I offer an epistemological defense of the thesis that it is possible to know a false proposition. (This is a companion to “The Myth of Factive Verbs,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research forthcoming.).
I propose that safety and sensitivity conditionals may be used to explain the reliability of beliefs in necessary truths, by appeal to a non-standard semantics for counterfactuals with impossible antecedents and necessarily true consequents.
Block is concerned with the question whether there are cases of phenomenology in the absence of cognitive access. I assume that, more precisely, the question is whether there are cases in which a subject S has a phenomenological experience E to which S does not have direct cognitive access? (S might have indirect cognitive access to E through scientiﬁc reasoning. I take it that’s not the sort of cognitive access in question.).
The approach to generative grammar originating with Chomsky (1957) has been enormously successful within linguistics. Seeing such success, one wonders whether a similar approach might help us understand other human domains besides language. One such domain is morality. Could there be universal generative moral grammar? More specifically, might it be useful to moral theory to develop an explicit generative account of parts of particular moralities in the way it has proved useful to linguistics to produce generative grammars for parts of (...) particular languages? Should moral theorists attempt to develop a theory of moral universals that is analogous to the theory of universal grammar in linguistics? Can moral theorists develop a “principles and parameters” account of possible moralities inspired by the principles and parameters approach to language in current linguistics? Could there be a “minimalist” program for moral theory inspired by the minimalist program in linguistics? In this chapter we offer a preliminary account of some analogies, focusing on clarifying issues, making distinctions, and considering how—in a general way—such analogies might yield a fruitful research program for moral theory. There are two main parts to our discussion, one focusing on an analogy between generative grammar and moral theory, the other focusing on analogies between universal grammar and theories of moral universals. In the first part, we say a little about the background and say how we are going to understand morality and moral theory. We describe certain aspects of generative grammar and how claims about generative grammars are tested, allowing for a distinction between “competence” and “performance”. We then try to say what a corresponding “generative moral grammar” would be and how it would be tested. We next discuss a number of objections to the analogy between moral theory and generative grammar and indicate possible responses. In the second part, we discuss certain universal constraints on grammars and consider whether there might be similar constraints on moralities. Then we discuss how linguists describe core aspects of languages in terms of principles and parameters and consider what aspects of moralities might be described in similar terms. After that we make some brief remarks about minimalism. (shrink)
How do people reason about the what follows from certain assumptions? How do they think about implications between statements. According to one theory, people try to use a small number of mental rules of inference to construct an argument for or proof of a relevant conclusion from the assumptions (e.g., Rips 1994). According to a competing theory, people construct one or more mental models of the situation described in the assumptions and try to determine what conclusion ﬁts with the model (...) or models constructed (e.g., Johnson-Laird 1983, 2006). The present collection oﬀers eleven contributions to the mental models theory. (shrink)
According to moral relativism, there is not a single true morality. There are a variety of possible moralities or moral frames of reference, and whether something is morally right or wrong, good or bad, just or unjust, etc. is a relative matter—relative to one or another morality or moral frame of reference. Something can be morally right relative to one moral frame of reference and morally wrong relative to another. It is useful to compare moral relativism to other relativisms. One (...) possible comparison is with motion relativism. There is no such thing as absolute motion or absolute rest. Whether something is moving or at rest is relative to a spatio-temporal frame of reference. Something may be at rest in one frame of reference and moving in another. There is no such thing as absolute motion and absolute rest, but we can make do with relative motion and rest. Similarly, moral relativism is the view that, although there is no such thing as absolute right and wrong, we can make do with relative right and wrong. (shrink)
Peacocke argues that all epistemic entitlements depend at bottom on a priori entitlements, determined by "constitutive conditions" for the application of concepts. He does not address familiar doubts about the distinction between constitutive and nonconstitutive conditions of application. (These doubts are based on the widely accepted idea that justification begins with all of one's current beliefs and methods and seeks to modify these only to improve their overall coherence with each other, hoping ultimately for "reflective equilibrium.") In addition, Peacocke conflates (...) issues about inference with issues about implication and proof and seriously misrepresents David Lewis' view about the content of indicative conditionals. (shrink)
authoritarians so far as the fact of imperfection is concerned, but they disagree widely, often fundamentally, as to the constituent elements of that imperfection. Likewise libertarians and authoritarians Â– at least, the more progressive contingent of the latter Â– are at one concerning the desirability and justice of the Â“single..
