In conclusion, then, the situationist literature provides a rich area of exploration for those interested in freedom and responsibility. Interestingly, it does not do so primarily because it is situationist in the sense of supporting the substantive thesis about the role of character traits. Rather it is because it makes us wonder whether we really do act on a regular basis with the particular normative, epistemic,and reactive capacities that are central to our identity as free and responsible agents.
Many prominent accounts of free will and moral responsibility make use of the idea that agents can be responsive to reasons. Call such theories Reasons accounts. In what follows, I consider the tenability of Reasons accounts in light of situationist social psychology and, to a lesser extent, the automaticity literature. In the ﬁrst half of this chapter, I argue that Reasons accounts are genuinely threatened by contemporary psychology. In the second half of the paper I consider whether such threats can (...) be met, and at what cost. Ultimately, I argue that Reasons accounts can abandon some familiar assumptions, and that doing so permits us to build a more empirically plausible picture of our agency. (shrink)
My NCPS 2012 conference paper. The paper is a development of the abstract below. The file you can upload contains my brief "A Fast & Frugal Rebuttal of Epistemic Situationism," while the whole paper develops a fuller reply to the Alfano, and Doris and Olin papers also presented in this session, papers in which these authors extend the "situationist challenge" to virtue ethics, to different varieties of virtue epistemology. Abstract. This paper mounts an empirically-based rebuttal to the radical implications (...) that self-described “epistemic situationists” including Mark Alfano and John Doris would have us draw from mood and conformity studies. The compatibility of virtue epistemologies with dual process theory (Kahneman; Stanovich) in cognitive and social psychology is developed as one main way of defending the empirical adequacy of many or most forms of virtue epistemology. Although philosophical situationists ignore dual process models of human reasoning, I argue that the latter offer ample empirical support for the “psychological realizability” of the intellectual character-traits posited by virtue-focused epistemologies and featured in the credit theory of knowing. Draft by Guy Axtell (Radford University), for NCPS, 2012. All rights reserved. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org; or join us online at JanusBlog: The Virtue Theory Discussion Forum at http://janusblog.squarespace.com. For further development of these issues and arguments, see also my "Thinking Twice about Virtue and Vice (2013, forthcoming) . (shrink)
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)
INTRODUCTION Abrol Fairweather, San Francisco State University -/- PART 1: The situationist challenge to virtue epistemology 1. Mark Alfano, Princeton University & University of Oregon 2. John Doris & Lauren Olin, Washington University in St. Louis 3. John Turri, University of Waterloo -/- PART 2: Defending virtue epistemology 4. James Montmarquet, Tennessee State University 5. Ernest Sosa, Rutgers 6. Jason Baehr, Loyola Marymount University 7. John Greco, St. Louis University 8. Berit Brogaard, University of Missouri-St. Louis 9. Guy Axtell, Radford (...) University 10. Ram Neta, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill 11. Duncan Pritchard, University of Edinburgh 12. Heidi Grasswick, Middlebury 13. Nicole Smith, Bowling Green State University. (shrink)
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.. (shrink)
The last few decades have witnessed the birth and growth of both virtue epistemology and the situationist challenge to virtue ethics. It seems only natural that eventually we would see the situationist challenge to virtue epistemology. This article articulates one aspect of that new challenge by spelling out an argument against the responsibilist brand of virtue epistemology. The trouble can be framed as an inconsistent triad: (non-skepticism) many people know quite a bit; (responsibilism) knowledge is true belief acquired and retained (...) through the exercise of intellectual virtue; (epistemic situationism) most people do not possess the intellectual virtues countenanced by responsibilism. Non-skepticism is a Moorean platitude we should aim to preserve at most if not all costs. I muster evidence from cognitive and social psychology to argue for epistemic situationism. If my argument is correct, responsibilism must be revised or rejected, and reliabilists should avoid incorporating responsibilist components into their theories. (shrink)
In Specters of Marx, Derrida proposes a return to the spirit of Marxism as a way of dealing with the 'repoliticization' of contemporary realities. I suggest that Derrida's rediscovery of Marx allows one to map out what I call the end(s) of postmodernism, that is to say, the point(s) where the cultural free-play characteristic of the postmodern mood is confronted with renewed questions of politics, ideology and technology. Through a micro-reading of Derrida's text, two possible end(s) of postmodernism are identified. (...) One is a 'retro-(post)modernist' discourse which turns liberal and provides the vision of a 'New International' as an end result. The other is a '(post)-postmodern' approach which finds a way of tackling politics and ideology by rediscovering a mode of situationist engagement. By investigating the 'specters' of postmodernism through Derrida's recent work, this paper contributes to the debate over what type of theoretical formations may emerge after postmodernism. Key Words: culture deconstruction Derrida détournement ideology Marx the New International postmodernism situationism. (shrink)
Moral philosophers of late have been examining the implications of experimental social psychology for ethics. The focus of attention has been on situationism—the thesis that we routinely underestimate the extent to which minor situational variables influence morally significant behavior. Situationism has been seen as a threat to prevailing lay and philosophical theories of character, personhood, and agency. In this paper, I outline the situationist literature and critique one of its upshots: the admonition to carefully select one’s situational contexts. (...) Besides being limited in application, this strategy accentuates an untenable person/situation dichotomy. The deeper lesson of situationism lies in highlighting the interconnectedness of all social behavior—how we are inextricably involved in the actions of others, and how minor tweaks in our own behavior can lead to major payoffs in our moral lives. Situationism is better seen as an opportunity for moral progress than a threat to individual autonomy. (shrink)
This article argues that strong versions of the situationist critique of virtue ethics are empirically and conceptually unfounded, as well as that, even if one accepts that the predictive power of character may be limited, this is not a fatal problem for early Confucian virtue ethics. Early Confucianism has explicit strategies for strengthening and expanding character traits over time, as well as for managing a variety of situational forces. The article concludes by suggesting that Confucian virtue ethics represents a more (...) empirically responsible model of ethics than those currently dominant in Western philosophy. (shrink)
Situationist deontic logic is a model of that fraction of normative discourse which refers to only one situation and one set of alternatives. As we can see from a whole series of well-known paradoxes, standard deontic logic (SDL) is seriously mistaken even at the situationist level. In this paper it is shown how a more realistic deontic logic can be based on the assumption that prescriptive predicates satisfy the property of contranegativity. A satisfactory account of situation-specific norms is a necessary (...) prerequisite for a successful treatment of more complex normative structures. (shrink)
