Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

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

Empirical Adequacy and Virtue Ethics

  • Philip A. Reed


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.


Situationism Virtue ethics Empirical adequacy Explanation John Doris 



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.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Canisius CollegeBuffaloUSA

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