Publications

Books | Edited Volumes | Edited Journal Special Issues | Papers on Character | Papers on Moral Psychology and Philosophy of Action | Papers on Meta Ethics | Papers on Philosophy of Religion | Introductions, Prefaces, Encyclopedia Entries, Commentaries, Etc.

Books

Honest cover

Miller, ChristianHonesty: The Philosophy and Psychology of a Neglected Virtue. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021.

Abstract: Honesty is clearly an important virtue. Parents want to develop it in their children. Close relationships typically depend upon it. Employers value it in their employees. Yet philosophers have said almost nothing about the virtue of honesty in the past fifty years. This book aims to draw attention to this surprisingly neglected virtue. Part I looks at the concept of honesty. It takes up questions such as what honesty involves, the motives of an honest person, how practical wisdom relates to honesty, and whether there is anything that connects all the different sides of honesty, including not lying, not stealing, not breaking promises, not misleading others, and not cheating. A central idea is that the honest person reliably does not intentionally distort the facts as she takes them to be. Part II looks at the empirical psychology of honesty. It takes up the question of whether most people are honest, dishonest, or somewhere in between. Drawing extensively on recent studies of cheating and lying in particular, the emerging model ends up implying that most of us have a long way to go to reach an honest character. Honesty: The Philosophy and Psychology of a Neglected Virtue thus provides a richer understanding of what our character actually looks like as well as what the goal of being an honest person really involves. It will then be up to us to decide if we want to take steps to shrink the character gap between the two.

Available here

Moral Psychology cover

Moral Psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021. 75 pages.

Abstract: This Element provides an overview of some of the central issues in contemporary moral psychology. It explores what moral psychology is, whether we are always motivated by self-interest, what good character looks like and whether anyone has it, whether moral judgments always motivate us to act, whether what motivates action is always a desire of some kind, and what the role is of reasoning and deliberation in moral judgment and action. This Element is aimed at a general audience including undergraduate students without an extensive background in philosophy.

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The Character Gap cover

The Character Gap: How Good Are We? New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. 296 pages. Audio edition, September 2018. Chinese edition, 2019. Italian edition, 2020. Korean edition, 2021. Spanish edition forthcoming. Indonesian edition forthcoming.

Abstract: We like to think of ourselves, our friends, and our families as decent people. We may not be saints, but we are still honest, relatively kind, and mostly trustworthy. I argue that we are badly mistaken in thinking this. Hundreds of recent studies in psychology tell a different story: that we all have serious character flaws that prevent us from being as good as we think we are – and that we do not even recognize that these flaws exist. But neither are most of us cruel or dishonest. Instead, I argue that we are a mixed bag. On the one hand, most of us in a group of bystanders will do nothing as someone cries out for help in an emergency. Yet it is also true that there will be many times when we will selflessly come to the aid of a complete stranger – and resist the urge to lie, cheat, or steal even if we could get away with it. Much depends on cues in our social environment. The book uses this recent psychological literature to explain what the notion of “character” really means today, and how we can use this new understanding to develop a character better in sync with the kind of people we want to be.

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Character and Moral Psychology cover

Character and Moral PsychologyOxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. 288 pages.

Abstract: Philosophers and psychologists have been hard at work trying to unlock the mysteries of our characters. Unfortunately, their answers have been all over the map. According to one position, every single person has all of the moral virtues, such as modesty and compassion, although to varying degrees. Yet according to another position, no one has any character traits at all since they are simply illusions and do not exist. Hence not one person is honest or compassionate or courageous. And between these extremes, there are plenty of intermediate views.

I argue that not one of these leading positions accurately reflects what most of us are like today. Instead I explore the implications of the Mixed Trait framework-a theory of moral character developed in my previous book, Moral Character: An Empirical Theory. Mixed traits have both morally positive aspects (hence they are not vices) along with morally negative aspects (hence they are not virtues). I engage with the other leading positions on the empirical nature of character: situationism, the CAPS model, the Big Five model, and the local trait model. I then go on to apply the Mixed Trait framework to several important topics in ethics, especially the development of an error theory about judgments of character and the challenge faced by virtue ethics from the widespread lack of virtue.

