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Persons, situations, and virtue ethics

Noûs 32 (4):504-530 (1998)

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  1. Situationism and the Problem of Moral Improvement.Matthew C. Taylor - 2019 - Philosophical Explorations 22 (3):312-327.
    A wealth of research in social psychology indicates that various ethically arbitrary situational factors exert a surprisingly powerful influence on moral conduct. Empirically-minded philosophers have argued over the last two decades that this evidence challenges Aristotelian virtue ethics. John Doris, Gilbert Harman, and Maria Merritt have argued that situationist moral psychology – as opposed to Aristotelian moral psychology – is better suited to the practical aim of helping agents act better. The Aristotelian account, with its emphasis on individual factors, invites (...)
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  • Realistic Virtues and How to Study Them: Introducing the STRIVE-4 Model.Bradford Cokelet & Blaine J. Fowers - 2019 - Journal of Moral Education 48 (1):7-26.
    This article argues that ordinary virtue trait attributions presuppose the existence of realistic traits that fall short of, for example, Aristotelian ideals and that debate about the existence of virtue traits should be reoriented in the light of this fact. After clarifying and motivating that basic thesis, we discuss what the existing psychological research shows about the existence of realistic traits and how future psychological research could be designed to show more. Our first conclusion is that current psychological research (weakly) (...)
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  • Is Intellectual Character Growth a Realistic Educational Aim?Jason Baehr - 2016 - Journal of Moral Education 45 (2):117-131.
    Responsibilist approaches to virtue epistemology examine the epistemic significance of intellectual virtues like curiosity, attentiveness, intellectual humility, open-mindedness, intellectual courage, and intellectual tenacity. On one way of thinking about these traits, they are the deep personal qualities or character traits of a good thinker or learner. Given the intimate connection between intellectual virtues and good thinking and learning, responsibilist virtue epistemology appears ripe for application to educational theory and practice. At a minimum, growth in intellectual virtues seems like a worthy (...)
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  • The Promising but Challenging Case of Humility as a Positive Psychology Virtue.Peter C. Hill & Steven J. Sandage - 2016 - Journal of Moral Education 45 (2):132-146.
    In maintaining that virtue is a legitimate concept worthy of empirical study, a strong situationist approach to the study of behavior is countered. An earlier analysis is then drawn upon to maintain that virtue has the capability of integrating several themes in positive psychology: ethics and health, embodied character, strength and resilience, communally embedded, meaningful purpose, and capacity for wisdom. The six themes are used to provide a framework for considering the unique case of moral and intellectual humility as a (...)
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  • Unprincipled Ethics.Gerald Dworkin - 1995 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 20 (1):224-239.
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  • Virtue, Situationism, and the Cognitive Value of Art.Jacob Berger & Mark Alfano - 2016 - The Monist 99 (2):144-158.
    Virtue-based moral cognitivism holds that at least some of the value of some art consists in conveying knowledge about the nature of virtue and vice. We explore here a challenge to this view, which extends the so-called situationist challenge to virtue ethics. Evidence from social psychology indicates that individuals’ behavior is often susceptible to trivial and normatively irrelevant situational influences. This evidence not only challenges approaches to ethics that emphasize the role of virtue but also undermines versions of moral cognitivism, (...)
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  • The Situationist Critique of Virtue Ethics and Its Implications for the Media Ethics Classroom.Bastiaan Vanacker - 2020 - Journal of Media Ethics 35 (3):139-151.
    This essay discusses the impact of the situationist challenge to Aristotelian virtue ethics for media ethics instruction. Since virtue ethics is a theory that is centered around character building,...
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  • When Utilitarians Should Be Virtue Theorists.Dale Jamieson - 2007 - Utilitas 19 (2):160.
    The contrast typically made between utilitarianism and virtue theory is overdrawn. Utilitarianism is a universal emulator: it implies that we should lie, cheat, steal, even appropriate Aristotle, when that is what brings about the best outcomes. In some cases and in some worlds it is best for us to focus as precisely as possible on individual acts. In other cases and worlds it is best for us to be concerned with character traits. Global environmental change leads to concerns about character (...)
