Empirical Adequacy and Virtue Ethics
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.
KeywordsSituationism 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.
- Aristotle (1985) Nicomachean Ethics. Trans. T. Irwin. Indianapolis, IN: HackettGoogle Scholar
- 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
- 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
- MacIntyre A (1984) After virtue, 2nd edn. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre DameGoogle Scholar
- McKitrick J (2009) Dispositions, causes, and reduction. In: Handfield T (ed) Dispositions and causes. Clarendon Press, Oxford, p 31–64Google Scholar
- 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
- Sehon S (2005) Teleological realism. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Snow N (2010) Virtue as social intelligence: an empirically grounded theory. Routledge, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Taylor C (1971) Interpretation and the sciences of Man. Rev Metaphys 25:3–51Google Scholar
- Vranas P (2005) The indeterminacy paradox: character evaluations and human psychology. Noûs 39:1–42Google Scholar
- 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