Available here

Moral Character cover

Moral Character: An Empirical TheoryOxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. 368 pages.

Abstract: My goal in this book is to present a new account of moral character. Most of our friends, colleagues, and even family members are not virtuous people. They do not have virtues such as compassion, honesty, or courage. But at the same time, they are not vicious people either. They do not have vices such as cruelty, dishonesty, or cowardice. Instead most people today have characters which do not qualify as either virtuous or vicious. They have many positive moral features, but also many negative ones too. Our characters are decidedly mixed, and are much more complex than we might have thought.

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Edited Volumes

Integrity Honesty and Truth Seeking cover

Integrity, Honesty, and Truth SeekingEd. Christian B. Miller and Ryan West. New York: Oxford University Press, 2020.

Abstract: We tend to admire people who stay true to their convictions in the face of opposition, who are not tempted to twist or withhold the truth for selfish reasons, and who seek the truth even when it means giving up their cherished views. Indeed, integrity, honesty, and truth seeking are crucial virtues on both intimate and global scales, significant in everything from our relationships to our politicians’ accountability. The past forty years have witnessed a dramatic resurgence of philosophical interest in the virtues. And yet there has been surprisingly little work among philosophers aimed at helping us better understand these three truth-related virtues.

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Moral Psychology cover

Moral Psychology, Volume V: Virtue and CharacterEd. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Christian B. Miller. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2017.

Abstract: Philosophers have discussed virtue and character since Socrates, but many traditional views have been challenged by recent findings in psychology and neuroscience. This fifth volume of Moral Psychology grows out of this new wave of interdisciplinary work on virtue, vice, and character. It offers essays, commentaries, and replies by leading philosophers and scientists who explain and use empirical findings from psychology and neuroscience to illuminate virtue and character and related issues in moral philosophy. The contributors discuss such topics as eliminativist and situationist challenges to character; investigate the conceptual and empirical foundations of self-control, honesty, humility, and compassion; and consider whether the virtues contribute to well-being.

Available here

Character cover

Character: New Directions from Philosophy, Psychology, and Theology. Ed. Christian Miller, R. Michael Furr, Angela Knobel, and William Fleeson. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Abstract: This collection contains some of the best new work being done on the subject of character from the perspectives of philosophy, theology, and psychology. From creating a virtual reality simulation of the Milgram shock experiments to understanding the virtue of modesty in Muslim societies to defending soldiers’ moral responsibility for committing war crimes, these 31 chapters break much new ground and significantly advance our understanding of character. The main topics covered fall under the heading of our beliefs about character, the existence and nature of character traits, character and ethical theory, virtue epistemology, the nature of particular virtues, character development, and challenges to character and virtue from neuroscience and situationism.

Available here

The Bloomsbury Companion to Ethics cover

The Continuum Companion to EthicsEd. Christian Miller. London: Continuum Press, 2011. 355 Pages. Paperback Edition: The Bloomsbury Companion to Ethics, 2014. Introduction published in translation in Iran in 2019.

Abstract: The Bloomsbury Companion to Ethics offers a definitive guide to this key area of contemporary philosophy. Covering all the fundamental questions asked by meta-ethics and normative ethical theory, thirteen specially commissioned chapters from an international team of experts explore the central ideas, terms and case studies in the field, and new directions in ethics as a whole. Now available in paperback, the Companion to Ethics covers issues such as moral methodology, moral realism, ethical expressivism, constructivism and the error theory, morality and practical reason, moral psychology, morality and religion, consequentialism, Kantian ethics, virtue ethics, feminist ethics, moral particularism, experimental ethics, and biology, evolution and ethics. Featuring a series of indispensable research tools, including key technical terms, a historical chronology, a detailed list of internet resources for research in ethics, and a thorough list of recommended works for further study, this is the essential resource for anyone studying, researching and writing in contemporary philosophical ethics.