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  • Thinking with Things: An Embodied Enactive Account of Mind–Technology Interaction.Anco Peeters - 2019 - Dissertation, University of Wollongong
    Technological artefacts have, in recent years, invited increasingly intimate ways of interaction. But surprisingly little attention has been devoted to how such interactions, like with wearable devices or household robots, shape our minds, cognitive capacities, and moral character. In this thesis, I develop an embodied, enactive account of mind--technology interaction that takes the reciprocal influence of artefacts on minds seriously. First, I examine how recent developments in philosophy of technology can inform the phenomenology of mind--technology interaction as seen through an (...)
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  • Situationism, Going Mental, and Modal Akrasia.Dylan Murray - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (3):711-736.
    Virtue ethics prescribes cultivating global and behaviorally efficacious character traits, but John Doris and others argue that situationist social psychology shows this to be infeasible. Here, I show how certain versions of virtue ethics that ‘go mental’ can withstand this challenge as well as Doris’ further objections. The defense turns on an account of which psychological materials constitute character traits and which the situationist research shows to be problematically variable. Many situationist results may be driven by impulsive akrasia produced by (...)
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  • Should Christians Be Worried About Situationist Claims in Psychology and Philosophy?Christian B. Miller - 2016 - Faith and Philosophy 33 (1):48-73.
    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 (...)
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  • How Bad Can Good People Be?Nancy E. Schauber - 2014 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 17 (4):731-745.
    Can a virtuous person act contrary to the virtue she possesses? Can virtues have “holes”—or blindspots—and nonetheless count as virtues? Gopal Sreenivasan defends a notion of a blindspot that is, in my view, an unstable moral category. I will argue that no trait possessing such a “hole” can qualify as a virtue. My strategy for showing this appeals to the importance of motivation to virtue, a feature of virtue to which Sreenivasan does not adequately attend. Sreenivasan’s account allows performance alone (...)
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  • The Mathematics of Wisdom.Robert E. McGrath - 2019 - Journal of Value Inquiry 53 (3):455-457.
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  • Virtues, Ecological Momentary Assessment/Intervention and Smartphone Technology.Jason D. Runyan & Ellen G. Steinke - 2015 - Frontiers in Psychology:1-24.
    Virtues, broadly understood as stable and robust dispositions for certain responses across morally relevant situations, have been a growing topic of interest in psychology. A central topic of discussion has been whether studies showing that situations can strongly influence our responses provide evidence against the existence of virtues (as a kind of stable and robust disposition). In this review, we examine reasons for thinking that the prevailing methods for examining situational influences are limited in their ability to test dispositional stability (...)
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  • State of the Art: The Duty to Obey the Law.William A. Edmundson - 2004 - Legal Theory 10 (4):215–259.
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  • Morality and Interpretation: The Principle of Phronetic Charity.Mario De Caro & Maria Silvia Vaccarezza - 2020 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 23 (2):295-307.
    The recent discussions on the unity of virtue suffer from a lack of reference to the processes through which we interpret each other as moral agents. In the present paper it is argued that much light can be thrown on that crucial issue by appealing to a version of Donald Davidson’s Principle of Charity, which we call “Principle of Phronetic Charity”. The idea is that in order to treat somebody as a moral agent, one has first to attribute to them, (...)
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  • Virtue Measurement: Theory and Applications.Nancy E. Snow, Jennifer Cole Wright & Michael T. Warren - 2020 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 23 (2):277-293.
    Our primary aim in this paper is to sketch the account of virtue that we think most amenable to virtue measurement. Our account integrates Whole Trait Theory from psychology with a broadly neo-Aristotelian approach to virtue. Our account is ‘ecumenical’ in that it has appeal for a wide range of virtue ethicists. According to WTT, a personality trait is composed of a set of situation-specific trait-appropriate responses, which are produced when certain “social-cognitive” mechanisms are triggered by the perception of trait-relevant (...)
