Virtue Ethics and Situationism: The Person-Situation Debate Examined
Geest, M. van der
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Aristotle’s virtue ethics relies heavily on both a characterological moral psychology and the concept of practical wisdom. However, in recent years psychological experiments have led to debates on the influence of our character traits on our behavior, as well as on the possibility of practical wisdom as active deliberation. According to these experiments, we behave differently than expected on the basis of the Aristotelian view on character, and most of the cognitive processes that influence our behavior are substantially automatic and unreflective. Based on the results of these experiments, some philosophers, known as situationists, have argued that our behavior is influenced mostly by situational factors and not by our character. This debate between virtue ethicists on the one hand, and situationists on the other hand, is also known as the person-situation debate. My aim in this thesis is to examine the person-situation debate and explore the consequences of the psychological account of the situationists for virtue ethics. I will discuss three positions: the virtue ethical position, the situationists’ position, and a reconciliatory position. After discussing these three positions I will examine the consequences of the person-situation debate for virtue ethics.