The goal of this book is to develop a new framework for thinking about what moral character looks like today. My central claim will be that most people have moral character traits, but at the same time they do not have either the traditional ...
The situationist movement in psychology and, more recently, in philosophy has been associated with a number of striking claims, including that most people do not have the moral virtues and vices, that any ethical theory which is wedded to such character traits is empirically inadequate, and that much of our behavior is causally influenced, to significant degrees, by psychological influences about which we are often unaware. Yet Christian philosophers have had virtually nothing to say about situationist claims. The goal (...) of this paper is to consider whether Christians should start to be worried about them. (shrink)
This book first reviews Miller's theory of Mixed Traits, as developed in his 2013 book Moral Character: An Empirical Theory. It then engages extensively with situations, the CAPS model in social psychology, and the Big Five Model in personality psychology. It ends by taking up implications for his view in meta-ethics (a modified error theory) and normative ethics (a challenge for virtue ethics).
We like to think of ourselves, our friends, and our families as decent people. We may not be saints, but we are still honest, relatively kind, and mostly trustworthy. Miller argues here that we are badly mistaken in thinking this. Hundreds of recent studies in psychology tell a different story: that we all have serious character flaws that prevent us from being as good as we think we are - and that we do not even recognize that these flaws exist. (...) But neither are most of us cruel or dishonest. Instead, Miller argues, we are a mixed bag. On the one hand, most of us in a group of bystanders will do nothing as someone cries out for help in an emergency. Yet it is also true that there will be many times when we will selflessly come to the aid of a complete stranger - and resist the urge to lie, cheat, or steal even if we could get away with it. Much depends on cues in our social environment. Miller uses this recent psychological literature to explain what the notion of "character" really means today, and how we can use this new understanding to develop a character better in sync with the kind of people we want to be. (shrink)
This Element provides an overview of some of the central issues in contemporary moral psychology. It explores what moral psychology is, whether we are always motivated by self-interest, what good character looks like and whether anyone has it, whether moral judgments always motivate us to act, whether what motivates action is always a desire of some kind, and what the role is of reasoning and deliberation in moral judgment and action. This Element is aimed at a general audience including undergraduate (...) students without an extensive background in philosophy. (shrink)
There have only been three articles in mainstream philosophy journals going back at least to the 1970s on generosity. In this paper, I hope to draw attention to this neglected virtue. By building on what work has already been done, and trying to advance that discussion along several different dimensions, I hope that others will take a closer look at this important and surprisingly complex virtue. More specifically, I formulate three important necessary conditions for what is involved in possessing the (...) virtue of generosity, and consider other contenders as well. (shrink)
The central virtue at issue in recent philosophical discussions of the empirical adequacy of virtue ethics has been the virtue of compassion. Opponents of virtue ethics such as Gilbert Harman and John Doris argue that experimental results from social psychology concerning helping behavior are best explained not by appealing to so-called ‘global’ character traits like compassion, but rather by appealing to external situational forces or, at best, to highly individualized ‘local’ character traits. In response, a number of philosophers have argued (...) that virtue ethics can accommodate the empirical results in question. My own view is that neither side of this debate is looking in the right direction. For there is an impressive array of evidence from the social psychology literature which suggests that many people do possess one or more robust global character traits pertaining to helping others in need. But at the same time, such traits are noticeably different from a traditional virtue like compassion. (shrink)
This book explores the influence of ubuntu on South Africa’s post-apartheid transitional justice mechanism, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and—in contrast to ethnophilosophy—takes differences, historical developments, and social contexts seriously.