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  • Virtue Measurement: Theory and Applications.Nancy E. Snow, Jennifer Cole Wright & Michael T. Warren - 2020 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 23 (2):277-293.
    Our primary aim in this paper is to sketch the account of virtue that we think most amenable to virtue measurement. Our account integrates Whole Trait Theory from psychology with a broadly neo-Aristotelian approach to virtue. Our account is ‘ecumenical’ in that it has appeal for a wide range of virtue ethicists. According to WTT, a personality trait is composed of a set of situation-specific trait-appropriate responses, which are produced when certain “social-cognitive” mechanisms are triggered by the perception of trait-relevant (...)
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  • From Virtue Epistemology to Abilism: Theoretical and Empirical Developments.John Turri - 2015 - In Christian B. Miller, Michael R. Furr, William Fleeson & Angela Knobel (eds.), Character: new directions from philosophy, psychology, and theology. Oxford: pp. 315-330.
    I review several theoretical and empirical developments relevant to assessing contemporary virtue epistemology’s theory of knowledge. What emerges is a leaner theory of knowledge that is more empirically adequate, better captures the ordinary conception of knowledge, and is ripe for cross-fertilization with cognitive science. I call this view abilism. Along the way I identify several topics for future research.
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  • What is a Science of Virtue?Nancy E. Snow - forthcoming - Journal of Moral Education:1-15.
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  • Epistemic Situationism and Cognitive Ability.John Turri - 2017 - In Epistemic Situationism. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. pp. 158-167.
    Leading virtue epistemologists defend the view that knowledge must proceed from intellectual virtue and they understand virtues either as refned character traits cultivated by the agent over time through deliberate effort, or as reliable cognitive abilities. Philosophical situationists argue that results from empirical psychology should make us doubt that we have either sort of epistemic virtue, thereby discrediting virtue epistemology’s empirical adequacy. I evaluate this situationist challenge and outline a successor to virtue epistemology: abilism . Abilism delivers all the main (...)
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  • Ethical Advance and Ethical Risk -- A Mengzian Reflection.L. K. Gustin Law - forthcoming - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy.
    On one view of ethical development, someone not yet virtuous can reliably progress by engaging in what meaningfully resembles virtuous conduct. However, one’s character may degrade from one’s well-intended conduct because this conduct is advanced for one’s character, which falls short of virtue. This risk of degradation casts doubt on the developmental view. I counter the doubt through one interpretation and one application of the Mengzi. In passage 2A2, invoking the image of a farmer who “helped” the crop grow by (...)
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  • Virtue Epistemology.John Greco & John Turri - 2017 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    This entry introduces many of the most important results of the contemporary Virtue epistemology (hereafter 'VE') research program. These include novel attempts to resolve longstanding disputes, solve perennial problems, grapple with novel challenges, and expand epistemology’s horizons. In the process, it reveals the diversity within VE. Beyond sharing the two unifying commitments mentioned above, its practitioners diverge over the nature of intellectual virtues, which questions to ask, and which methods to use.
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  • Conspiracy Theories and Conspiracy Theorizing.Steve Clarke - 2002 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 32 (2):131-150.
    The dismissive attitude of intellectuals toward conspiracy theorists is considered and given some justification. It is argued that intellectuals are entitled to an attitude of prima facie skepticism toward the theories propounded by conspiracy theorists, because conspiracy theorists have an irrational tendency to continue to believe in conspiracy theories, even when these take on the appearance of forming the core of degenerating research program. It is further argued that the pervasive effect of the "fundamental attribution error" can explain the behavior (...)
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  • Identifying and Defending the Hard Core of Virtue Ethics.Mark Alfano - 2013 - Journal of Philosophical Research 38:233-260.
    Virtue ethics has been challenged on empirical grounds by philosophical interpreters of situationist social psychology. Challenges are necessarily challenges to something or other, so it’s only possible to understand the situationist challenge to virtue ethics if we have an antecedent grasp on virtue ethics itself. To this end, I first identify the non-negotiable “hard core” of virtue ethics with the conjunction of nine claims, arguing that virtue ethics does make substantive empirical assumptions about human conduct. Next, I rearticulate the situationist (...)
