Against reductivist character realism

Philosophical Psychology 36 (1):186-213 (2022)
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It seems like people have character traits that explain a good deal of their behavior. Call a theory character realism just in case it vindicates this folk assumption. Recently, Christian Miller has argued that the way to reconcile character realism with decades of psychological research is to adopt metaphysical reductivism about character traits. Some contemporary psychological theories of character and virtue seem to implicitly endorse such reductivism; others resist reduction of traits to finer-grained mental components or processes; and still others remain silent on the metaphysics of traits. In this paper we argue that character realists do not have to, and in fact should not, be reductivists. We introduce a theoretical dilemma for reductivist character realism. Then we explain how nonreductivists can meet the standards for empirical adequacy laid out by Miller and others. Further, we argue, hylomorphic nonreductivism avoids the theoretical dilemma that threatens reductivism. It also fits nicely the major commitments of recent models of virtue in psychology. Thus, character realists should not be reductivists.

Author Profiles

Anne Jeffrey
Baylor University
Alina Beary
Biola University


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