Integrity, honesty, and truth seeking are important virtues that most people care about and want to see promoted in society. Yet surprisingly, there has been relatively little work among scholars today aimed at helping us better understand this cluster of virtues related to truth. This volume incorporates the insights and perspectives of experts working in a variety of disciplines, including philosophy, law, communication and rhetorical studies, theology, psychology, history, and education. For each virtue, there is a conceptual chapter, an application (...) chapter, and a developmental chapter. The resulting volume significantly deepens our knowledge about and appreciation for these central virtues. (shrink)
The virtue of honesty has been stunningly neglected in contemporary philosophy, with only two papers appearing in the last 40 years. The first half of this paper is a conceptual exploration of one aspect of the virtue, namely the honest person’s motivational profile. I argue that egoistic motives for telling the truth or not cheating are incompatible with honest motivation. At the same time, there is no one specific motive that is required for a person to be motivated in a (...) virtuously honest way. Instead I advance a pluralistic theory of honest motivation, which allows for motives of caring, fairness, and virtue, among others. The second half of the paper then turns briefly to the empirical literature in psychology and behavioral economics on cheating, to see to what extent honest motives appear to be operative. The upshot is that we have good preliminary evidence for the claim that most people are not virtuously honest. (shrink)
Critics of Rorty’s views on truth, objectivity, and value often take them to imply some form of untenable relativism.1 While it would be worthwhile to investigate whether Rorty is in fact committed to what might be called global relativism, or relativism in most if not all domains of investigation, for our purposes in this paper we must proceed more selectively. By focusing on Rorty’s view of moral objectivity, we can hopefully shed some new light on the now stale charge of (...) Rortian relativism. In the process, we can also go quite a long way towards articulating what a Rortian approach to meta-ethics might look like. (shrink)
I pursue three of the many lines of thought that were raised in my mind by Kristjánsson’s engaging book. In the first section, I try to get clearer on what exactly Aristotelian character education (ACE) is, and suggest areas where I hope the view is developed in more detail. In the second and longest section, I draw some lessons from social psychology about the pervasive role of what I call ‘Surprising Dispositions,’ and invite Kristjánsson to take up the difficult challenge (...) of clarifying how ACE would help to address their influence on our thought and action. Finally, in section three I consider whether there is any robust empirical support for ACE, and if not, where that leaves us. (shrink)
The early work by Gilbert Harman and John Doris on character and situationism has fostered a vast literature over the past 15 years. Yet despite all this work, there are many important issues which remain largely unexplored. The goal of this paper is to briefly outline eight promising research directions: neglected moral virtues, neglected non-moral virtues, virtue assessment and measurement, replication, non-Aristotelian virtue ethics, positive accounts of character trait possession, prescriptive situationism, and virtue cultivation.
This paper brings together the social intuitionist view of the psychology of moral judgments developed by Jonathan Haidt, and the recent morphological rationalist position of Terry Horgan and Mark Timmons. I will end up suggesting that Horgan and Timmons have offered us a more plausible account of the psychology of moral judgment formation. But the view is not without its own difficulties. Indeed, one of them might prove to be quite serious, as it could support a form of skepticism about (...) understanding our own motivating reasons. (shrink)
Christian Miller's book makes extensive use of the data on human behavior and motivation from psychological studies in the last 50-60 years and applies that information to the analysis of character. The book begins with helping behavior and the analysis is then generalized to other character traits. Miller argues that an analysis of human character as having Mixed Character Traits is superior to the analysis of character using the traditional virtues. The review highlights the great value of combining the (...) research into one place for the purposes of ethics and Miller's initial analysis of the data on helping. But the review questions the usefulness of Mixed Character Traits as a descriptor of human character and its value as a heuristic device in ethics. (shrink)
There has been almost nothing written in philosophy on honesty in the past fifty years. This paper contributes one piece to a larger project of trying to change this unfortunate state of affairs. In section one, I outline an original account of the behavioural component of honesty as involving being disposed to not intentionally distort the facts as the person sees them. Section two turns to the vice of deficiency, namely dishonesty, which I suggest is the only vice corresponding to (...) honesty. It has at least five different dimensions, and a person’s character needs to be assessed along all of them before an overall judgment as to her dishonesty can justifiably be made. (shrink)
These are early days in the philosophical study of character. We know very little about what most peoples’ character looks like. Important virtues are surprisingly neglected. There are almost no strategies advanced by philosophers today for improving character. We have a long way to go.
I reply to the excellent commentaries by Nancy Snow and Jennifer Cole Wright on my book, The Character Gap: How Good Are We? Topics discussed include the criteria of virtue, kinds of virtuous motives, vicious motivation and behavior, continence and incontinence, the possibility of widespread vice, and a recent meta-analysis of helping behavior.