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  • Challenging Doris’ Attack on Aggregation: Why We Are Not Left “Completely in the Dark” About Global Virtues.Eranda Jayawickreme & William Fleeson - 2017 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 20 (3):519-536.
    Aggregation shows that virtue-relevant behavior is indeed highly predictable, and that individual differences in global virtues do indeed exist. Aggregation is a key response to the situationist argument against the existence of broad virtues. However, a concern with aggregation is that, because it is an average, the specifics of what are included in that average matter. In particular, if heinous actions could be included in the average, then aggregates cannot provide enough confidence that the holders of high aggregates have not (...)
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  • Character and Situationism: New Directions.Christian B. Miller - 2017 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 20 (3):459-471.
    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.
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  • Using Insights From Applied Moral Psychology to Promote Ethical Behavior Among Engineering Students and Professional Engineers.Scott D. Gelfand - 2016 - Science and Engineering Ethics 22 (5):1513-1534.
    In this essay I discuss a novel engineering ethics class that has the potential to significantly decrease the likelihood that students will inadvertently or unintentionally act unethically in the future. This class is different from standard engineering ethics classes in that it focuses on the issue of why people act unethically and how students can avoid a variety of hurdles to ethical behavior. I do not deny that it is important for students to develop cogent moral reasoning and ethical decision-making (...)
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  • An Unconnected Heap of Duties?David McNaughton - 1996 - Philosophical Quarterly 46 (185):433-447.
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  • When a Skeptical Hypothesis Is Live.Bryan Frances - 2005 - Noûs 39 (4):559–595.
    I’m going to argue for a set of restricted skeptical results: roughly put, we don’t know that fire engines are red, we don’t know that we sometimes have pains in our lower backs, we don’t know that John Rawls was kind, and we don’t even know that we believe any of those truths. However, people unfamiliar with philosophy and cognitive science do know all those things. The skeptical argument is traditional in form: here’s a skeptical hypothesis; you can’t epistemically neutralize (...)
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  • Vindicating Virtue: A Critical Analysis of the Situationist Challenge Against Aristotelian Moral Psychology.Adam M. Croom - 2014 - Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science 48:18-47.
    This article provides a critical analysis of the situationist challenge against Aristotelian moral psychology. It first outlines the details and results from 4 paradigmatic studies in psychology that situationists have heavily drawn upon in their critique of the Aristotelian conception of virtuous characteristics, including studies conducted by Hartshorne and May (1928), Darley and Batson (1973), Isen and Levin (1972), and Milgram (1963). It then presents 10 problems with the way situationists have used these studies to challenge Aristotelian moral psychology. After (...)
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  • Really Naturalizing Virtue.Stephen Brown - 2005 - Ethic@ - An International Journal for Moral Philosophy 4 (1):7-22.
    A plausible naturalistic virtue ethics requires a plausible naturalistic account of virtue. One way of naturalizing virtue is to give an account of the virtues as those traits that enable realization of the ends of creatures like us. However, three important concerns threaten the theoretical adequacy ofthe view. It appears that the fact of human variability entails that there is no human lifeform comparable to that of other living things. It appears that, even if there is a human lifeform, this (...)
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  • Literary Cognitivism.James Harold - 2015 - In Noel Carroll & John Gibson (eds.), Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Literature. Routledge.
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  • Virtue Ethics.Nafsika Athanassoulis - 2013 - London: Bloomsbury.
    What is virtue? How can we lead moral lives? Exploring how contemporary moral philosophy has led to a revival of interest in the concepts of 'virtue', 'character' and 'flourishing', this is an accessible and critical introduction to virtue ethics. The book includes chapter summaries and guides to further reading throughout to help readers explore, understand and develop a critical perspective towards this important school of contemporary ethical thought.
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  • Agency Ascriptions in Ethics and Epistemology: Or, Navigating Intersections, Narrow and Broad.Guy Axtell - 2010 - Metaphilosophy 41 (1-2):73-94.