In Complicity and the Rwandan Genocide ( 2010b ), Larry May argues that complicity can be the basis for criminal liability if two conditions are met: First, the person’s actions or inactions must contribute to the harm in question, and secondly, the person must know that his actions or inactions risk contributing to this harm. May also states that the threshold for guilt for criminal liability is higher than for moral responsibility. I agree with this latter claim, but I think (...) that it casts doubt on May’s account of criminal liability, particular in so-called performance cases in which low-level participants merely fail to help. This is because it is far from clear that passive non-helpers are morally responsible for their participation in widespread harms. Situationism purports to show that passive bystanders typically are not morally responsible for their role in such harms, because they were behaving reasonably subject to the constraints they faced. In this paper, I assess this claim, and defend it on the basis of O. W. Holmes’ standard of the reasonable person as a guide to judging criminal complicity. Finally, I provide a situationist account of the Rwandan genocide, which focuses on the systemic causes and primary perpetrators of the genocide, rather than low-level participants. (shrink)
In the first years of its existence between 1957 and 1960 the efforts of the radical collective the Situationist International (SI) centred on its program of “unitary urbanism.” This program sought to challenge the functionalist character of hegemonic forms of urban planning through novel practices of urban experimentation and contestation. Situationist urbanism arose largely through the collaboration between Guy Debord and the Dutch avant-garde architect Constant. This article explores the political dimension of situationist urbanism and the tensions that led to (...) Constant’s secession from the group in 1960. Through analysis of the affinities and divergences between urbanism in its modernist and situationist forms a case is made for the crucial contribution situationist practices might make to the restoration of public space as a vital arena of contemporary political contestation and community. (shrink)
Epistemic situationists (Alfano; Doris and Olin) urge that concerns about the empirical adequacy of different versions of virtue epistemology, and about the psychological realizability of the traits they focus upon, are to be judged in light of the situationsts’ own interpretations of social psychological studies. But these concerns, while real, should instead be judged by the consistency of virtue epistemologies with the leading psychological theory emerging from studies of heuristics and biases, which is not epistemic situationism, but rather dual (...) process theory (Evans; Kahneman; Stanovich; West). I argue that this prescribed shift in understanding the actual burden of the empirical adequacy charge is illuminating in a double sense: Firstly, at least some versions of virtue epistemology appear to be consistent with and perhaps also empirically supported by dual process theory; secondly, “philosophical” situationism’s own empirical adequacy is arguably drawn into question by its systematic failure to recognize or explain the extent of individual differences actually found in the results in experiments they generalize from, such as the Asch line experiments. However, while the thesis of epistemic situationism is shown false and most forms of virtue epistemology are seen to survive the empirical challenges posed by epistemic situationists, fully adapting virtue epistemologies to dual process theories in cognitive and social psychology raises an entirely new set of challenges. The paper’s second half points to ways virtue epistemologies need to evolve to better integrate with leading research on human biases and heuristics, and with the “two systems” hypothesis. For most credit theories of knowledge still tend to presuppose adult agents in regular command of their System 2 thinking. Moreover, heuristic reasoning “in general” seems neither very reliable nor very responsible, yet most of our everyday beliefs are arguably generated and maintained more by System 1 thinking (thinking fast, or the “autonomous mind”), than by System 2 thinking (“thinking slow,” or the “reflective mind”). So why should an agent not be deemed creditworthy when her System 1 thinking is well-adapted to its task and results in non-accidentally true beliefs? We need a better understanding of epistemic credit and blame for beliefs grounded in heuristic reasoning and System 1 processes and in heuristic reasoning. To use an adaptation of Evans’ book title Thinking Twice, virtue epistemologists need to think twice about intellectual virtue in order to avoid the rationalistic error of identifying it solely with beliefs grounded in System 2 thinking. (shrink)
Abstract: The concept of a situation underlying the debate between moral situationists and dispositionists conceals various underexplored complexities. Some of those issues have been engaged recently in the so-called psychology of situations, but they have been slow to receive attention in mainstream philosophy. I invoke various distinctions among situations, and show how situationists have selectively chosen certain types of situations that, for conceptual reasons, skew the argument in their favour. I introduce the concept of a ‘virtue-calibrated situation’, and argue that (...) if the person–situation debate is to move forward in philosophy as it has in psychology, it must focus on such situations. I bring to bear evidence from analytic and continental philosophy, as well as from social and personality psychology. (shrink)
Virtue ethics has been challenged on empirical grounds by philosophical interpreters of situationist social psychology. Challenges are necessarily challenges to something or other, so it’s only possible to understand the situationist challenge to virtue ethics if we have an antecedent grasp on virtue ethics itself. To this end, I first identify the non-negotiable “hard core” of virtue ethics with the conjunction of nine claims, arguing that virtue ethics does make substantive empirical assumptions about human conduct. Next, I rearticulate the situationist (...) challenge in light of these nine claims. I then turn to a discussion of specifications of several responses typically made by defenders of virtue ethics against the situationist challenge, arguing that most of them either are unsound or give up one of the elements in the hard core. A few, however, survive this criticism, and so I conclude by suggesting ways in which the situationist challenge might be not so much resisted as co-opted. Situational influences can be used to help people simulate virtue, a phenomenon I call factitious virtue. (shrink)
In this paper I examine and reply to a deflationary challenge brought against virtue ethics. The challenge comes from critics who are impressed by recent psychological evidence suggesting that much of what we take to be virtuous conduct is in fact elicited by narrowly specific social settings, as opposed to being the manifestation of robust individual character. In answer to the challenge, I suggest a conception of virtue that openly acknowledges the likelihood of its deep, ongoing dependence upon particular social (...) relationships and settings. I argue that holding this conception will indeed cause problems for some important strands of thought in virtue ethics, most notably in the tradition of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. But an approach to virtue ethics modeled on David Hume's treatment of virtue and character in A Treatise of Human Nature promises to escape these problems. (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)
In recent work (Alfano 2012, Alfano forthcoming a, Alfano forthcoming b), I've begun to develop an empirically minded critique of virtue-based accounts of knowledge, justification, and epistemic value. There's an important disanalogy between virtue ethical theories of right action and virtue epistemic theories of knowledge. Most virtue ethicists hold that it's possible to do the right thing for the wrong reason, and hence that right action is possible even for the non-virtuous. Virtue epistemologists, in contrast, almost uniformly claim that knowledge (...) can only be acquired through virtue. Since most people seem to lack motivational and inferential virtues, virtue epistemologists are committed to skepticism about a broad swath of beliefs. Virtue ethicists do not suffer quite as much from the rarity of moral virtue because they can still say that right action is quite common even if most people lack virtue. I spell out several ways for virtue epistemologists to weaken their conditions on knowledge and thus to reconcile their anti-skepticism with empirical evidence for the rarity of intellectual virtue. (shrink)
This companion to my first book assumes the truth of the theory of moral character outlined there, and engages with leading positions in psychology (situationism, the CAPS model, and the Big Five model), as well as applies the theory to issues in meta-ethics and normative theory.
