Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 18 (4):835-849 (2015)

Chris W. Surprenant
University of New Orleans
J. P. Messina
University of California, San Diego
This paper responds to the recent situationist critique of practical rationality and decision-making. According to that critique, empirical evidence indicates that our choices are governed by morally irrelevant situational factors and not durable character traits, and rarely result from overt rational deliberation. This critique is taken to indicate that popular moral theories in the Western tradition are descriptively deficient, even if normatively plausible or desirable. But we believe that the situationist findings regarding the sources of, or influences over, our moral agency do not reflect durable features of human nature, and claim that these findings are a byproduct of a deficient approach to moral education. Existing models of moral education, which are “positive” in nature, do a poor job of developing virtuous people. Instead, we argue that a “negative” approach to moral education, traceable to Locke, Smith, and Rousseau, would be more successful. This strategy represents something of a compromise between the strategies adopted by thinkers like Rachana Kamtekar : 458–491 2004), who argues that traditional moral categories escape largely untouched by findings in social psychology, and John Doris :504–530 1998) and Gilbert Harman : 87–94 2003), who argue that findings in psychology prove our traditional moral theories are defective
Keywords Moral education  Situationism  Social psychology  Virtue
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DOI 10.1007/s10677-014-9558-0
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Character as Moral Fiction.Mark Alfano - 2013 - Cambridge University Press.

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