Skepticism about Character Traits

The Journal of Ethics 13 (2-3):235 - 242 (2009)

Authors
Gilbert Harman
Princeton University
Abstract
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
Keywords Acts  Dispositions  E. Goffman  R. Hardin  J.-P. Sartre
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DOI 10.1007/s10892-009-9050-6
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References found in this work BETA

On Virtue Ethics.Rosalind Hursthouse - 1999 - Oxford University Press.
Lack of Character: Personality and Moral Behavior.John M. Doris - 2002 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 71 (3):648-655.

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The Possibility of Virtue.Miguel Alzola - 2012 - Business Ethics Quarterly 22 (2):377-404.
Extended Virtues and the Boundaries of Persons.Robert J. Howell - 2016 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 2 (1):146--163.
The Most Important Thing About Climate Change.John Broome - 2010 - In Jonathan Boston, Andrew Bradstock & David Eng (eds.), Public Policy: Why Ethics Matters. ANU E Press. pp. 101-16.

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