The article examines the popular notion that liberalism, or liberal theory of contract, is committed to a particularly rigid conception of the freedom of contract. The article argues that this notion is mistaken, and seeks to identify its roots in certain misconceptions of modern liberalism and its implications, and in a certain misunderstanding concerning the nature of contract. Neutral political concern, the value of personal autonomy, and finally the belief that contracts are identical to promises in terms of their significance (...) for personal autonomy, are analysed and rejected as bases for the association of liberalism with commitment to a minimally limited freedom of contract. Instead, it is shown that such considerations are compatible with, and in some cases directly recommend, various forms of intervention in the freedom of contract, and an active role for the state in shaping and regulating contractual activity. (shrink)
The article comments on the supposed need for a paradigm for the theory of contract, primarily by way of engaging with the most prominent source of late of calls for a paradigm shift in contract theory, the relational theory of contract. The article distinguishes between an empirical, a doctrinal-prescriptive and a theoretical–analytical line of argument as offered by relational theory. With regard to the first line of argument, the article argues that the thought that contract law already is ‘relationally constituted’ (...) is informed by a misunderstanding of the available alternatives to relational theory. With regard to the second line of argument, the article argues that the incorporation of relational norms into the law, although occasionally desirable, is not the only way nor always the best way to sustain the relational contract, and explores the proposition that, at times, the law best supports valuable social practices by refraining from absorbing their constitutive norms. Finally, by way of drawing an analogy with a putative relational theory of promise, the article offers an objection to the thesis that the key to a sound theoretical grasp of the nature of contract and its social role lies in the adoption of the relational paradigm. (shrink)
Doris Olin's Paradox is a very helpful book for those who want to be introduced to the philosophical treatment of paradoxes, or for those who already have knowledge of the general area and would like to have a helpful resource book.
According to Doris Schroeder, the view that human rights derive from human dignity should be rejected. She thinks that this is the case for three different reasons: the first has to do with the fact that the dominant concept of dignity is based on religious beliefs which will do no justificatory work in a secular society; the second is that the dominant secular view of dignity, which is the Kantian view, does not provide us with a justification of human rights, (...) i.e. rights all humans have; and the third reason has to do with the fact that dignity is understood in too many different ways to provide us with a justification of human rights. It is argued in this paper that none of these reasons for separating human rights from human dignity is convincing. It is true, it will be argued, that some accounts of dignity will not be successful in justifying human rights. But there is no reason to assume that no account of human dignity is capable of doing this. In the final part of the paper a concept of human dignity is presented that could indeed provide us with a justificatory basis for human rights. (shrink)
Causation is one of philosophy's most venerable and thoroughly-analyzed concepts. However, the study of how ordinary people make causal judgments is a much more recent addition to the philosophical arsenal. One of the most prominent views of causal explanation, especially in the realm of harmful or potentially harmful behavior, is that unusual or counternormative events are accorded privileged status in ordinary causal explanations. This is a fundamental assumption in psychological theories of counterfactual reasoning, and has been transported to philosophy by (...) Hitchcock and Knobe (2009). A different view--the basis of the culpable control model of blame (CCM)--is that primary causal status is accorded to behaviors that arouse negative evaluative reactions, including behaviors that stem from nefarious motives, negligence or recklessness, a faulty character, or behaviors that lead to harmful or potentially harmful consequences. This paper describes four empirical studies that show consistent support for the CCM. (shrink)
I argue against two of the most influential contemporary theories of moral responsibility: those of Harry Frankfurt and John Martin Fischer. Both propose conditions which are supposed to be sufficient for direct moral responsibility for actions. (By the term direct moral responsibility, I mean moral responsibility which is not traced from an earlier action.) Frankfurt proposes a condition of 'identification'; Fischer, writing with Mark Ravizza, proposes conditions for 'guidance control'. I argue, using counterexamples, that neither is sufficient for direct moral (...) responsibility. -/- My counterexample cases are based on recent research in psychology which reveals many surprising causes of our actions. Some of this research comes from the field of situationist social psychology; some from experiments which reveal the influence of automatic processes in our actions. Broadly, I call such causes 'subverting' when the agent would not identify with her action, if she knew all the causes of the action. When an action has subverting causes, the agent is not directly morally responsible for it, even though she may meet the conditions specified by Frankfurt and Fischer. -/- I also criticise the theories of Eddy Nahmias and John Doris, who have both engaged specifically with the threats posed to moral responsibility by situationist research. Against Doris and Nahmias, I argue that their conditions are neither necessary nor sufficient for direct moral responsibility. -/- My final objective is to argue that there are many everyday actions for which we mistakenly hold agents morally responsible. I review evidence that there are many everyday actions which have subverting causes. Many of those are actions for which we currently hold agents morally responsible. But I argue that, in many of those same actions, the agents are not in fact morally responsible – they bear neither direct nor traced moral responsibility. (shrink)
