Advertisement

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 343–357 | Cite as

Empirical Adequacy and Virtue Ethics

  • Philip A. Reed
Article

Abstract

Situationists contend that virtue ethics is empirically inadequate. However, it is my contention that there is much confusion over what “empirical adequacy” or “empirical inadequacy” actually means in this context. My aim in this paper is to clarify the meanings of empirical adequacy in order to see to what extent virtue ethics might fail to meet this standard. I argue that the situationists frequently misconstrue the empirical commitments of virtue ethics. More importantly, depending on what we mean by empirical adequacy, either virtue ethics has no need to be empirically adequate or where it does have such a need, the psychological evidence fails to show that it is empirically inadequate. An additional contribution the paper intends to make is to provide a more detailed discussion of the explanatory nature of virtue ethics.

Keywords

Situationism Virtue ethics Empirical adequacy Explanation John Doris 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I’m grateful to the Character Project for allowing me to pursue the issues in this paper during the summer seminar at Wake Forest University in 2013. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at “Virtue, Medicine, and Modern Moral Philosophy: A Conference in Honor of W. David Solomon” at the University of Notre Dame in May 2014 and the Felician Ethics Conference in April 2015 at Felician College; I thank both audiences for their feedback. Thanks to Mark Alfano, Anne Baril, Aaron Cobb, Micah Lott, Christian Miller, Nancy Snow, and an anonymous referee for helpful comments on earlier drafts.

References

  1. Alfano M (2012) Expanding the situationist challenge to responsibilist virtue epistemology. Philos Q 62:223–249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alfano M (2013) Character as moral fiction. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Annas J (2011) Intelligent virtue. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Aristotle (1985) Nicomachean Ethics. Trans. T. Irwin. Indianapolis, IN: HackettGoogle Scholar
  5. Brandt R (1988) The structure of virtue. Midwest Stud Philos 13:64–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dent NJH (1975) Virtues and actions. Philos Q 25:318–335CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. DePaul M (1999) Character traits, virtues, and vices: are there none? Proceedings of the World Congress of Philosophy. Philosophy Documentation Center 1:141–157Google Scholar
  8. Doris J (1998) Persons, situations, and virtue ethics. Noûs 32:504–530CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Doris J (2002) Lack of character: personality and moral behavior. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Doris J, Stich S (2005) “As a matter of fact: empirical perspectives on ethics,”. In: Jackson F, Smith M (eds) The oxford handbook of contemporary philosophy. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 114–152Google Scholar
  11. Harman G (1999) Moral philosophy meets social psychology: virtue ethics and the fundamental attribution error. Proc Aristot Soc 99:315–331CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Harman G (2000) The nonexistence of character traits. Proc Aristot Soc 100:223–226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Harman G (2009) Skepticism about character traits. J Ethics 13:235–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hudson S (1980) Character traits and desires. Ethics 90:539–549CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hurka T (2006) Virtuous Act, virtuous dispositions. Analsyis 66:69–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Jackson F, Pettit P (1990) In defence of folk psychology. Philos Stud 59:31–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kawall J (2009) “In defense of the primacy of the virtues.”. J Ethics Soc Philos 3:1–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. MacIntyre A (1976) “Causality and history,”. In: Manninen J, Tuomela R (eds) Essays on explanation and understanding: studies in the foundations of humanities and social sciences. Reidel, Dordrecht, pp 137–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. MacIntyre A (1984) After virtue, 2nd edn. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre DameGoogle Scholar
  20. McDowell J (1978) Are moral requirements hypothetical imperatives?”. Proc Aristot Soc Suppl Vol 52:13–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. McKitrick J (2009) Dispositions, causes, and reduction. In: Handfield T (ed) Dispositions and causes. Clarendon Press, Oxford, p 31–64Google Scholar
  22. Milgram S (1963) Behavioral study of obedience. J Abnorm Soc Psychol 67:371–378CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Miller C (2003) Social psychology and virtue ethics. J Ethics 7:365–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Miller C (2009) Social psychology, mood and helping: mixed results for virtue ethics. J Ethics 13:145–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Miller C (2013) Moral character. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Miller C (2014) Character & moral psychology. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Moody-Adams M (1990) “On the Old Saw that character is destiny,”. In: Flanagan O, Rorty AO (eds) Identity, character, and morality: essays in moral psychology. MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 111–131Google Scholar
  28. Prinz J (2009) The normativity challenge: cultural psychology provides the real threat to virtue ethics. J Ethics 13:117–144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Russell D (2009) Practical intelligence and the virtues. Clarendon, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Sabini J, Silver M (2005) Lack of character? situationism critiqued. Ethics 115:535–562CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Sehon S (2005) Teleological realism. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  32. Snow N (2010) Virtue as social intelligence: an empirically grounded theory. Routledge, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  33. Sreenivasan G (2002) Errors about errors: virtue theory and trait attribution. Mind 111:47–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Sreenivasan G (2008) Character and consistency: still more errors. Mind 117:603–612CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sreenivasan G (2013) “The situationist critique of virtue ethics,”. In: Russell D (ed) The Cambridge companion to virtue ethics. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 290–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Swanton C (2003) Virtue ethics: a pluralistic view. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Taylor C (1971) Interpretation and the sciences of Man. Rev Metaphys 25:3–51Google Scholar
  38. Vranas P (2005) The indeterminacy paradox: character evaluations and human psychology. Noûs 39:1–42Google Scholar
  39. Wallace J (1974) Excellences and merit. Philos Rev 83:182–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Watson G (1990) “On the primacy of character,”. In: Flanagan O, Rorty AO (eds) Identity, character, and morality: essays in moral psychology. MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 449–469Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Canisius CollegeBuffaloUSA

Personalised recommendations