Article

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 461-491

First online:

Saving Character

  • Erik J. WielenbergAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, DePauw University Email author 

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Abstract

In his recent book Lack of Character, Jon Doris argues that people typically lack character (understood in a particular way). Such a claim, if correct, would have devastating implications for moral philosophy and for various human moral projects (e.g. character development). I seek to defend character against Doris's challenging attack. To accomplish this, I draw on Socrates, Aristotle, and Kant to identify some of the central components of virtuous character. Next, I examine in detail some of the central experiments in social psychology upon which Doris's argument is based. I argue that, properly understood, such experiments reveal differences in the characters of their subjects, not that their subjects lack character altogether. I conclude with some reflections on the significance of such experiments and the importance of character.

Keywords

Aristotle character Doris Kant situationism social psychology Socrates virtue