    Abstract: In this article, the logic and functions of character-trait ascriptions in ethics and epistemology is compared, and two major problems, the "generality problem" for virtue epistemologies and the "global trait problem" for virtue ethics, are shown to be far more similar in structure than is commonly acknowledged. I suggest a way to put the generality problem to work by making full and explicit use of a sliding scale--a "narrow-broad spectrum of trait ascription"-- and by accounting for the various uses (...)
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  • A Methodologically Naturalist Defense of Ethical Non-Naturalism.Abraham Graber - unknown
    The aim of this dissertation is to show that, if one is committed to the scientific worldview, one is thereby committed to ethical non-naturalism. In the first chapter I offer the reader an outline of the three primary domains of ethical inquiry: normative ethics, applied ethics, and meta-ethics. I commit myself to a meta-ethical thesis--ethical non-naturalism--and contrast ethical non-naturalism with its competitors. In the second chapter I offer a cursory defense of the moral realist's semantic thesis. I offer reason to (...)
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  • Guilt, Embarrassment, and Global Character Traits Associated with Helping.Christian Miller - 2011 - In Thom Brooks (ed.), New Waves in Ethics. Palgrave-Macmillan.
    The first section of this paper briefly summarizes my positive view of global helping traits. The remaining sections then develop the view in two new directions by examining the relationship between guilt, embarrassment, and helping behavior. It turns out that guilt and embarrassment reliably and cross-situationally enhance helping behavior, but in such a way that is incompatible with the nature of compassion as traditionally understood.
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  • Epistemic Virtues in Business.Boudewijn de Bruin - 2013 - Journal of Business Ethics 113 (4):583-595.
    This paper applies emerging research on epistemic virtues to business ethics. Inspired by recent work on epistemic virtues in philosophy, I develop a view in which epistemic virtues contribute to the acquisition of knowledge that is instrumentally valuable in the realisation of particular ends, business ends in particular. I propose a conception of inquiry according to which epistemic actions involve investigation, belief adoption and justification, and relate this to the traditional ‘justified true belief’ analysis of knowledge. I defend the view (...)
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  • Character, Common-Sense, and Expertise.Jonathan Webber - 2007 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 10 (1):89-104.
    Gilbert Harman has argued that the common-sense characterological psychology employed in virtue ethics is rooted not in unbiased observation of close acquaintances, but rather in the ‘fundamental attribution error’. If this is right, then philosophers cannot rely on their intuitions for insight into characterological psychology, and it might even be that there is no such thing as character. This supports the idea, urged by John Doris and Stephen Stich, that we should rely exclusively on experimental psychology for our explanations of (...)
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  • The Moral Trial: On Ethics and Economics.Alessandro Lanteri - 2008 - Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics 1 (1):188-189.
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  • Character Traits, Social Psychology, and Impediments to Helping Behavior.Christian Miller - 2010 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 5 (1):1-36.
    In a number of recent papers, I have begun to develop a new theory of character which is conceptually distinct both from traditional Aristotelian accounts as well as from the positive view of local traits outlined by John Doris. On my view, many human beings do have robust traits of character which play an important explanatory and predictive role, but which are triggered by certain situational variables which preclude them from counting as genuine Aristotelian virtues. Like others in this discussion, (...)
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  • Against Moral Character Evaluations: The Undetectability of Virtue and Vice.Peter B. M. Vranas - 2009 - The Journal of Ethics 13 (2-3):213 - 233.
    I defend the epistemic thesis that evaluations of people in terms of their moral character as good, bad, or intermediate are almost always epistemically unjustified. (1) Because most people are fragmented (they would behave deplorably in many and admirably in many other situations), one's prior probability that any given person is fragmented should be high. (2) Because one's information about specific people does not reliably distinguish those who are fragmented from those who are not, one's posterior probability that any given (...)
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  • The Epistemology of Cognitive Enhancement.J. Adam Carter & Duncan Pritchard - 2016 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy (2):220-242.