While the situationist challenge has been prominent in philosophical literature in ethics for over a decade, only recently has it been extended to virtue epistemology . Alfano argues that virtue epistemology is shown to be empirically inadequate in light of a wide range of results in social psychology, essentially succumbing to the same argument as virtue ethics. We argue that this meeting of the twain between virtue epistemology and social psychology in no way signals the end of virtue epistemology, but (...) is rather a boon to naturalized virtue epistemology. We use Gird Gigerenzer’s models for bounded rationality (2011) to present a persuasive line of defense for virtue epistemology, and consider prospects for a naturalized virtue epistemology that is supported by current research in psychology. (shrink)
Many artists who identify as politically committed are suspicious of art due to the Situationist argument that revolutionary art is impossible. If right, the argument also rules out a future artistic avant-garde. I believe that, by concentrating on the truthtelling possibilities of art, we can meet the Situationist argument. To do so, it is necessary to change the relationship art has to everyday life. We can then speculate on the form of a future avant-garde.
Situationist research highlights the fact that situational features often influence our behavior in unexpected ways. Virtue ethicists tend to think they can explain away such results, and prescribe cultivating virtue to ward against such moral failings. Situationists argue that studies like these uncover deep flaws within the moral psychology presumed by virtue ethicists, and hold that virtues may be an inadequate grounding for moral behavior and moral education. Using the concept of cognitive scripts from psychology, I describe a new approach (...) to moral education. The course focuses activities on written and performed scripts to encourage students to imagine hypothetical scenarios in real time, adopt the perspectives of others, evoke and alter their emotions, and ultimately, to revise their implicit, cognitive scripts. Attending to and altering cognitive scripts not only captures many theoretical and empirical insights from virtue ethics and situationism, but also offers a more sophisticated model of moral psychology and a better approach to moral education. (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)
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)
Empirical evidence challenges many of the assumptions that underlie traditional philosophical and commonsense conceptions of human agency. It has been suggested that this evidence threatens also to undermine free will and moral responsibility. In this paper, I will focus on the purported threat to moral responsibility. The evidence challenges assumptions concerning the ability to exercise conscious control and to act for reasons. This raises an apparent challenge to moral responsibility as these abilities appear to be necessary for morally responsible agency. (...) I will argue that this challenge collapses once the underlying conditions on moral responsibility are specified in sufficient detail. I will argue, in other words, that the empirical evidence does not support a challenge to the assumption that we are, in general, morally responsible agents. In the final section, I will suggest that empirical research on human agency is nevertheless relevant to various questions about moral responsibility. (shrink)
Abstract: In this article, the logic and functions of character-trait ascriptions in ethics and epistemology is compared, and two major problems, the "generality problem" for virtue epistemologies and the "global trait problem" for virtue ethics, are shown to be far more similar in structure than is commonly acknowledged. I suggest a way to put the generality problem to work by making full and explicit use of a sliding scale--a "narrow-broad spectrum of trait ascription"-- and by accounting for the various uses (...) of it in an inquiry-pragmatist account. In virtue theories informed by inquiry pragmatism, the agential habits and abilities deemed salient in explanations/evaluations of agents in particular cases, and the determination of what relevant domains and conditions an agent's habit or ability is reliably efficacious in, is determined by pragmatic concerns related to our evaluative epistemic practices. (shrink)
At the heart of one major approach to ethics—an approach counting among its proponents Plato, Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas—is the conviction that ethics is fundamentally related to what kind of persons we are. Many of Plato’s dialogues, for example, focus on what kind of persons we ought to be and begin with examinations of particular virtues: What is the nature of justice? Republic) What is the nature of piety? Euthyphro) What is the nature of temperance? Charmides) What is the nature (...) of courage? Laches) On the assumption that what kind of person one is is constituted by one’s character, the link between moral character and virtue is clear. We can think of one’s moral character as primarily a function of whether she has or lacks various moral virtues and vices. The virtues and vices that comprise one’s moral character are typically understood as dispositions to behave in certain ways in certain sorts of circumstances. For instance, an honest person is disposed to telling the truth when asked. These dispositions are typically understood as relatively stable and long-term. Further, they are also typically understood to be robust, that is, consistent across a wide-spectrum of conditions. We are unlikely, for example, to think that an individual who tells the truth to her friends but consistently lies to her parents and teachers possesses the virtue of honesty. Moral character, like most issues in moral psychology, stands at the intersection of issues in both normative ethics and empirical psychology. This suggests that there are conceivably two general approaches one could take when elucidating the nature of moral character. One could approach moral character primarily by focusing on standards set by normative ethics ; whether people can or do live up to these standards is irrelevant. Alternatively, one could approach moral character under the guideline that normative ethics ought to be constrained by psychology. On this second approach, it’s not that the normative/descriptive distinction disappears; instead, it is just that a theory of moral character ought to be appropriately constrained by what social psychology tells us moral agents are in fact like.. (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.
Everyone wants to be virtuous, but recent psychological investigations suggest that this may not be possible. Mark Alfano challenges this theory and asks, not whether character is empirically adequate, but what characters human beings could have and develop. Although psychology suggests that most people do not have robust character traits such as courage, honesty and open-mindedness, Alfano argues that we have reason to attribute these virtues to people because such attributions function as self-fulfilling prophecies – children become more studious if (...) they are told that they are hard-working and adults become more generous if they are told that they are generous. He argues that we should think of virtue and character as social constructs: there is no such thing as virtue without social reinforcement. His original and provocative book will interest a wide range of readers in contemporary ethics, epistemology, moral psychology and empirically informed philosophy. (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.