In this article, we provide a tutorial overview of some aspects of statistical learning theory, which also goes by other names such as statistical pattern recognition, nonparametric classification and estimation, and supervised learning. We focus on the problem of two-class pattern classification for various reasons. This problem is rich enough to capture many of the interesting aspects that are present in the cases of more than two classes and in the problem of estimation, and many of the results can be (...) extended to these cases. Focusing on two-class pattern classification simplifies our discussion, and yet it is directly applicable to a wide range of practical settings. (shrink)
In this book, David Benatar argues that every person is severely harmed by being brought into existence, and that in bringing any person into existence one impermissibly harms that person. His conclusion is not merely that by bringing a person into existence, one harms him. That claim is compatible with the claim that by bringing a person into existence, one also greatly benefits him, and even with the claim that one never impermissibly harms someone by bringing him into existence. His (...) conclusion is much more radical. (shrink)
In this paper, I will offer a solution to the non-identity problem and defend that solution. The non-identity problem arises because some actions appear to be wrong, and they appear to be wrong in virtue of harming certain people, but those people would not have existed if the actions had not been performed, and those people have lives that are worth living. Such actions are puzzling because they do not make these people worse off than they otherwise would have been; (...) but plausibly, one harms someone only if one makes her worse off. A solution to the non-identity problem would both explain why the actions are wrong and vindicate the appearance that the actions are wrong in virtue of harming the relevant people.1 Consider the following case. A woman has a temporary condition such that if she conceives now, her child will be blind. However, if she waits for three months, she can conceive a child who will not be blind. Clearly, this woman should not conceive now. It would be wrong to conceive now. Furthermore, it seems that if she does conceive now she is harming her future child, and that is why her action is wrong. However, it can be argued that she does not harm her child and thus does not act wrongly. Plausibly, one harms someone only if one makes him worse off than he would otherwise have been. But this woman’s act of conceiving now does not make her child worse off than he would otherwise have been. Had she not performed this action, he would not exist. Furthermore, he has a life worth living. Either he is better off than he.. (shrink)
The most basic theme in Davidson’s writings in philosophy of language in the 1960s is that we are finite beings whose mastery of the indefinitely many expressions of our language must somehow arise out of our mastery of finite resources. Otherwise, there would be an unbounded number of distinct things to learn in learning a language, which would make language learning..
What is distinctive about my views in epistemology? One thing is that my concern with epistemology is a concern with methodology. Furthermore, I reject psychologism about logic and reject the idea that deductive rules like modus ponens are in any way rules of inference. I accept a kind of methodological conservatism and reject methodological theories that appeal to special foundations, analytic truth, or a priori justification. Although I believe that there are significant practical aspects of theoretical reasoning, I reject the (...) suggestion that theoretical reasoning is a special case of practical reasoning applied to a special epistemic goal. I also believe that a methodological epistemology that is concerned with the reliability of inferential methods can benefit from an appreciation of important relevant concepts and results about reliability in statistical learning theory. (shrink)
I begin by summarizing the first two chapters of (Harman 1986). The first chapter stresses the importance of not confusing inference with implication and of not confusing reasoning with the sort of argument studied in deductive logic. Inference and reasoning are psychological events or processes that can be done more or less well. The sort of implication and argument studied in deductive logic have to do with relations among propositions and with structures of propositions distinguished into premises, intermediate steps, and (...) conclusion. Deductive logic is not a particular psychological subject and is not a particularly normative subject, although one might attempt to develop a logic of belief or a deontic logic, for example. (shrink)
One relatively central idea is that guilt feelings are warranted if an agent knows that he or she has acted morally wrongly. It might be said that in such a case the agent has a strong reason to feel guilt, that the agent ought to have guilt feelings, that the agent is justified in having guilt feelings and unjustified in not having guilt feelings. It might be said that it would be immoral of an agent not to have feelings of (...) guilt after realizing that he or she has acted morally wrongly or that only an agent with bad character would not have such feelings. (shrink)
In (Harman 2007) I argued “that a purely objective account of conscious experience cannot always by itself give an understanding of what it is like to have that experience.” Following Nagel (1974), I suggested that such a gap “has no obvious metaphysical implications. It [merely] reflects the distinction between two kinds of understanding,” objective and subjective, where subjective understanding or “Das Verstehen” (Dilthey 1883/1989) of another creature’s experience involves knowing what it is like to have that experience—knowing what sort of (...) experience of one’s own would correspond to the other creature’s experience. (shrink)
For philosophical naturalism, as I understand it, philosophy is continuous with natural science. It takes the methods of philosophy to be continuous with those of the natural sciences and is sceptical of allegedly apriori intuitions which it claims need to be tested against one’s other beliefs and, ideally, against the world.