With the explosion of interest in virtue and virtue ethics, one set of issues that has been comparatively neglected is how to categorize moral character traits. This paper distinguishes three approaches—what I call the Stoic, personality psychology, and Aristotelian—and critically assesses each of them. The Stoic approaches denies that virtues come in degrees. There is perfect virtue or nothing at all. The personality psychology approach denies that virtues have thresholds. So everyone has all the virtues to some degree or other. (...) The Aristotelian approach accepts both degrees and thresholds. So some people might not have the virtues, and if they do, they might have them to various degrees. In addition, each of these positions takes a different stand on how to understand the vices as well. Using the virtue of honesty as the central example, the paper ends up favoring the Aristotelian approach but notes some of the complexities involved in adopting it. (shrink)
This paper will explore how ethical concerns change when brain computer interfaces move from a research setting into a commercial setting. This paper will argue that the transition from research to commercial settings might change the intentions for the artefact and will explore hypothesis of what this change might affect. This paper will discuss how possible intentions for brain computer interfaces in commercial settings will have an impact on the products developed and what consequences this might have for individuals and (...) society. The ethical concerns discussed in this paper includes privacy, enhancement and the digital divide. This paper will also present possible future research which could help investigate both the hypothesis put forward and the topic of brain computer interfaces moving from research to commercial settings in general. (shrink)
John peteet, charlotte witvliet, and c. stephen evans are to be commended for drawing our attention to the relatively neglected virtue of accountability, and for making the case that it is an important virtue to cultivate in general and specifically within the context of psychiatry. I find little to object to in their discussion, and so my comments here will be more of an invitation for them to address in greater detail two important issues: the relationship between accountability and autonomy, (...) and the role of motivation in the virtue of accountability.According to Peteet et al., a person with the virtue of accountable is someone who “embraces being accountable”. The virtue is said to... (shrink)
This article questions whether enmity is always bad and trust always good. In the borderlands between Ikland in northern Uganda and Turkanaland in Kenya, sometimes violent enmity combines with friendly barter relations between the Ik, a subsistence agricultural people that also hunts, and their goat-and-cattle herding neighbors, the Turkana and Dodoth peoples. “Half-trust,” as some of the Ik call it, works to prevent the escalation of conflict. While the Ugandan groups have been disarmed by their government, the Kenyan Turkana, armed (...) with AK-47s, are allowed into Ugandan territory for pasture during drought, and some Turkana take violent advantage of this power imbalance as they leave. Paradoxically, intervention by Ugandan state institutions that, in the name of peaceful coexistence, welcome the Turkana in Uganda has led to the escalation of conflict, while tribal “half-trust” has kept it relatively limited. (shrink)
Virtue theorists have recently been focusing on the important question of how virtues are developed, and doing so in a way that is informed by empirical research from psychology. However, almost all of this recent work has dealt exclusively with the moral virtues. In this paper, we present three empirically-informed accounts of how virtues can be developed, and we assess the merits of these accounts when applied specifically to intellectual (or epistemic) virtues.
This introduction describes the origins and rationale behind the papers that comprise this special issue of Studies in Christian Ethics. These papers represent several recent contributions to scholarship on the theology of character.
The rise of the phenomenon of virtue ethics in recent years has increased at a rapid pace. Such an explosion carries with it a number of great possibilities, as well as risks. This volume has been written to contribute a multi-faceted perspective to the current conversation about virtue. Among many other thought-provoking questions, the collection addresses the following: What are the virtues, and how are they enumerated? What are the internal problems among ethicists, and what are the objections and replies (...) to contemporary virtue ethics? Additionally, the practical implications following from the answers to these questions are discussed in new and fascinating research. Fundamental concepts such as teleology and eudaimonism are addressed from both a historical and dialectical approach. This tome will contribute not only to providing further clarity to the current horizons in virtue ethics, but also to the practical conclusion following from the study: to challenge the reader toward a greater pursuit of the virtuous life. (shrink)
In this introduction to part 4 of the Common Knowledge symposium “Peace by Other Means,” the journal's editor assesses the argument made by Peace, the spokesperson of Erasmus in his Querela Pacis, that the desire to impute and avenge wrongs against oneself is insatiable and at the root of both individual and social enmities. He notes that, in a symposium about how to resolve and prevent enmity, most contributions have to date expressed caveats about how justice and truth must take (...) precedence over peace, how recovery from ill treatment may be impossible, how quietism is not a moral option, and how realism demands a national policy and a personal strategy of, at best, contingent forgiveness. He concedes that the attitudes of those opposed to quietism are healthy but suggests that there may be goods worthier than health of human devotion. This essay concludes that the main differences between what it terms “judgmental” and “irenic” regimes are disagreements over anthropology and metaphysics. The presumptions that truths are objectively knowable and that human beings are moral and rational agents characterize judgmental regimes; irenic regimes are characterized by disillusionment with those assumptions. (shrink)
The Repugnant Conclusion served an important purpose in catalyzing and inspiring the pioneering stage of population ethics research. We believe, however, that the Repugnant Conclusion now receives too much focus. Avoiding the Repugnant Conclusion should no longer be the central goal driving population ethics research, despite its importance to the fundamental accomplishments of the existing literature.