While there are alternative accounts, many virtue theories are character based, that is, they assert that the primary loci if moral evaluation are a person's character traits. According to these theories, any individual human being is good insogar as she possesses certain character traits, the virtues, and does not possess their antipodes, the vices. Gilbert Harman has attacked this view by citing evidence in empirical psychology that human behaviour is explained by situational factors to the exclusion of stable dispositions of (...) character. In this paper I argue that Harman's attack fails, firstly because his target is too wide, meaning that the traits tested for are not of the type most relevant to virtue theory, and secondly because he cannot dispense with character traits for explaining behaviour. (shrink)
I propose a modified virtue ethics, grounded in an analogy between ecosystems and human personalities. I suggest that we understand ourselves as possessing changing systems of inter-related sub personalities with different virtues, and view our characters as flexible and evolving.
Automation may be able to completely eliminate the need for labour. But how should we use the freed-up time? In his proposal for a future urbanism, New Babylon, Constant Nieuwenhuys thought people would engage in nonstop free play, remaking surroundings. I argue that at the core of New Babylon is an intuition about a satisfying life, that of Homo ludens. This intuition had a broad appeal in the 1960s. New Babylon is an intuition pump, not a utopia, and Constant wants (...) Homo ludens to be possible and desirable. Possibility can today be most urgently equated with sustainability.I will argue that New Babylon is not sustainable. I will also argue Homo ludens is not desirable, and 1960s intuitions about the good life have dated. Constant forecloses on creative activity such as we might find in improving science and technology. (shrink)
Situationists argue that virtue ethics is empirically untenable, since traditional virtue ethicists postulate broad, efficacious character traits, and social psychology suggests that such traits do not exist. I argue that prominent philosophical replies to this challenge do not succeed. But cross-cultural research gives reason to postulate character traits, and this undermines the situationist critique. There is, however, another empirical challenge to virtue ethics that is harder to escape. Character traits are culturally informed, as are our ideals of what traits are (...) virtuous, and our ideals of what qualifies as well-being. If virtues and well-being are culturally constructed ideals, then the standard strategy for grounding the normativity of virtue ethics in human nature is undermined. (shrink)
The Milgram and other situationist experiments support the real-life evidence that most of us are highly akratic and heteronomous, and that Aristototelian virtue is not global. Indeed, like global theoretical knowledge, global virtue is psychologically impossible because it requires too much of finite human beings with finite powers in a finite life; virtue can only be domain-specific. But unlike local, situation-specific virtues, domain-specific virtues entail some general understanding of what matters in life, and are connected conceptually and causally to our (...) traits in other domains. The experiments also make us aware of how easily unobtrusive situational factors can tap our susceptibilities to obedience, conformity, irresponsibility, cruelty, or indifference to others’ welfare, thereby empowering us to change ourselves for the better. Thus, they advance the Socratic project of living the examined life. I note a remarkable parallel between the results of the baseline Milgram experiments and the results of the learned helplessness experiments by Martin Seligman et al. This provides fresh insight into the psychology and character of the obedient Milgram subjects, and I use this insight to argue that pusillanimity, as Aristotle conceives of it, is part of a complete explanation of the behavior of the obedient Milgram subjects. (shrink)
Philosophers have recently argued that traditional discussions of virtue and character presuppose an account of behaviour that experimental psychology has shown to be false. Behaviour does not issue from global traits such as prudence, temperance, courage or fairness, they claim, but from local traits such as sailing-in-rough-weather-with-friends-courage and office-party-temperance. The data employed provides evidence for this view only if we understand it in the light of a behaviourist construal of traits in terms of stimulus and response, rather than in the (...) light of the more traditional construal in terms of inner events such as inclinations. More recent experiments have shown this traditional conception to have greater explanatory and predictive power than its behaviourist rival. So we should retain the traditional conception, and hence reject the proposed alteration to our understanding of behaviour. This discussion has further implications for future philosophical investigations of character and virtue. Key Words: character traits • situationism • social psychology • virtue ethics. (shrink)
Virtue ethics is now well established as a substantive, independent normative theory. It was not always so. The revival of virtue ethics was initially spurred by influential criticisms of other normative theories, especially those made by Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, John McDowell, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Bernard Williams. 1 Because of this heritage, virtue ethics is often associated with anti-theory movements in ethics and more recently, moral particularism. There are, however, quite a few different approaches to ethics that can reasonably claim (...) to be versions of virtue ethics. The predominant strand of virtue ethics is broadly Aristotelian, although some accounts bear little resemblance to Aristotle's. In its most general form, virtue ethics is compatible with a wide range of meta-ethical and normative commitments. This diversity makes it difficult to compare virtue ethics as such with other normative theories. It can also be a challenge to see just what the various versions of virtue ethics have in common with each other. Three major types of virtue ethics are represented in the books by Rosalind Hursthouse, Michael Slote, and Christine Swanton, recommended in the following section. Each of these book sets forward a considerably self-standing form of virtue ethics. The authors differ on central issues such as the relationship between virtue and flourishing and the link between virtuous agents and right or virtuous actions. Unlike Swanton and Slote, Hursthouse defends a version of ethical naturalism that has affinities with theories recently defended by Philippa Foot and Alasdair MacIntyre. 