Teaching Virtue Ethics : The Implications of " Situationism "

TitleTeaching Virtue Ethics : The Implications of " Situationism "
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsHarris, CE
JournalTeaching Ethics
Start Page23-37
Date PublishedSpring 2013
ISSN Number2154-0551
Keywordseducation , PEDAGOGICAL , Pedagogical Materials , PHILOSOPHY , VIRTUE
AbstractConclusions from a large body of research in social psychology have posed a challenge to the legitimacy of virtue ethics. This research often referred to as “situationist” research appears to call into question the importance of character traits and hence of the virtues. The theme of this research is that behavior is at least as much a result of its situational context as of strong and enduring (or “robust”) character traits that manifest themselves across a wide variety of situations. Two claims, important for the teaching of virtue ethics, have been made on the basis of situationist research. The first claim is that teachers of virtue ethics should point out that the virtues are more finely differentiated than traditional virtue ethicists have supposed. A person may, for example, be honest in one type of situation and not in another. There may not be any such thing as a trait of “honesty” simpliciter. The second claim is that the ability of the virtues to influence behavior is much weaker than virtue ethicists have supposed. This “frailty” of the virtues accentuates the importance of moral education and the need to find ways of making the virtues more efficacious with respect to behavior. This article offers a response to both of these claims.
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