there is no such thing as a character trait. I dispute this conclusion. My discussion focuses on the proper interpretation of the experimental data—the data themselves I grant for the sake of argument. I develop three criticisms of the anti-trait position. Of these, the central criticism concerns three respects in which the experimental situations employed to test someone's character trait are inadequate to the task. First, they do not take account of the subject's own construal of the situation. Second, they include behaviour that is only marginally relevant to the trait in question. Third, they disregard the normative character of the responses in which virtue theory is interested. Given these inadequacies in situationism's operationalized conception of a ‘character trait’, I argue that situationism does not really address the proposition that people have ‘character traits’, properly understood. A fortiori, the social psychological evidence does not refute that proposition. I also adduce some limited experimental evidence in favour of character traits and distil two lessons we can nevertheless learn from situationism.
|Keywords||No keywords specified (fix it)|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
Jesse Prinz (2009). The Normativity Challenge: Cultural Psychology Provides the Real Threat to Virtue Ethics. [REVIEW] Journal of Ethics 13 (2-3):117 - 144.
Neera K. Badhwar (2009). The Milgram Experiments, Learned Helplessness, and Character Traits. Journal of Ethics 13 (2-3):257 - 289.
Alison Hills (2007). Intentions, Foreseen Consequences and the Doctrine of Double Effect. Philosophical Studies 133 (2):257 - 283.
John Turri (2011). Believing For a Reason. Erkenntnis 74 (3):383-397.
Frans Svensson (2010). Virtue Ethics and the Search for an Account of Right Action. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 13 (3):255 - 271.
Similar books and articles
Miguel Alzola (2008). Character and Environment: The Status of Virtues in Organizations. [REVIEW] Journal of Business Ethics 78 (3):343 - 357.
Guy Axtell (2010). Agency Ascriptions in Ethics and Epistemology: Or, Navigating Intersections, Narrow and Broad. Metaphilosophy 41 (1):73-94.
Christian Miller (2003). Social Psychology and Virtue Ethics. Journal of Ethics 7 (4):365-392.
Dale L. Clark (2009). Aesop's Fox: Consequentialist Virtue Meets Egocentric Bias. Philosophical Psychology 22 (6):727 – 737.
Erik J. Wielenberg (2006). Saving Character. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 9 (4):461 - 491.
Rachana Kamtekar (2004). Situationism and Virtue Ethics on the Content of Our Character. Ethics 114 (3):458-491.
Deborah C. Zeller (2007). Virtue, Virtue Skepticism, and the Milgram Studies. Philosophy in the Contemporary World 14 (2):50-59.
Jonathan Webber (2006). Virtue, Character and Situation. Journal of Moral Philosophy 3 (2):193-213.
Gopal Sreenivasan (2008). Character and Consistency: Still More Errors. Mind 117 (467):603-612.
Jonathan Webber (2007). Character, Common-Sense, and Expertise. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 10 (1):89 - 104.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads73 ( #18,879 of 1,101,125 )
Recent downloads (6 months)8 ( #27,774 of 1,101,125 )
How can I increase my downloads?