2 Slote's theory is agent-based, meaning that his account derives judgments about the moral status of actions from moral features of agents. Hursthouse and Swanton defend theories according to which the moral status of an action depends on its broader relationship to human flourishing (Hursthouse) or whether it hits the target of a virtue (Swanton). Although these three books presently form the core of contemporary virtue ethics, there are other approaches that might reasonably be described as versions of virtue ethics, such as those presented by Julia Driver, Linda Zagzebski, and Robert Adams. 3 There are also, of course, a large number of articles in which authors defend or criticize tenets that are central to most versions of virtue ethics. Some recent articles on especially important topics are listed in the following section. Current 'hot topics' in virtue ethics include whether its account of right action is adequate and whether virtue ethics is at odds with empirical psychology. Articles on these debates and others are listed in the following section. Author Recommends: Books These three books are foundational works in contemporary virtue ethics, and represent quite different approaches to virtue ethics. For each book, I have also listed an article by the same author in which he or she articulates some similar themes. Those pressed for time or space on a syllabus might start by examining those articles. 1. Hursthouse, Rosalind. On Virtue Ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. Hursthouse defends a eudaimonistic version of virtue ethics with Aristotelian affinities. *See also Hursthouse, Rosalind. 'Normative Virtue Ethics.' How Should One Live? Ed. Roger Crisp. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996. 19–36. 2. Slote, Michael. Morals from Motives. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. Slote defends a version of virtue ethics based on evaluations of motives, drawing on historical figures like Martineau, Hutcheson, and Hume. Note that this book represents a fairly significant departure from his first book in virtue ethics, From Morality to Virtue (New York: Oxford, 1992). *See also Slote, Michael. 'Agent-Based Virtue Ethics.' Virtue Ethics . Ed. Roger Crisp and Michael Slote. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. 3. Swanton, Christine. Virtue Ethics: A Pluralistic View. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. Swanton defends a pluralistic, non-eudaimonistic version of virtue ethics that draws on influences ranging from Aristotle to Nietzsche to contemporary psychoanalytic theory. *See also Swanton, Christine. 'A Virtue Ethical Account of Right Action.' Ethics 112 (2001): 32–52. Articles The following is a selection of articles that address some of the central and controversial topics within virtue ethics. 1. Annas, Julia. 'Being Virtuous and Doing the Right Thing.' Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 78.2 (2004): 61–75. This article addresses the problem of action guidance and the role that an account of right action should play in virtue ethics. 2. Conly, Sarah. 'Flourishing and the Failure of the Ethics of Virtue.' Midwest Studies in Philosophy Vol. XIII, Ethical Theory: Character and Virtue . Eds. P. French et al. South Bend: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988. 83–96. This article articulates the central problems faced by versions of virtue ethics that rely on a conception of human flourishing. 3. Das, Ramon. 'Virtue Ethics and Right Action.' Australasian Journal of Philosophy 81 (2003): 324–39. This article raises objections about insularity and circularity to accounts of right action presented by Hursthouse, Slote, and Swanton. 4. Doris, John M. 'Persons, Situations, and Virtue Ethics.' Nous 32 (1998): 504–30. This article argues that situationist psychology undermines the concept of a character trait on which virtue ethicists rely. An expanded version of this criticism can be found in Doris, Lack of Character, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. 5. Hursthouse, Rosalind. 'Virtue Theory and Abortion.' Philosophy and Public Affairs 20.3 (1991): 223–46. This article argues that virtue ethics is capable of providing action guidance in the difficult problem of abortion. 6. Johnson, Robert N. 'Virtue and Right.' Ethics 113 (2003): 810–34. This article raises several objections against the accounts of right action in virtue ethics, one of which is that they cannot make sense of the rightness of self-improving actions. The criticism is directly primarily at Hursthouse's theory, but Swanton and Slote are discussed as well. 7. Kamtekar, Rachana. 'Situationism and Virtue Ethics on the Content of Our Character.' Ethics 114 (2004): 458–91. This article argues that situationist critiques of virtue ethics rely on a mistaken understanding of virtuous character. 8. Kawall, Jason. 'Virtue Theory and Ideal Observers.' Philosophical Studies 109 (2002): 197– 222. This article argues for an ideal observer-style account of right action in virtue ethics. 9. Nussbaum, Martha. 'Non-Relative Virtues: An Aristotelian Approach.' Midwest Studies in Philosophy, Vol. XIII, Ethical Theory: Character and Virtue . Ed. P. French et al. South Bend: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988. 32–53. This article presents a view of the virtues on which the virtues are excellences in spheres of activity. Although the spheres are common to all humans, the manifestation of excellence in a given sphere is subject to cultural variation. 10. Sreenivasan, Gopal. 'Errors about Errors: Virtue Theory and Trait Attribution.' Mind 111 (2002): 47–68. This article addresses the situationist critique of character traits by arguing that virtue ethics does not depend on the concept of a character trait as Doris and others understand it. 11. Stangl, Rebecca. 'A Dilemma for Particularist Virtue Ethics.' Philosophical Quarterly 58 (2008): 665–78. This article addresses the relationship between virtue ethics and radical moral particularism, arguing that the latter may have undesirable consequences for virtue ethicists unless they accept the unity of the virtues. 12. Stohr, Karen. 'Contemporary Virtue Ethics.' Philosophy Compass 1.1 (January 2006): 22–7. This article provides an overview and analysis of contemporary virtue ethics. It includes discussion of main problems and challenges for the future. 13. Stohr, Karen. 'Moral Cacophony: When Continence is a Virtue.' Journal of Ethics 7 (2003): 339–63. This article raises problems for the commonly accepted distinction between virtue and continence, arguing that the mixed emotions normally associated with continence are sometimes characteristic of virtue instead. 14. van Zyl, Liezl. 'Agent-Based Virtue Ethics and the Problem of Action Guidance.' Journal of Moral Philosophy 6 (2009): 50–69. This article defends agent-based virtue ethics against objections that it cannot distinguish agent-appraisal from act-appraisal and that it cannot provide adequate action guidance. Anthologies 1. Crisp, Roger, ed. How Should One Live? Essays on the Virtues. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996. This is one of the first virtue ethics anthologies published, and so reflects a correspondingly earlier picture of the field. The essays, however, are important and interesting in their own right, and cover a broad array of topics. 2. Crisp, Roger and Michael Slote, eds. Virtue Ethics . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. This anthology was published over a decade ago and does not capture recent developments in the field. It is, however, an admirably thorough collection of the most influential essays from the early days of virtue ethics, both promoting and criticizing it. 3. Darwall, Stephen, ed. Virtue Ethics. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003. This anthology is distinctive in that it includes material from Aristotle, Hutcheson, and Hume, along with some central contemporary sources. 4. Walker, Rebecca L. and Philip J. Ivanhoe, eds. Working Virtue. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. This recent anthology focuses on applied virtue ethics and has an excellent selection of essays by influential thinkers on topics including the environment, business, medicine, war, and poverty. Online Sources 'Virtue Ethics', Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-virtue/ Entry written by Rosalind Hursthouse and updated in 2007. 'Bibliography on Virtue Ethics', maintained by Jörg Schroth. http://www.ethikseite.de/bib/cvirtue.pdf Extensive list of work published in virtue ethics. Updated regularly, listed in both alphabetical and chronological order, and contains abstracts of papers. 'Janusblog', maintained by Guy Axtell. http://janusblog.squarespace.com/ Blog devoted to current work in virtue ethics and virtue epistemology, although with an emphasis on the latter. It contains spirited discussion among the many contributors, as well as a library of papers. Sample Syllabus This syllabus is for a graduate seminar or intense upper-level undergraduate course. Books for purchase for this course might include the Crisp and Slote anthology, the Walker and Ivanhoe anthology, and Hursthouse's On Virtue Ethics. Week 1: The Roots of Contemporary Virtue Ethics Anscombe, Elizabeth. 'Modern Moral Philosophy' (Crisp and Slote) Foot, Philippa. 'Virtues and Vices' (Crisp and Slote) MacIntyre, Alasdair. 'The Nature of the Virtues' (Crisp and Slote) Week 2: The Roots of Contemporary Virtue Ethics Stocker, Michael. 'The Schizophrenia of Modern Ethical Theories' (Crisp and Slote) Williams, Bernard. 'Morality, the Peculiar Institution' (Crisp and Slote) McDowell, John. 'Virtue and Reason' (Crisp and Slote) Week 3: Aristotelian Virtue Ethics Hursthouse, Rosalind. On Virtue Ethics, Part I Hursthouse, Rosalind. 'Practical Wisdom: A Mundane Account.' Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 106.3 (2006): 283–307. Stangl, Rebecca. 'A Dilemma for Particularist Virtue Ethics' Week 4: Aristotelian Virtue Ethics Hursthouse, Rosalind. On Virtue Ethics, Part II Stark, Susan. 'Virtue and Emotion.' Nous 33.5 (2001): 440–55. Stohr, Karen. 'Moral Cacophony: When Continence is a Virtue' Week 5: Aristotelian Virtue Ethics Hursthouse, Rosalind. On Virtue Ethics, Part III Conly, Sarah. 'Flourishing and the Failure of an Ethics of Virtue' Nussbaum, Martha. 'Non-Relative Virtues: An Aristotelian Approach' MacIntyre, Alasdair. Dependent Rational Animals, chapter 10 Week 6: Agent-Based Virtue Ethics Slote, Michael 'Agent-Based Virtue Ethics' (Crisp and Slote) Slote, Michael, Morals from Motives, chapters 1 and 3 Week 7: Pluralistic Virtue Ethics Swanton, Christine. Virtue Ethics: A Pluralistic View , chapters 3, 4, and 11. Week 8: The Situationist Critique of Virtue Ethics Doris, John. 'Persons, Situations, and Virtue Ethics' Kamtekar, Rachana. 'Situationism and Virtue Ethics on the Content of Our Character' Sreenivasan, Gopal. 'Errors about Errors: Virtue Theory and Trait Attribution' Merritt, Maria. 'Aristotelian Virtue and the Interpersonal Aspect of Ethical Character.' Journal of Moral Philosophy 6 (2009): 23–49. Week 11: Right Action – Problems Johnson, Robert. 'Virtue and Right' Das, Ramon. 'Virtue Ethics and Right Action' Week 12: Right Action – Virtue Ethics Solutions Annas, Julia. 'Being Virtuous and Doing the Right Thing' van Zyl, Liezl. 'Agent-Based Virtue Ethics and the Problem of Action Guidance' Kawall, Jason. 'Virtue Theory and Ideal Observers' Week 13: Virtue Ethics and Professional Roles Pelligrino, Edmund. 'Professing Medicine, Virtue Based Ethics, and the Retrieval of Professionalism' (Walker and Ivanhoe) Swanton, Christine. 'Virtue Ethics, Role Ethics, and Business Ethics' (Walker and Ivanhoe) Sherman, Nancy. 'Virtue and a Warrier's Anger' (Walker and Ivanhoe) Week 14: Virtue Ethics and the Non-Human World Hursthouse, Rosalind. 'Environmental Virtue Ethics' (Walker and Ivanhoe) Walker, Rebecca. 'The Good Life for Non-Human Animals: What Virtue Requires of Humans' (Walker and Ivanhoe) Focus Questions 1. What is the relationship between virtue and flourishing? Are the virtues necessary for flourishing? Sufficient? 2. Can virtue ethics provide an adequate account of right action? 3. On what concept of a character trait does virtue ethics rely, and does situationist psychology undermine it? 4. Is the project of ethical naturalism a plausible one? To what extent does the success of Aristotelian virtue ethics depend on it? 5. How does virtue ethics affect the way that applied ethics is done? (shrink)
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. (shrink)
Using evidence from experimental psychology, some social psychologists, moral philosophers and organizational scholars claim that character traits do not exist and, hence, that the philosophical tradition of virtue ethics is empirically inadequate and should dispose of the notion of character to accommodate the empirical evidence. In this paper, I systematically address the debate between dispositionalists and situationists about the existence, status and properties of character traits and their manifestations in human behavior, with the ultimate goal of responding to the question (...) whether virtue ethicists need to abandon the very enterprise of building a character-based moral theory in business ethics and organizational behavior. In the course of this paper, I shall defend the claim that the situationist argument relies on a misinterpretation of the experimental evidence. (shrink)