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Essays in Philosophy and Religion cover

Philip Quinn. Essays in the Philosophy of Religion. Ed. Christian Miller. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. 328 pages. 

Abstract: This volume brings together fourteen of the best papers by the late Philip Quinn, one of the world’s leading philosophers of religion. It covers the following topics: religious epistemology, religious ethics, religion and tragic dilemmas, religion and political liberalism, topics in Christian philosophy, and religious diversity.essays-in-philosophy

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Edited Journal Special Issues

Symposium on New Work on Character. Journal of Moral Philosophy 14 (2017): 621-760.

Abstract: This symposium is an important contribution to this surge of philosophical activity on character. It engages with some of the most recent work being produced, and advances the discussion even further on a number of fronts.

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Study in Christian Ethics cover

Symposium on New Developments in the Theology of Character. Studies in Christian Ethics 30 (2017): 260-328.

Abstract: One of the foundational aims of the Character Project was to encourage and advance the work of younger scholars.  Each of our funded scholars produced original work which we believe will greatly contribute to the study of the theology of character.  The idea for this symposium arose as a way of further highlighting the contributions of some of our grant recipients. We also wanted to encourage dialogue with more senior scholars. So we asked four such scholars to engage with some of the newly produced work of our grant recipients on the central topics of liturgy, forgiveness, humility, and reformed theology.

Available here

Ethics cover

Symposium on Agency. Ethics 118 (2008): 385-463.

Abstract: The three essays which make up this symposium engage with some of
the most important issues in the theory of action and agency today. My hope is that this symposium will help foster continued interest in a number of issues related to agency and action.

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Papers on Character

“Honesty,” in Improving Character: Moral Virtues, Strategies, and Questions. Ed. Robert Hartman. Wiley-Blackwell, in progress.

Abstract: TBD

Link available later.

Christian B. Miller and R. Michael Furr. “Patience: A New Account of a Neglected Virtue.” The Journal of the American Philosophical Association, forthcoming.

Abstract: The goal of this paper is to outline a new account of the virtue of patience. To help build the account, we focus on five important issues pertaining to patience: (i) goals and time, (ii) emotion, (iii) continence versus virtue, (iv) motivation, and (v) good ends. The heart of the resulting account is that patience is a cross-situational and stable disposition to react, both internally and externally, to slower than desired progress toward goal achievement with a reasonable level of calmness. The paper ends with an application of the account to better understanding the vices associated with patience.

Link coming soon

“The Character Gap,” in Philosophers on How to Live: Talking about Morality. Ed. Jack Symes. Bloomsbury, forthcoming.

Abstract: 

Link coming soon

R. Michael Furr, Christian B. Miller, Jackson Cole, Adam Porth, Jady Li, and Rachel Good. “What is Patience? Insights Emerging from an Integration of Philosophy and Psychology,” in Patience. Eds. Sarah Schnitker and Matthew Pianalto. Oxford University Press, submitted.

Abstract: In progress.

Link coming soon

“Moral Character: What is It, How are We Doing, and How Can We Do Better?” Volume on Character, Naval Institute Press, forthcoming.

Abstract: Despite character being at the heart of ethics in both the Western and Eastern philosophical traditions for thousands of years, there is much that we still don’t know. But in this chapter my goal is to sketch some ideas which I think we can be reasonably confident about. They correspond to the four sections to come: What is moral character?  How good is our moral character? What are some promising secular strategies for cultivating good character? What are some promising religious strategies for cultivating good character?

Link coming soon

“How Much Trouble is Character In? Reflections on John Doris’s Character Trouble.” Symposium on John Doris’s Character Trouble. Philosophia, forthcoming.

