The indeterminacy paradox: Character evaluations and human psychology

Noûs 39 (1):1–42 (2005)
You may not know me well enough to evaluate me in terms of my moral character, but I take it you believe I can be evaluated: it sounds strange to say that I am indeterminate, neither good nor bad nor intermediate. Yet I argue that the claim that most people are indeterminate is the conclusion of a sound argument—the indeterminacy paradox—with two premises: (1) most people are fragmented (they would behave deplorably in many and admirably in many other situations); (2) fragmentation entails indeterminacy. I support (1) by examining psychological experiments in which most participants behave deplorably (e.g., by maltreating “prisoners” in a simulated prison) or admirably (e.g., by intervening in a simulated theft). I support (2) by arguing that, according to certain plausible conceptions, character evaluations presuppose behavioral consistency (lack of fragmentation). Possible reactions to the paradox include: (a) denying that the experiments are relevant to character; (b) upholding conceptions according to which character evaluations do not presuppose consistency; (c) granting that most people are indeterminate and explaining why it appears otherwise. I defend (c) against (a) and (b).
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/j.0029-4624.2005.00492.x
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive Peter B. M. Vranas, The indeterminacy paradox: Character evaluations and human psychology
External links
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
Aristotle (2012). Nicomachean Ethics. Courier Dover Publications.

View all 60 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Lauren Olin & John M. Doris (2014). Vicious Minds. Philosophical Studies 168 (3):665-692.
Tamar Szabó Gendler (2007). Self-Deception as Pretense. Philosophical Perspectives 21 (1):231 - 258.

View all 23 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

84 ( #39,917 of 1,726,249 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

54 ( #21,421 of 1,726,249 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.