Ethics position theory (EPT) maintains that individuals’ personal moral philosophies influence their judgments, actions, and emotions in ethically intense situations. The theory, when describing these moral viewpoints, stresses two dimensions: idealism (concern for benign outcomes) and relativism (skepticism with regards to inviolate moral principles). Variations in idealism and relativism across countries were examined via a meta-analysis of studies that assessed these two aspects of moral thought using the ethics position questionnaire (EPQ; Forsyth, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 39 , (...) 175–184, 1980). This review identified 139 samples drawn from 29 different countries, for a total sample of 30,230 respondents, and concluded that (a) levels of idealism and relativism vary across regions of the world in predictable ways; (b) an exceptionist ethic is more common in Western countries, subjectivism and situationism in Eastern countries, and absolutism and situationism in Middle Eastern countries; and (c) a nation’s ethics position predicted that country’s location on previously documented cultural dimensions, such as individualism and avoidance of uncertainty (Hofstede, Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values , 1980). Limitations in these methods and concerns about the validity of these cross-cultural conclusions are noted, as are suggestions for further research using the EPQ. (shrink)
This paper continues a debate among philosophers concerning the implications of situationist experiments in social psychology for the theory of virtue. In a previous paper (2002), I argued among other things that the sort of character trait problematized by Hartshorne and May's (1928) famous study of honesty is not the right sort to trouble the theory of virtue. Webber (2006) criticizes my argument, alleging that it founders on an ambiguity in "cross-situational consistency" and that Milgram's (1974) obedience experiment is immune (...) to the objections I levelled against Hartshorne and May. Here I respond to his criticisms. The most important error in Webber's argument is that it overlooks a distinction between "one time performance" experiments and "iterated trial" experiments. I explain why the former cannot begin to trouble the theory of virtue. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
The intriguing issue of pain and suffering in patients with disorders of consciousness (DOCs), particularly in Unresponsive Wakefulness Syndrome/Vegetative State (UWS/VS) and Minimally Conscious State (MCS), is assessed from a theoretical point of view, through an overview of recent neuroscientific literature, in order to sketch an ethical analysis. In conclusion, from a legal and ethical point of view, formal guidelines and a situationist ethics are proposed in order to best manage the critical scientific uncertainty about pain and suffering in DOCs (...) and ensure the best possible care for the patient. (shrink)
This paper argues against the unity of the virtues, while trying to salvage some of its attractive aspects. I focus on the strongest argument for the unity thesis, which begins from the premise that true virtue cannot lead its possessor morally astray. I suggest that this premise presupposes the possibility of completely insulating an agent’s set of virtues from any liability to moral error. I then distinguish three conditions that separately foreclose this possibility, concentrating on the proposition that there is (...) more to morality than virtue alone—that is, not all moral considerations are ones to which some virtue is characteristically sensitive. If the virtues are not unified, the situationist critique of virtue ethics also turns out to be more difficult to establish than some have supposed. (shrink)
Introduction -- In search of global traits -- Habitual virtuous actions and automaticity -- Social intelligence and why it matters -- Virtue as social intelligence -- Philosophical situationism revisited -- Conclusion.
The purpose of the present study is to examine the attitudes of Portuguese chartered accountants with respect to questions of ethical nature that can arise in their professional activity. Respondents were asked to respond to the Ethics Position Questionnaire developed by Forsyth (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 39(1), 175–184, 1980), in order to determine their idealism and relativism levels. Subsequently, they answered questions about five scenarios related to accounting practices, with the objective of measuring their ethical judgments. Based on (...) the idealism and relativism levels of our respondents, they were classified into one of four groups, representing different ethical ideologies (absolutism, exceptionism, subjectivism, and situationism). The results indicated that age was the major determinant of relativism. Contrary to previous research, older respondents revealed themselves significantly more relativistic than younger ones. Gender seems to be the most important determinant of ethical judgments; against expectations, men evidenced significantly stricter judgments than women in two of the five scenarios. Findings also indicated that respondents’ ethical judgments did not differ significantly based on their ethical ideology, supporting the idea that ethical ideology is not an important determinant of ethical judgments. (shrink)
This commentary notes the emergence of a “People are Stupid” school of thought that describes social behavior as mindless, automatic, and unconscious. I trace the roots of this “school,” particularly in the link between situationism in social psychology and behaviorism in psychology at large, and suggest that social psychology should focus on the role of the mind in social interaction.
Ethics position theory (EPT) maintains that individuals’ personal moral philosophies influence their judgments, actions, and emotions in ethically intense situations. The theory, when describing these moral viewpoints, stresses two dimensions: idealism (concern for benign outcomes) and relativism (skepticism with regards to inviolate moral principles). Variations in idealism and relativism across countries were examined via a meta-analysis of studies that assessed these two aspects of moral thought using the ethics position questionnaire (EPQ; Forsyth, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 39, 175–184, (...) 1980). This review identified 139 samples drawn from 29 different countries, for a total sample of 30,230 respondents, and concluded that (a) levels of idealism and relativism vary across regions of the world in predictable ways; (b) an exceptionist ethic is more common in Western countries, subjectivism and situationism in Eastern countries, and absolutism and situationism in Middle Eastern countries; and (c) a nation’s ethics position predicted that country’s location on previously documented cultural dimensions, such as individualism and avoidance of uncertainty (Hofstede, Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values, 1980). Limitations in these methods and concerns about the validity of these cross-cultural conclusions are noted, as are suggestions for further research using the EPQ. (shrink)
Wegner's many examples of illusory involuntariness do not warrant the conclusion that the experience of voluntariness is also an illusion. His arguments appear to be related to the contemporary emphasis on automaticity in social cognition and behavior; both appear to represent a revival of situationism in social psychology.
