Advertisement

The Empirics of Virtue Theory: What Can Psychology Tell Us About Moral Character?

  • Miguel AlzolaEmail author

Abstract

In this chapter, I submit that virtue theory offers the best framework to account for our moral experience in life and in the context of business decision-making. And I argue against an empirically grounded objection to virtue theory, which holds that character traits of the sort postulated by virtue theorists do not exist because differences in social circumstances explain people’s behavior rather than any character trait. The objection does not succeed because virtue is rarer than we may expect, because the experimental evidence does not support the claim that character lacks any explanatory power, because virtues cannot be merely reduced to behavioral dispositions, and because virtue theory is concerned with the whole span of a human life rather than isolated behavior.

Keywords

Moral psychology Character Virtue ethics Honesty Compassion 

References

  1. 1.
    Parfit D (2011) On what matters. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Audi R (2009) The Place of Ethical Theory in Business Ethics. In: Brenkert GG, Beauchamp TL (eds) The oxford handbook of business ethics. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Baron MW, Pettit P, Slote M (1997) Three methods of ethics: a debate (great debates in philosophy). Blackwell, Cambridge, MA/LondonGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Slote MA (1992) From morality to virtue. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Trianosky GW (1986) Supererogation, wrongdoing, and vice: on the autonomy of the ethics of virtue. J Philos 83(1):26–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Annas J (2003) Virtue ethics and social psychology. A Priori 2:20–33Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Alzola M (2010) Business, ethics, and psychological realism. In: Toombs LA (ed) Best papers proceedings of the seventieth annual meeting of the academy of management, ISSN 1543–8643. Available at: http://business.fordham.edu/files/business_ethics_and_psychological_realism.pdf
  8. 8.
    Alzola M (2011) The reconciliation project. Separation and integration in business ethics research. J Bus Ethics 99(1):19–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Goldman AI (1993) Ethics and cognitive science. Ethics 103(2):337–360CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Flanagan OJ (1991) Varieties of moral personality: ethics and psychological realism. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Griffin J (2008) On human rights. Book manuscript. Department of Philosophy, Rutgers University. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Doris JM (2002) Lack of character: personality and moral behavior. Cambridge University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Harman G (1999) Moral philosophy meets social psychology: virtue ethics and the fundamental attribution error. Proc Aristot Soc 99:315–331CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Darley JM, Batson CD (1973) From Jerusalem to Jericho: a study of situational and dispositional variables in helping behavior. J Pers Soc Psychol 27:100–108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Isen AM, Levin PF (1972) Effect of feeling good on helping: cookies and kindness. J Pers Soc Psychol 21:384–388CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Latané B, Darley JM (1970) The unresponsive bystander: why doesn’t he help? Appelton-Century Crofts, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Ross L, Nisbett RE (1991) The person and the situation: perspectives of social psychology. Temple University Press, PhiladelphiaGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Hartshorne H, May MA (1928) Studies in the nature of character, vol I, Studies in deceit. Mac-Millan, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Newcomb TM (1929) Consistency of certain extrovert-introvert behavior patterns in 51 problem boys. Columbia University, Teachers College/Bureau of Publications, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Baron RA (1997) The sweet smell of … helping: effects of pleasant ambient fragrance on prosocial behavior in shopping malls. Pers Soc Psychol Bull 23:498–503CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Gino F, Schweitzer ME (2008) Blinded by anger or feeling the love: how emotions influence advice taking. J Appl Psychol 93(5):1165–1173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Kamstra MJ, Kramer LA, Levi MD (2003) Winter blues: a SAD stock market cycle. Am Econ Rev 93(1):324–343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Cao M, Wei J (2005) Stock market returns: a note on temperature anomaly. J Bank Financ 29(6):1559–1573CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Schwarz N (2002) Situated cognition and the wisdom of feelings: Cognitive tuning. In: Feldman Barrett L, Salovey P (eds) The wisdom in feelings: psychological processes in emotional intelligence. Guilford, New York, pp 144–166Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Darley JM, Latane B (1968) Bystander intervention in emergencies: diffusion of responsibility. J Pers Soc Psychol 8:377–383CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Bargh JA, Chen M, Burrows L (1996) Automaticity of social behavior: direct effects of trait construct and stereotype activation on action. J Pers Soc Psychol 71:230–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Garcia SM, Weaver KD, Moskowitz GB, Darley JM (2002) Crowded minds: the implicit bystander effect. J Pers Soc Psychol 83:843–853CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Tang TL, Sutarso T, Davis Wu GM, Dolinski D, Ibrahim AH, Wagner SL (2008) To help or not to help? The good Samaritan effect and the love of money on helping behavior. J Bus Ethics 82:865–887CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Wright PM, George JM, Farnsworth SR, McMahan GC (1993) Productivity and extra-role behavior: the effects of goals and incentives on spontaneous helping. J Appl Psychol 78(3):374–381CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Milgram S (1974) Obedience to authority. Harper and Row, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Brief AP, Buttram RT, Elliot JD, Reizenstein RM, McCline RL (1995) Releasing the beast: a study of compliance with orders to use race as a selection criteria. J Soc Issue 51:177–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Brief AP, Dietz J, Reizenstein Cohen R, Pugh SD, Vaslow JB (2000) Just doing business: modern racism and obedience to authority as explanations for employment discrimination. Organ Behav Hum Decis Process 81:72–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Harman G (2003) No character or personality. Bus Ethics Quart 13:87–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Harman G (2000) The nonexistence of character traits. Proc Aristot Soc 100:223–226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Doris JM (2005) “Précis” and replies: evidence and sensibility. Philos Phenomenol Res 72(632–5):656–677CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Appiah KA (2008) Experiments in ethics. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Hursthouse R (1999) On virtue ethics. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Kamtekar R (2004) Situationism and virtue ethics on the content of our character. Ethics 114:458–491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Alzola M (2008) Character and environment: the status of virtues in organizations. J Bus Ethics 78:343–357CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Buss AH (1989) Personality as traits. Am Psychol 44:1378–1388CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Schneider B (1987) The people make the place. Pers Psychol 40:437–453CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Blevins G, Murphy T (1974) Feeling good and helping: further phonebooth findings. Psychol Rep 34:326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Levine R, Norenzayan A, Philbrick K (2001) Cross-cultural differences in helping strangers. J Cross-Cult Psychol 32:543–560CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Wuthnow R (1991) Acts of compassion: caring for others and helping ourselves. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Chatman J, Barsade S (1995) Personality, culture, and cooperation: Evidence from a business situation. Adm Sci Q 40:423–443CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Staw BM, Bell N, Clausen J (1986) The dispositional approach to job attitudes: a lifetime longitudinal test. Adm Sci Q 31:56–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Treviño L, Youngblood S (1990) Bad apples in bad barrels: a causal analysis of ethical decision-making behavior. J Appl Psychol 75(4):378–385CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Barrick MR, Mount MK (1991) The big five personality dimensions and job performance: a meta-analysis. Pers Psychol 44:1–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Chen Y, Mannix EA, Okumura T (2003) The importance of who you meet: effects of self-versus other-concerns among negotiators in the United States, the People’s Republic of China, and Japan. J Exp Soc Psychol 39:1–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Bern D (1992) On the uncommon wisdom of our lay personality theory. Psychol Inq 3:82–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Solomon R (2003) Victims of circumstances? A defense of virtue ethics in business. Bus Ethics Quart 13(1):43–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Epstein S (1979) The stability of behavior: I. On predicting most of the people most of the time. J Pers Soc Psychol 37(7):1097–1126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Funder DC (1997) The personality puzzle, 1st edn. W.W. Norton & Co, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Aristotle (1999) Nicomachean ethics (NE) (trans: Irwin TH), 2nd edn. Hackett, IndianapolisGoogle Scholar
  55. 55.
    Wright GH (1963) The varieties of goodness. Routledge and Kegan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  56. 56.
    Curzer HJ (2005) How good people do bad things: Aristotle on the misdeeds of the virtuous. Oxf Stud Anc Philos 28:233–256Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Driver J (1996) The Virtues and Human Nature. In: Crisp R (ed) How should one live? Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  58. 58.
    Audi R (1979) Weakness of will and practical judgment. Noûs 13(2):173–196CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. 59.
    Davidson D (1980) How is weakness of the will possible? In: Davidson D (ed) Essays on actions and events. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 21–42Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    Sober E (1990) Contrastive empiricism. In: Savage W (ed) Scientific theories, vol 14. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, pp 392–412Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    Mischel W (1968) Personality and assessment. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  62. 62.
    Rosenthal R, Rubin DB (1982) A simple general purpose display of magnitude and experimental effect. J Educ Psychol 74:166–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. 63.
    Sabini J, Silver M (2005) Lack of character? Situationism critiqued. Ethics 115:535–562CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. 64.
    Funder DC, Ozer DJ (1983) Behavior as a function of the situation. J Pers Soc Psychol 44:107–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. 65.
    Adams RM (2006) A theory of virtue: excellence in being for the good. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  66. 66.
    Annas J (2011) Intelligent virtue. Oxford University Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. 67.
    Cooper JM (1998) The unity of virtue. Soc Philos Policy 15(1):233–274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. 68.
    Irwin TH (1988) Disunity in the Aristotelian virtues. Oxf Stud Anc Philos Suppl Vol:61–78Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    Williams BAO (1985) Ethics and the limits of philosophy. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  70. 70.
    Geach PT (1977) The virtues. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  71. 71.
    Foot P (1983) Moral realism and moral dilemma. J Philos 80(7):379–398CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Legal and Ethical StudiesFordham UniversityNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations