The concepts of virtue after the „character – situation” debate
Keywordsvirtue, virtue ethics, situation, moral character, situationist objection
The article focuses on a currently hot debate in contemporary ethics that takes place between so-called situationists and the advocates of virtue ethics. The fundamental assumption made by virtue ethics is that developing and perfecting one’s moral character or moral virtues warrants one’s morally good action. Situationists claim that this assumption contradicts the results of the latest empirical studies. From this observation, they conclude that virtue ethics is based on an empirically inadequate moral psychology.
In the first part of the article, I present the conceptions of virtue and moral character developed in response to the situationist criticism. I show to which degree these conceptions differ from the classical, so-called global approach in virtue ethics In the second part, based on the references to the latest empirical studies in social and cognitive psychology, I argue, against the situationist objection, that the classical notion of virtue meets the requirement of empirical adequacy. I mainly resort to the interactionist theory of personality by W. Mischel, R. Baumeister’s studies over self-control, D. Kahneman's conception of two-processual mind, and the studies over automatized processes by J. Bargh.
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