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F. Character & Social/Cognitive/Moral Psychology > Lisa Grover on "The Evaluative Integration of Local Character Traits"

Lisa Grover has a recent paper contributing to discussion of virtue theory's burdens with respect to empirical adequacy concerns, in the Journal of Value Inquiry (2012) 46:25–37. DOI 10.1007/s10790-012-9316-2.

There isn't an abstract, so let me quote extensively from the Intro and Conclusion:

"John Doris argues for the existence of local character traits in response to social psychology situationist critiques of global character traits. Some social psychologists advance such critiques and argue that global character traits are rarely reliable, stable, or evaluatively integrated. They claim that people do not often possess character traits that cause them to reliably behave in certain relevant ways across a range of relevant situations and that the possession of one trait does not imply possession of another trait that is similarly evaluated. A variety of different social psychology experiments provide evidence suggesting that a person is generally more likely to have his behavior influenced by features of the particular situation, such as finding a dime or being instructed by an experimenter than by any general trait that he possesses. This evidence is generally taken to be problematic for virtue ethicists, as virtue ethics seems to depend upon the existence of such general, global character traits that are shown to not often underpin action by the experiments. The purpose here is not to disagree with Doris by arguing for the existence and significance of global character traits....The view we will consider differs because it does not require us to attempt to widen the local traits that Doris finds to be empirically adequate, but to take the traits as the foundations of a virtue ethical theory.6 The causal, psychologically real traits will be the localized traits identified by Doris, but the ability to evaluatively integrate such traits will retain the thick ethical discourse characteristic of virtue ethics. Such evaluative integration is necessary for identification of which local traits to cultivate and the management of situations in which we find ourselves." (p. 25-25)

In her conclusion she writes, "The argument that evaluative integration of localized traits under more general thick trait terms is possible gives virtue ethicists a resource to develop an account premised on the existence of local character traits. Virtue ethicists can accept the
claim of Doris that only localized traits have a stable influence on behavior, while rejecting his claim that such traits cannot be evaluatively integrated...Thick global concepts are necessary for a theory of localized character traits and situation management to make sense. Without evaluative integration of different local traits under thick evaluative concepts we cannot identify which local traits to develop, and which
situations to seek out, or avoid. Potential challenges for the argument that localized traits provide the foundations for virtue ethics because they can be evaluatively integrated under thick virtuous concepts should be rejected, including the challenges that people exhibit more structure than the fragmentary view would suggest, that it is merely a version of the view that the situationist experiments are compatible with people possessing imperfect global traits, that we need a global understanding of
character for prediction and situation management, that there are difficulties with how to specify the local situation in which the particular trait is effective, and that we should deny that localized traits are a real psychological attribute. We should accept the psychological reality of narrow, localized character traits, while retaining the thick evaluative discourse required by virtue ethics" (p. 36-37).
May 28, 2013 | Registered CommenterGuy Axtell