Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Philosophy

Content Description

1 online resource (v, 171 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Jason D'Cruz

Committee Members

Rachel Cohon, David G Wagner


Aristotle, Doris, Ethics, Imagination, Phronesis, Situationism, Situation (Philosophy), Situation ethics, Character

Subject Categories

Ethics and Political Philosophy | Philosophy


Situationism, as put forward by John Doris' Lack of Character (2002) and several short articles by Gilbert Harman (2003, 2000, 1999), is the philosophical position that is skeptical of the existence of robust character traits of the kind that Aristotle described. Situationism posits that human beings lack robust character traits and are too easily made overconfident in their own behavioral abilities. Reams of social psychological data suggest that such 'thick' character traits do not exist. Doris and Harman suggest that subtle and potentially irrelevant situational cues may easily influence behavior. Moreover, situational pressures may cause people to deviate from expected and self-reported predictions of behavior. I claim that situationists like Doris and Harman move too quickly in drawing conclusions about experimental data and generalizing them to the rest of the population. Concerns exist regarding the methodology of such experiments, and how situationism understands the term 'character trait.' Because of these considerations, the challenge fails and AVE may retain talk of character traits in moral psychology. Further, I argue that AVE must embrace the psychological fragility of character traits, but not the psychological fragmentation of traits posited by situationists. This prompts theoretical development of the concept of phronesis (Aristotelian 'practical wisdom') as encompassing not only right reason applied to action, but a kind of sensitivity or awareness of social cues that may influence our behavior. Finally, I end the dissertation with a sketch of the moral imagination and its role in deliberation and this revised understanding of Aristotelian phronesis.