Richard Nisbett and Dov Cohen’s (1996) influential account of “cultures of honor” speculates that honor norms are a socially-adaptive deterrence strategy. This theory has been appealed to by multiple empirically-minded philosophers, and plays an important role in John Doris and Alexandra Plakias’ (2008) antirealist argument from disagreement. In this essay, I raise four objections to the Nisbett-Cohen deterrence thesis, and offer another theory of honor in its place that sees honor as an agonistic normative system regulating prestige competitions. Since my (...) account portrays honor norms as radically different from liberal ones, it actually strengthens Doris and Plakias’ case in some respects: cultures of honor are not merely superficially different from Western liberal ones. Nonetheless, the persistent appeal of honor’s principles, and their moral plausibility in certain contexts, suggests not antirealism, but pluralism—a reply on behalf of realism that itself has considerable empirical support. (shrink)
In his recent book Lack of Character, John Doris argues that people typically lack character (understood in a particular way). Such a claim, if correct, would have devastating implications for moral philosophy and for various human moral projects (e.g. character development). I seek to defend character against Doris's challenging attack. To accomplish this, I draw on Socrates, Aristotle, and Kant to identify some of the central components of virtuous character. Next, I examine in detail some of the central experiments in (...) social psychology upon which Doris's argument is based. I argue that, properly understood, such experiments reveal differences in the characters of their subjects, not that their subjects lack character altogether. I conclude with some reflections on the significance of such experiments and the importance of character. (shrink)
Moral responsibility invariantism is the view that there is a single set of conditions for being morally responsible for an action (or omission or consequence of an act or omission) that applies in all cases. I defend this view against some recent arguments by Joshua Knobe and John Doris.
Several philosophers have recently claimed to have discovered a new and rather significant problem with virtue ethics. According to them, virtue ethics generates certain expectations about the behavior of human beings which are subject to empirical testing. But when the relevant experimental work is done in social psychology, the results fall remarkably short of meeting those expectations. So, these philosophers think, despite its recent success, virtue ethics has far less to offer to contemporary ethical theory than might have been initially (...) thought. I argue that there are plausible ways in which virtue ethicists can resist arguments based on empirical work in social psychology. In the first three sections of the paper, I reconstruct the line of reasoning being used against virtue ethics by looking at the recent work of Gilbert Harman and John Doris. The remainder of the paper is then devoted both to responding to their challenge as well as to briefly sketching a positive account of character trait possession. (shrink)
In this paper, I defend a local account of character traits that posits traits like close-friend-honesty and good-mood-compassion. John Doris also defends local character traits, but his local character traits are indistinguishable from mere behavioral dispositions, they are not necessary for the purpose which allegedly justifies them, and their justification is only contingent, depending upon the prevailing empirical situation. The account of local traits I defend posits local traits that are traits of character rather than behavioral dispositions, local traits that (...) are necessary to satisfy one of their central purposes, and local traits whose justification is dependent upon theoretical rather than empirical considerations. (shrink)
In section one, I briefly review the Harman/Doris argument and outline the most promising response. Then in section two I develop what I take the real challenge to virtue ethics to be. The final section of the chapter suggests two strategies for beginning to address this challenge.
Situationist research in social psychology focuses on the situational factors that influence behavior. Doris and Harman argue that this research has powerful implications for ethics, and virtue ethics in particular. First, they claim that situationist research presents an empirical challenge to the moral psychology presumed within virtue ethics. Second, they argue that situationist research supports a theoretical challenge to virtue ethics as a foundation for ethical behavior and moral development. I offer a response from moral psychology using an interpretation of (...) Xunzi—a Confucian virtue ethicist from the Classical period. This Confucian account serves as a foil to the situationist critique in that it uncovers many problematic ontological and normative assumptions at work in this debate regarding the prediction and explanation of behavior, psychological posits, moral development, and moral education. Xunzi’s account of virtue ethics not only responds to the situationist empirical challenge by uncovering problematic assumptions about moral psychology, but also demonstrates that it is not a separate empirical hypothesis. Further, Xunzi’s virtue ethic responds to the theoretical challenge by offering a new account of moral development and a ground for ethical norms that fully attends to situational features while upholding robust character traits. (shrink)
About a year after the start of the Iraq War, a story broke about the abuse of Iraqi detainees by American soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison. Editorialists and science writers noted affinities between what happened at Abu Ghraib and Philip Zimbardo’s famous 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment. Zimbardo’s experiment is part of the “situationist” literature in social psychology, which suggests that the contexts in which agents act have a larger influence on behavior, and that personality traits have a smaller influence, (...) than is ordinarily supposed. Recently, there has been increased interest among philosophers in research like Zimbardo’s and its potential for influencing ethical theories. This increase is due in part to the publication of John Doris’ Lack of Character. More recently, Doris and Dominic Murphy have argued that soldiers, including those at Abu Ghraib, often act under conditions of moral excuse because the situational pressures to which they are exposed impair their capacities for moral judgment. I argue that soldiers can be morally responsible for wartime behavior even if their moral capacities have been substantially impaired. (shrink)
I first summarize the main line of argument used by Harman and Doris against Aristotelian virtue ethics in particular. In section two I present what seems to me to be the most promising response to their argument. Finally in section three I briefly review and assess the other leading responses in the now sizable literature that has developed in this area.
