Character as Moral Fiction

Character as Moral Fiction

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Everyone wants to be virtuous, but recent psychological investigations suggest that this may not be possible. Mark Alfano challenges this theory and asks, not whether character is empirically adequate, but what characters human beings could have and develop. Although psychology suggests that most people do not have robust character traits such as courage, honesty and open-mindedness, Alfano argues that we have reason to attribute these virtues to people because such attributions function as self-fulfilling prophecies - children become more studious if they are told that they are hard-working and adults become more generous if they are told that they are generous. He argues that we should think of virtue and character as social constructs: there is no such thing as virtue without social reinforcement. His original and provocative book will interest a wide range of readers in contemporary ethics, epistemology, moral psychology and empirically informed philosophy.
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Product details

  • Electronic book text
  • Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 5 tables
  • 1139603922
  • 9781139603928

Table of contents

Introduction: Tripartite naturalistic ethics; Part I. Factitious Moral Virtue: 1. Identifying the hard core of virtue ethics; 2. Rearticulating the situationist challenge to virtue ethics; 3. Attempts to defend virtue ethics; 4. Factitious moral virtue; Part II. Factitious Intellectual Virtue: 5. Extending the situationist challenge to responsibilist virtue epistemology; 6. Extending the situationist challenge to reliabilist virtue epistemology; 7. Factitious intellectual virtue; Part III. Programmatic Conclusion: 8. To see as we are seen: an investigation of social distance heuristics.
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Review quote

'The 'character wars' that have unsettled moral philosophy for the past decade or so have resulted not in scorched earth, but in fertile ground, nurturing a genuinely interdisciplinary study of character, drawing researchers with both scientific and philosophical training, and developing insights from both psychology and ethics. Among the most imaginative and provocative contributions to this burgeoning field is Mark Alfano's Character as Moral Fiction. If you work in the area, Alfano's book is a mandatory read; if you're wondering about it, this is where you should start.' John Doris, Washington University, St Louis 'The book will be valuable for serious students of philosophy looking for a better-than-average integration of empirical work with philosophical reflection. The reference list is also a valuable resource for any serious student of epistemic or moral virtue and the challenges to these paradigms ... Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates through researchers/faculty.' A. P. Schwab, Choice 'Alfano claims that we have reason to attribute robust character traits such as courage, honesty, and open-mindedness to people because such attributions function as self-fulfilling prophecies ... contains many interesting ideas, which Alfano presents in an engaging way, and is a welcome addition to the literature.' Analysis and Metaphysics
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About Mark Alfano

Mark Alfano is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oregon. In 2011, he received his doctorate from the philosophy program of the City University of New York Graduate Center (CUNY GC). He has been a postdoctoral fellow at the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study and the Princeton University Center for Human Values. Alfano works on moral psychology, broadly construed to include ethics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of psychology. He also maintains an interest in Nietzsche, focusing on Nietzsche's psychological views. Alfano has authored papers for such venues as Philosophical Quarterly, The Monist, Erkenntnis, Synthese, and the British Journal for the History of Philosophy. Character as Moral Fiction, his first book, argues that the situationist challenge to virtue ethics spearheaded by John Doris and Gilbert Harman should be co-opted, not resisted. He is currently writing a moral psychology textbook and editing three volumes on virtue ethics and virtue epistemology.
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