In these notes, I will use the word “reasoning” to refer to something people do. The general category includes both internal reasoning, reasoning things out by oneself—inference and deliberation—and external reasoning with others—arguing, discussing and negotiating.
"What Is Cognitive Access?" PDF. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 30 (2007 [published 2008]): 505. Brief comments on a paper of Ned Block's. "Mechanical Mind," a review of Mind as Machine: A History of Cognitive Science by Margaret Boden. Online Published Version . From American Scientist (2008): 76-81.
Scott Sehon argues for a complex view about the relation between commonsense psychology and the physical sciences.1 He rejects any sort of Cartesian dualism and believes that the common-sense psychological facts supervene on the physical facts. Nevertheless he asserts that there is an important respect in which common-sense psychology is independent of the physical sciences. Despite supervenience, we are not to expect any sort of reduction of common-sense psychology to physical science, nor are we to expect the physical sciences to (...) conﬂict with common-sense psychology. (shrink)
Philosophers sometimes approach meaning metaphorically, for example, by speaking of “grasping” meanings, as if understanding consists in getting mental hands around something.1 Philosophers say that a theory of meaning should be a theory about the meanings that people assign to expressions in their language, that to understand other people requires identifying the meanings they associate with what they are saying, and that to translate an expression of another language into your own is to find an expression in your language with (...) the same meaning as the expression in the other language. (shrink)
Hawthorne discusses (without endorsing) the following instance of our (T1) , “One knows that one is seeing a desk by taking for granted, but without knowing, that one is not a brain in a vat” (510). We believe that this is a commonsensical way of describing an ordinary situation. Intuitively, one knows one is seeing a desk. Intuitively one is normally justified in taking it for granted that one is not a brain in a vat, but one does not know (...) one isn’t a brain in a vat. (shrink)
In Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954), Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly) remarks that she is “not much on rear window ethics.” While in the world of the film this indicates moral issues having to do with watching real events, Fremont’s remark immediately suggests moral issues that seem, though I shall challenge this below, to be quite different: moral issues having to do with watching fictional events. Consumers of fictions are voyeurs of a somewhat different kind than Fremont and L.B. Jeffries (James (...) Stewart), but questions about the moral appropriateness of watching, and more interestingly, of ways of watching, arise in both cases. Recall Hume’s claim in “Of the Standard of Taste,” concerning a poem in which “vicious manners are described, without being marked with the proper characters of blame and disapprobation.”1 Hume claims that: [T]his must be allowed to disfigure the poem, and to be a real deformity. I cannot, nor is it proper I should, enter into such sentiments; and however I may excuse the poet, on account of the manners in his age, I never can relish the composition. (shrink)
According to the “received view” of Rudolf Carnap’s philosophy, he attempted (and failed) to establish phenomenalistic foundations for science and wielded the verificationist criterion of cognitive significance against traditional metaphysics, religion and values. This characterization of Carnap’s philosophy has come to us primarily through A. J. Ayer’s introduction of positivism to the English-speaking world in his Language, Truth and Logic1 and the preliminary sketches of positivistic doctrine with which many of W.V. Quine’s essays begin (and go on, inevitably, to repudiate).2 (...) It is now largely taken for granted that the various objections leveled at verificationism—that none of its many reformulations draws the intended line between meaningful science and meaningless metaphysics and that it is meaningless according to itself--are devastating.3 As a result, Carnap’s work has been allotted a largely historical role, if a significant one: contemporary views are often identified and distinguished by what in his and the positivist’s account of philosophy, science, language, and. (shrink)
Humeans hold that actions are movements of an agent's body that are suitably caused by a desire that things be a certain way and a belief on the agent's behalf that something she can just do, namely perform a movement of her body of the kind to be explained, has some suitable chance of making things that way (Davidson 1963). Movements of the body that are caused in some other way aren't actions, but are rather things that merely happen to (...) agents. (shrink)
In his elegant discussion, Sripada distinguishes three possible innate bases for aspects of morality: (1) certain specific principles might be innate, (2) a less simple “principles and parameters” model might apply, and (3) innate biases might have have some influence over what morality a person acquires without determining the content of that morality.1 He argues against (1) and (2) and in favor of (3). Without disputing his case for (3) I will try to say why I think that his arguments (...) against (1) and (2) are inconclusive and that it remains possible that all three kinds of bases have a significant impact on human morality. (shrink)
This is indeed a fallacy, if the relevant sort of consistency is logical consistency. However, the expression “is consistent with” is often used by scientists to mean something much stronger, something like confirms or even strongly confirms.