    A common epistemological assumption in contemporary bioethics held b y both proponents and critics of non-traditional forms of cognitive enhancement is that cognitive enhancement aims at the facilitation of the accumulation of human knowledge. This paper does three central things. First, drawing from recent work in epistemology, a rival account of cognitive enhancement, framed in terms of the notion of cognitive achievement rather than knowledge, is proposed. Second, we outline and respond to an axiological objection to our proposal that draws (...)
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  • Cognitive Bias, Scepticism and Understanding.J. Adam Carter & Duncan Pritchard - unknown
    In recent work, Mark Alfano and Jennifer Saul have put forward a similar kind of provocative sceptical challenge. Both appeal to recent literature in empirical psychology to show that our judgments across a wide range of cases are riddled with unreliable cognitive heuristics and biases. Likewise, they both conclude that we know a lot less than we have hitherto supposed, at least on standard conceptions of what knowledge involves. It is argued that even if one grants the empirical claims that (...)
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  • Trust, Trustworthiness, and the Moral Consequence of Consistency.Jason D'cruz - 2015 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 1 (3):467-484.
    Situationists such as John Doris, Gilbert Harman, and Maria Merritt suppose that appeal to reliable behavioral dispositions can be dispensed with without radical revision to morality as we know it. This paper challenges this supposition, arguing that abandoning hope in reliable dispositions rules out genuine trust and forces us to suspend core reactive attitudes of gratitude and resentment, esteem and indignation. By examining situationism through the lens of trust we learn something about situationism (in particular, the radically revisionary moral implications (...)
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  • On the Ancient Idea That Music Shapes Character.James Harold - 2016 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 15 (3):341-354.
    Ancient Chinese and Greek thinkers alike were preoccupied with the moral value of music; they distinguished between good and bad music by looking at the music’s effect on moral character. The idea can be understood in terms of two closely related questions. Does music have the power to affect the ethical character of either listener or performer? If it does, is it better as music for doing so? I argue that an affirmative answers to both questions are more plausible than (...)
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  • Situations and Dispositions: How to Rescue the Military Virtues From Social Psychology.Peter Olsthoorn - 2017 - Journal of Military Ethics 16 (1-2):78-93.
    In recent years, it has been argued more than once that situations determine our conduct to a much greater extent than our character does. This argument rests on the findings of social psychologists such as Stanley Milgram, who have popularized the idea that we can all be brought to harm innocent others. An increasing number of philosophers and ethicists make use of such findings, and some of them have argued that this so-called situationist challenge fatally undermines virtue ethics. As virtue (...)
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  • Thought Experiments in Experimental Philosophy.Kirk Ludwig - 2016 - In Mike Stuart, James Robert Brown & Yiftach J. H. Fehige (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Thought Experiments. New York: Routledge. pp. 385-405.
    Much of the recent movement organized under the heading “Experimental Philosophy” has been concerned with the empirical study of responses to thought experiments drawn from the literature on philosophical analysis. I consider what bearing these studies have on the traditional projects in which thought experiments have been used in philosophy. This will help to answer the question what the relation is between Experimental Philosophy and philosophy, whether it is an “exciting new style of [philosophical] research”, “a new interdisciplinary field that (...)
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  • Trait Attribution Error.Thornton W. Owen - unknown
    Sometimes we make the choice to rely upon the trait of being on time over making the choice to rely upon the trait of driving safely. So Gerry can run the red light to respect Stephanie’s time, while striking Paul’s car and disrespecting his property and life in the process. It appears that there are single situations with two or more morally salient features where we can apply different and ordinarily positive traits to our moral choices and by selecting the (...)
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  • Is Xunzi’s Virtue Ethics Susceptible to the Problem of Alienation?James Harold - 2011 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 10 (1):71-84.
    In this essay I argue that if Kantian and consequentialist ethical theories are vulnerable to the so-called “problem of alienation,” a virtue ethics based on Xunzi’s ethical writings will also be vulnerable to this problem. I outline the problem of alienation, and then show that the role of ritual ( li ) in Xunzi’s theory renders his view susceptible to the problem as it has been traditionally understood. I consider some replies on Xunzi’s behalf, and also discuss whether the problem (...)
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