To have a virtue is to possess a certain kind of trait of character that is appropriate in pursuing the moral good at which the virtue aims. Human beings are assumed to be capable of attaining those traits. Yet, a number of scholars are skeptical about the very existence of such character traits. They claim a sizable amount of empirical evidence in their support. This paper is concerned with the existence and explanatory power of character as a way to assess (...) the possibility of achieving moral virtue, with particular attention paid to business context. I aim to unsettle the so-called situationist challenge to virtue ethics. In the course of this paper, I shall defend four claims, namely, that virtues are more than just behavioral dispositions, that at least some virtues may not be unitary traits, that psychologists cannot infer virtues from overt behavior, and that the situationist data do not account for the observational equivalence of traits. Since it rests on a misconception of what virtue is, the situationist objection remains unconvincing. (shrink)
Evolution is seen to be entering a bio-technological phase. Nietzsche's affirmation that "man is something that must be overcome" no longer has a rhetorical ring given the means at our disposal at the end of the twentieth century. Viroid Life boldly challenges existing explanations of these changes inherited from modernity, arguing that they have exhausted their usefulness and new models are needed to guide us in mapping through the future. Exploring and critically examining the new realities of artificial life that (...) confront us, Viroid Life brings together the tradition of Nietszchean thought with new work in exploratory biology and machinic thinking. Offering insights from Darwin to Gilles Deleuze and Guy Debord and the Situationist movement, Pearson provides a brave starting point for any inquiry on the future of the "human". (shrink)
The oral eye is a metaphor for the dominance of global designer capitalism. It refers to the consumerism of a designer aesthetic by the ‘I’ of the neoliberalist subject, as well as the aural soundscapes that accompany the hegemony of the capturing attention through screen cultures. An attempt is made to articulate the historical emergence of such a synoptic machinic regime drawing on Badiou, Bellmer, Deleuze, Guattari, Lacan, Rancière, Virilio, Ziarek, and Žižek to explore contemporary art (post-Situationism) and visual (...) cultural education. jagodzinski develops the concept of an ‘avant-garde without authority,’ ‘self-refleXion’ and ‘in(design)’ to further the questions surrounding the posthuman as advanced by theorists such as Hansen, Stiegler and Ziarek’s ‘force’ of art. (shrink)
Gilbert Harman and other situationists have argued, on thefollowing grounds, that many ordinary moral judgments are false.First, many moral judgments posit robust personal character traits inthe course of describing or explaining individual human behavior.Second, the empirical evidence strongly suggests these traits do notexist. I sketch some of the reasoning behind situationism and arguethat Harman’s view cannot be entirely right. He is himselfcommitted to there being at least one robust individual charactertrait, namely a form of personal intelligence. Moreover, the notion (...) ofa situation upon which he relies is inadequate to his purpose. (shrink)
This ten chapter text is designed to be used as a stand-alone text or in conjunction with a set of primary readings in a twelve week course on modern social theory or the second half of a full-year course on sociological theory. It examines the most important theoretical approaches of the 20th and 21st centuries, balancing concise coverage with appropriate depth of analysis. It avoids rehashing classical theory while still placing recent theorists in a historical context. It takes into account (...) developments in social theory over the last twenty years and highlights Canadian theorists (such as Innis, McLuhan, and Grant) and context (for example, communications, technology, and nature). It includes sometimes overlooked subject areas such as situationism and postmodernism, as well as European theorists not covered by many texts. (shrink)
Individuals'' moral judgments of certain business practices and their decisions to engage in those practices are influenced by their personal moral philosophies: (a) situationists advocate striving for the best consequences possible irrespective of moral maxims; (b) subjectivists reject moral guidelines and base judgments on personal values and practical concerns; (c) absolutists assume that actions are moral, provided they yield positive consequences and conform to moral rules; (d) exceptionists prefer to follow moral dictates but allow for exceptions for practical reasons. These (...) variations, which are based on two fundamental dimensions (concern for principles and concern for promoting human welfare) influence a variety of moral processes and have implications for ethical debates over business practices. (shrink)
The present study extends the study of individuals' ethical ideology withinthe context of marketing ethics issues. A national sample of marketing professionals participated. Respondents' ethical ideologies were classified as absolutists, situationists, exceptionists, or subjectivists using the Ethical Position Questionnaire (Forsyth, 1980). Respondents then answered questions about three ethically ambiguous situations common to marketing and sales. The results indicated that marketers' ethical judgments about the situations differed based on their ethical ideology, with absolutists rating the actions as most unethical. The findings (...) are consistent with those of two earlier studies that utilized samples of business students (Barnett et al., 1994, 1995). The results suggest that personal moral philosophy is an important influence on ethical decision making that should be considered in empirical studies of business ethics. The results also support the utility of the Ethical Position Questionnaire (Forsyth, 1980) as a means for researchers and practitioners to assess individuals' ethical ideology. (shrink)
In his Experiments in Ethics , Appiah focuses mostly on the dimension of naturalism as a naturalism of deprivation - naturalism’s apparent robbing us of aspects of the world that we had held dear. The aim of this paper is to remind him of that naturalism has a dimension of plenitude as well - its capacity to enrich our conception of the world as well. With regard to character, we argue that scientific psychology can help provide a conception of character (...) as dynamic, in a way that may preserve many key aspects of eudaimonistic ethics from the situationists’ challenge. With regard to intuition, we address Appiah’s worry that naturalistic explanations of the sources of our intuitions may leave us feeling that those intuitions have been thereby debunked. We suggest that it may be that feeling of debunking that should itself be debunked. (shrink)
The relationship between individuals’ creativity and their ethical ideologies appears to be complex. Applying Forsyth’s (1980, 1992) personal moral philosophy model which consists of two independent ethical ideology dimensions, idealism and relativism, we hypothesized and found support for a positive relationship between creativity and relativism. It appears that creative people are less likely than non-creative people to follow universal rules in their moral decision making. However, contrary to our hypothesis and the general stereotype that creative people are less caring about (...) others, we found a positive relationship between creativity and idealism. These findings indicate that highly creative people are likely to be what Forsyth called “situationists,” individuals with both an ethic of caring and a pragmatic moral decision-making style. The finding that creative individuals tend to be situationists, and particularly that they tend to be high in idealism, appears to refute the line of reasoning that argues for a “creative personality” characterized in part by social insensitivity. Understanding the relationship between creativity and ethical ideologies has important implications for researchers, managers and teachers. (shrink)
Business and Marketing ethics have come to the forefront in recent years. While consumers have been surveyed regarding their perceptions of ethical business and marketing practices, research has been minimal with regard to their ethical beliefs and ideologies. In addition, no study has examined the ethical beliefs of Austrian consumers even though Austria maintains a unique status of political neutrality, nonalignment, stability, economic prosperity and geographical proximity to the East- and West-European countries. This research investigates the relationship between Machiavellianism, ethical (...) ideology and ethical beliefs of Austrian consumers. The results indicate that Austrian consumers are mostly situationists who, while rejecting moral rules, judge the ethics of a behavior by the consequences and outcomes of the situation. (shrink)
In recent years there has been a substantial amount of research on emotional intelligence (EI) across a wide range of disciplines. Also, this term has been receiving increasing attention in the popular business press. This article extends previous research by seeking to determine whether there is a relationship between emotional intelligence and ethical judgment among practicing managers with respect to questions of ethical nature that can arise in their professional activity. It analyzes the results of a survey of 324 managers (...) enrolled in executive MBA programs from five universities in the southeastern and northeastern United States. This study is based on a model presented by Forsyth showing two dimensions that play an important role in ethical evaluation and behavior. Respondents were classified into one of four groups according to their idealism and relativism levels—situationists, subjectivists, absolutists, and exceptionists. The four ideological group’s scores were compared. The results indicate significant differences between the situationists and absolutists on the one hand, and subjectivists and exceptionists on the other. The former’s emotional intelligence scores were significantly higher thus demonstrating a strong relationship between emotional intelligence and ethical ideology. The results raise important implications for practitioners and educators. (shrink)