Statistical Learning Theory (e.g., Hastie et al., 2001; Vapnik, 1998, 2000, 2006) is the basic theory behind contemporary machine learning and data-mining. We suggest that the theory provides an excellent framework for philosophical thinking about inductive inference.
Analogies are often theoretically useful. Important principles of electricity are suggested by an analogy between water current flowing through a pipe and electrical current “flowing” through a wire. A basic theory of sound is suggested by an analogy between waves caused by a stone being dropped into a still lake and “sound waves” caused by a disturbance in air.
Graham Harman (2012). Maximum McLuhan. In Yoni Van Den Eede, Joke Bauwens, Joke Beyl, Marc Van den Bossche & Karl Verstrynge (eds.), McLuhan's Philosophy of Media – Centennial Conference, 26-28 October 2011. Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie van België voor Wetenschappen en Kunsten.
Against A.S. Eddington's famous concept that there are "two tables" (the everyday and scientific tables), this article defends the notion that neither of these two is real. The real table is a third table not covered by either of Eddington's tables.
Continental philosophy has entered a new period of ferment. The long deconstructionist era was followed with a period dominated by Deleuze, which has in turn evolved into a new situation still difficult to define. However, one common thread running through the new brand of continental positions is a renewed attention to materialist and realist options in philosophy. Among the leaders of the established generation, this new focus takes numerous forms. It might be hard to find many shared positions in the (...) writings of Badiou, DeLanda, Laruelle, Latour, Stengers, and Žižek, but what is missing from their positions is an obsession with the critique of written texts. All of them elaborate a positive ontology, despite the incompatibility of their results. Meanwhile, the new generation of continental thinkers is pushing these trends still further, as seen in currents ranging from transcendental materialism to the London-based speculative realism movement to new revivals of Derrida. As indicated by the title The Speculative Turn, the new currents of continental philosophy depart from the text-centered hermeneutic models of the past and engage in daring speculations about the nature of reality itself. This anthology assembles authors, of several generations and numerous nationalities, who will be at the centre of debate in continental philosophy for decades to come. (shrink)
Non-moral ignorance can exculpate: if Anne spoons cyanide into Bill's coffee, but thinks she is spooning sugar, then Anne may be blameless for poisoning Bill. Gideon Rosen argues that moral ignorance can also exculpate: if one does not believe that one's action is wrong, and one has not mismanaged one's beliefs, then one is blameless for acting wrongly. On his view, many apparently blameworthy actions are blameless. I discuss several objections to Rosen. I then propose an alternative view on which (...) many agents who act wrongly are blameworthy despite believing they are acting morally permissibly, and despite not having mismanaged their moral beliefs.1. (shrink)
Why do we wish to die later but do not wish to have been created earlier? There is no puzzle here. It is false that if we had been created earlier we would have lived longer lives. Why don’t we wish to have been created earlier but with our actual times of death? That wish simply is not mandated by the more general wish to have lived a longer life. Furthermore, one might prefer one’s actual life to the better, but (...) considerably different, life one would have lived at an earlier time. (shrink)
Quentin Meillassoux has been described as the most rapidly prominent French philosopher in the Anglophone world since Jacques Derrida in the 1960s. With the publication of After Finitude (2006), this daring protege of Alain Badiou became one of the world's most visible younger thinkers. In this book, his fellow Speculative Realist, Graham Harman, assesses Meillassoux's publications in English so far. Also included are an insightful interview with Meillassoux and first-time translations of excerpts from L'Inexistence divine (The Divine Inexistence), his famous (...) but still unpublished major book. (shrink)
This article provides a critical treatment of the ontology underlying Thomas Metzinger’s Being No One. Metzinger asserts that interdisciplinary empirical work must replace ‘armchair’ a priori intuitions into the nature of reality; nonetheless, his own position is riddled with unquestioned a priori assumptions. His central claim that ‘no one has or has ever had a self’ is meant to have an ominous and futuristic ring, but merely repeats a familiar philosophical approach to individuals, which are undermined by reducing them downward (...) to their material underpinnings, and ‘overmined’ by reducing them upward to their functional effects. Ultimately, Metzinger blends a rigid form of traditional materialism with an ontology of processes and events that is too reminiscent of late 1990’s continental philosophy. In both directions, the novelty and fertility of Metzinger’s position can be called into question. (shrink)