This chapter surveys work in meta-ethics in the past fifty years which explicitly deals with issues associated with evil. It discusses two examples from secular discussions: the argument developed by Gilbert Harman on the explanatory role of moral facts, and the argument developed by Gilbert Harman and John Doris on the empirical inadequacy of the virtues. The chapter then turns to two topics related to theistic meta-ethics: the problem of evil and moral realism, and theological voluntarism and evil.
Most discussions of John Doris’s situationism center on what can be called descriptive situationism, the claim that our folk usage of global personality and character traits in describing and predicting human behavior is empirically unsupported. Philosophers have not yet paid much attention to another central claim of situationism, which says that given that local traits are empirically supported, we can more successfully act in line with our moral values if, in our deliberation about what to do, we focus on our (...) situation instead of on our moral character. Call this prescriptive situationism. In this paper, we will point toward a previously unrecognized tension between these two situationist theses and explore some ways for the situationist to address it. (shrink)
In everyday life we assume substantial behavioural reliability in others, and on the basis of it we talk of people as acting “in character” and “out of character”. This common assumption seems intuitively well founded. But recent experiments in social psychology have generated philosophical controversy around it. In the context of this debate, John Doris challenges Aristotle’s well known and influential view that people’s behavioural reliability with respect to acting virtuously is underpinned by character traits, understood as settled and integrated (...) dispositions of the agent to have appropriate judgment and appropriate feelings toward what she is called upon to do in a given situation. In this paper I will take John Doris’ challenge at face value, and argue in response that Aristotle’s position is not undermined by it. In fact, rethinking Aristotle’s realism about character and moral virtues in light of Doris’ criticism has important and hitherto unexplored heuristic value for Aristotelian scholars and situationist philosophers alike. (shrink)
This book is a provocative contribution to contemporary ethical theory challenging foundational conceptions of character that date back to Aristotle. John Doris draws on behavioral science, especially social psychology, to argue that we misattribute the causes of behavior to personality traits and other fixed aspects of character rather than to the situational context. More often than not it is the situation not the nature of the personality that really counts. The author elaborates the philosophical consequences of this research for a (...) whole array of ethical theories and shows that, once rid of the misleading conception of motivation, moral psychology can support more robust ethical theories and more humane ethical practices. (shrink)
I first summarize the central issues in the debate about the empirical adequacy of virtue ethics, and then examine the role that social psychologists claim positive and negative mood have in influencing compassionate helping behavior. I argue that this psychological research is compatible with the claim that many people might instantiate certain character traits after all which allow them to help others in a wide variety of circumstances. Unfortunately for the virtue ethicist, however, it turns out that these helping traits (...) fall well short of exhibiting certain central features of compassion. (shrink)
7.1 META-ETHICS AND AN ERROR THEORY ABOUT MORAL CHARACTER It is customary in philosophical ethics to distinguish between meta-ethics and normative ethical theory. Meta-ethics is often characterized as the non-moral study of ...
Technoscience and technology assessment Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s10202-010-0080-8 Authors Karen Kastenhofer, Austrian Academy of Sciences Institute of Technology Assessment Strohg. 45/5 1030 Wien Austria Doris Allhutter, Austrian Academy of Sciences Institute of Technology Assessment Strohg. 45/5 1030 Wien Austria Journal Poiesis & Praxis: International Journal of Technology Assessment and Ethics of Science Online ISSN 1615-6617 Print ISSN 1615-6609 Journal Volume Volume 7 Journal Issue Volume 7, Numbers 1-2.
The first section of this paper briefly summarizes my positive view of global helping traits. The remaining sections then develop the view in two new directions by examining the relationship between guilt, embarrassment, and helping behavior. It turns out that guilt and embarrassment reliably and cross-situationally enhance helping behavior, but in such a way that is incompatible with the nature of compassion as traditionally understood.