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In: Ethics and Moral Philosophy
Author: Jonathan Webber


Philosophers have recently argued that traditional discussions of virtue and character presuppose an account of behaviour that experimental psychology has shown to be false. Behaviour does not issue from global traits such as prudence, temperance, courage or fairness, they claim, but from local traits such as sailing-in-rough-weather-with-friends-courage and office-party-temperance. The data employed provides evidence for this view only if we understand it in the light of a behaviourist construal of traits in terms of stimulus and response, rather than in the light of the more traditional construal in terms of inner events such as inclinations. More recent experiments have shown this traditional conception to have greater explanatory and predictive power than its behaviourist rival. So we should retain the traditional conception, and hence reject the proposed alteration to our understanding of behaviour. This discussion has further implications for future philosophical investigations of character and virtue.

In: Journal of Moral Philosophy

Certain recent experiments are often taken to show that people are far more likely to classify a foreseen side-effect of an action as intentional when that side-effect has some negative normative valence. While there is some disagreement over the details, there is broad consensus among experimental philosophers that this is the finding. We challenge this consensus by presenting an alternative interpretation of the experiments, according to which they show that a side-effect is classified as intentional only if the agent considered its relative importance when deciding on the action. We present two new experiments whose results can be explained by our hypothesis but not by any version of the consensus view. In the course of doing so, we develop a methodological critique of the previous literature on this topic and draw from it lessons for future experimental philosophy research.

In: Journal of Moral Philosophy