In this book the metaphysical system of Graham Harman is presented in lucid form, aided by helpful diagrams. In Chapter 1, Harman gives his most forceful critique to date of philosophies that reject objects as a primary reality. All such rejections are tainted by either an undermining or overmining approach to objects. In Chapters 2 and 3, he reviews his concepts of sensual and real objects. In the process, he attacks the prestige normally granted to philosophies of human access, which (...) Harman links for the first time to the already discredited Menos Paradox. In Chapters 4 through 7, Harman brings the reader up to speed on his interpretation of Heidegger, which culminates in a fourfold structure of objects linked by indirect causation. In Chapter 8, he speculates on the implications of this theory for the debate over panpsychism, which Harman both embraces and rejects. In Chapters 9 and 10, he introduces the term ontography as the study of the different possible permutations of objects and qualities, which he simplifies with easily remembered terminology drawn from standard playing cards. (shrink)
The Prince and the Wolf contains the transcript of a debate which took place on February 5, 2008 at the London School of Economics (LSE) between the prominent French sociologist, anthropologist, and philosopher Bruno Latour and the Cairo-based American philosopher Graham Harman.
The context for these interviews was a seminar [Peter Gratton] conducted on speculative realism in the Spring 2010. There has been great interest in speculative realism and one reason Gratton surmise[s] is not just the arguments offered, though [Gratton doesn't] want to take away from them; each of these scholars are vivid writers and great pedagogues, many of whom are in constant contact with their readers via their weblogs. Thus these interviews provided an opportunity to forward student questions about their (...) respective works. Though each were conducted on different occasions, the interviews stand as a collected work, tying together the most classical questions about “realism” to ancillary movements about the non-human in politics, ecology, aesthetics, and video gaming—all to point to future movements in this philosophical area. (shrink)
What is moral reasoning? For that matter, what is any sort of reasoning? Let me begin by making a few distinctions. First, there is a distinction between reasoning as something that that people do and the abstract structures of proof or “argument” that are the subject matter of formal logic. I will be mainly concerned with reasoning in the first sense, reasoning that people do. Second, there is a distinction between moral reasoning with other people and moral reasoning by and (...) for yourself . Moral reasoning with others may involve discussion with them, bargaining with them, and possibly arguing with them. (shrink)
Platonic myth meets American noir in this haunting series of philosophical images, from gigantic ferris wheels to offshore drilling rigs. It has been said that Plato, Nietzsche, and Giordano Bruno gave us the three great mythical presentations of serious philosophy in the West. They have spawned few imitators, as philosophers have generally drifted toward a dry, scholarly tone that has become the yardstick of professional respectability. In this book, Graham Harman tries to restore myth to its central place in the (...) discipline. In Chapter One, the narrator considers the motion of a Ferris wheel of many miles in diameter, which generates disasters and other events in its endless revolutions. In Chapter Two, he moves from the Chesapeake Bay to the depths of Hell, where he observes the show trial of pre-Socratic thinkers. In Chapter Three, the narrator encounters a battered steam calliope in India that may summon tsunamis, solar flares, and other catastrophic forces. In Chapter Four, he tries to explain reports of a ghostly boat in Japanese waters. In Chapter Five, he discusses causation on an offshore drilling platform. And in Chapter Six, amidst a deadly Paris hailstorm, he proposes a theory of objects without relations. (shrink)
This paper criticizes two forms of philosophical materialism that adopt opposite strategies but end up in the same place. Both hold that individual entities must be banished from philosophy. The first kind is ground floor materialism, which attempts to dissolve all objects into some deeper underlying basis; here, objects are seen as too shallow to be the truth. The second kind is first floor materialism, which treats objects as naive fictions gullibly posited behind the direct accessibility of appearances or relations; (...) here, objects are portrayed as too deep to be the truth. One major thesis of this paper is that these two forms of materialism are parasitical on one another and need each other's resources to make sense of the world. The second major thesis is that both forms of materialism thereby stand condemned, and that philosophy must be rebuilt from the individual objects that the two forms of materialism disdain. These points are made through a detailed consid- eration of the book Every Thing Must Go by the analytic structural realists James Ladyman and Don Ross, which has gained a surprising following among some speculative realists in continental philosophy. Ladyman and Ross claim to preserve objects by treating them as ``real patterns'', but they do so at the price of destroying their autonomous reality. Furthermore, they are unable to tell us whether the mathematical structures they see as the basis of human knowledge are also the basis of reality itself. In short, their ontology is scientism for scientism's sake (or `Bunsen burner realism') and must be eliminated in favor of a genuine realist metaphysics of objects. (shrink)
This article attempts to develop the abandoned occasionalist model of causation into a credible present-day theory. If objects can never exhaust one another through their relations, it is hard to know how they can ever interact at all. This article handles the problem by dividing objects into two kinds: the real objects that emerge from Heidegger’s tool-analysis and the intentional objects of Husserl’s phenomenology. Each of these objects turns out to be split by an additional rift between the object as (...) an enduring unit and its plurality of traits. This explains Heidegger’s notorious ‘fourfold’ model of the thing. This article shows that Heidegger’s Geviert must be reinterpreted as a system of four tensions that can be identified as time, space, essence, and eidos. Time and space can no longer be left as peerless dimensions of the cosmos. Instead, they are shown to arise from the tensions between things and their qualities. And for this reason they are joined by essence (in the classical sense of the term) and eidos (in Husserl’s sense, not Plato’s) as two out of four basic features of the fabric of the world. (shrink)
These writings chart Harman's rise from Chicago sportswriter to co-founder of one of Europe's most promising philosophical movements: Speculative Realism. In 1997, Graham Harman was an obscure graduate student covering Chicago sporting events for a California website. Unpublished in philosophy at the time, he was already a popular conference speaker on Heidegger and related themes. Little more than a decade later, as the author of stimulating and highly visible books on continental philosophy, he was Associate Vice Provost for Research at (...) the American University in Cairo, and a key member of the Speculative Realist movement along with Ray Brassier, Iain Hamilton Grant, and Quentin Meillassoux. This fascinating collection of eleven essays and lectures from 1997-2009, anchored by Harman's rebellious transformation of Heideggerian philosophy, show the evolution of his object-oriented metaphysics from its early days into an increasingly developed philosophical position. Each chapter is preceded by Harman's delightful and witty scene-setting commentary. (shrink)
We use “I’ll be glad I did it” reasoning all the time. For example, last night I was trying to decide whether to work on this paper or go out to a movie. I realized that if I worked on the paper, then today I would be glad I did it. Whereas, if I went out to the movie, today I would regret it. This enabled me to see that I should work on the paper rather than going out to (...) a movie. This looks like excellent reasoning: Paper argument: 1. If I work on my paper, I’ll be glad I did it. 2. Therefore, I should work on my paper. When we’re having trouble making a big life decision, we often try to picture what will happen each way we might choose, and imagine how we’ll feel in that outcome. When choosing between two jobs, we might use this reasoning. Suppose you are choosing between two jobs and you know quite a lot about what the two jobs will be like. In one, you will make a lot of money but have to work eighty-hour weeks and see little of your family. In the other, you will make considerably less money—though enough to support yourself and your family. You’ll have much more time for your family. The money is attractive. But overall, you realize you’ll be glad to have the time with your family if you take the second job—you’ll be glad you made that choice. It seems this is a good way of realizing that you should take the second job. (shrink)
The first part of this article discusses recent skepticism about character traits. The second describes various forms of virtue ethics as reactions to such skepticism. The philosopher J.-P. Sartre argued in the 1940s that character traits are pretenses, a view that the sociologist E. Goffman elaborated in the 1950s. Since then social psychologists have shown that attributions of character traits tend to be inaccurate through the ignoring of situational factors. (Personality psychology has tended to concentrate on people's conceptions of personality (...) and character rather than on the accuracy of these conceptions). Similarly, the political theorist R. Hardin has argued for situational explanations of bloody social disputes in the former Yugoslavia and in Africa, rather than explanations in terms of ethnic hatred for example. A version of virtue ethics might identify virtues as characteristics of acts rather than character traits, as traits consisting in actual regularities in behavior, or as robust dispositions that would manifest themselves also in counterfactual situations. (shrink)