Abstract: John Doris’s work has been extremely influential over the past twenty years in shaping philosophical discussions about the empirical adequacy of virtue. Now, twenty years later, it is a welcome development to see many of Doris’s papers collected in one place in Character Trouble: Undisciplined Essays on Moral Agency and Personality.

Link coming soon

The Journal of Medicine & Philosophy cover

“Challenges Facing the Appeal to Practical Wisdom in Medicine and Beyond.” Invited Special Issue on Practical Wisdom. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy forthcoming.

Abstract: As work on practical wisdom and medicine accelerates, now is a good time to outline some important challenges that any approach to developing an account of this virtue will face. More specifically, I develop five challenges having to do with the existence and nature of practical wisdom, and whether it connects with objective and general normative truths. The main goal is to provide a guide to the challenges themselves and some of the options available for tackling them, rather than trying to resolve them here.

Link coming soon

“Celebrity and Dishonesty: Do They Go Hand in Hand?” The Philosophy of Fame and Celebrity. Eds. Alfred Archer, Catherine Robb, and Matthew Dennis. Bloomsbury, forthcoming.

Abstract: The dishonest acts of celebrities today are all too frequently exposed, ranging from tax evasion to college admissions scandals to marital infidelity. As a general matter, there appears to be some relationship between celebrity and dishonesty. The goal of this chapter is to investigate what that relationship might be. In the process, we will come upon a number of different ways in which celebrities have more opportunities to be dishonest than non-celebrities.

Link coming soon

“Three Models of Practical Wisdom.” Filosofiska Notiser 10 (2023): 10: 189-205.

Abstract: There are two leading models of practical wisdom in the contemporary analytic philosophy literature, the Standard Model and the Socratic Model. Recently, a neglected third option is starting to get some attention. On the Eliminativist Model, there is no virtue of practical wisdom at all. There are a variety of distinct sets of capacities which carry out the various functions associated with practical wisdom. But there is no trait that they jointly constitute. The goal of this paper is to set out what separates the three models, and what I take some of the main costs to be with the Standard and Socratic Models. While the Eliminativist Model might not be the clearly superior choice of the three models, it deserves to be taken far more seriously in future discussions of practical wisdom.

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“Fostering Honesty: A Case Study in Character Education,” in The Future of Education: Reimagining Its Aims and Responsibilities. Eds. Jonathan Beale and Christina Easton. Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.

Abstract: The project of character education continues to face a number of challenges. One is with convincing educators that it should be carried out in the first place. Another is with practically outlining how it can be carried out. Much of the discussion of these challenges happens at the level of talking about virtues and vices in general. A more promising approach is to focus on particular virtues one at a time. Here the focus will be on the virtue of honesty. Towards the end of the chapter, practical strategies for cultivating honesty will also be discussed, including the importance of role models and the use of moral reminders such as an honour code. For instance, schools which are seriously committed to the use of honour codes for their assessments show significantly lower rates of academic dishonesty than those which do not use an honour code.

Link coming soon

“Character and Mussar,” (with Geoff Claussen) in The Routledge Companion to Jewish Philosophy. Routledge, forthcoming.

Abstract: Issues of character are discussed throughout the history of Jewish literature, especially within the genre known as musar literature—literature focused on character and virtue. Jewish thinkers in diverse contexts have pointed to a range of significant virtues, developed various understandings of human nature, and recommended diverse strategies for cultivating virtue. The ancient, medieval, and modern Jewish views discussed in this chapter connect in various ways to ongoing debates in contemporary philosophy and psychology about character.

Link coming soon

Crimiminal Law and Philosophy cover

“Practical Wisdom, Situationism, and Virtue Conflicts: Exploring Gopal Sreenivasan’s Emotion and Virtue.” Criminal Law and Philosophy 18 (2024): 265-279.

Abstract: Gopal Sreenivasan’s new book, Emotion and Virtue, is an incredibly rich and impressive achievement. It is required reading for anyone working on issues related to character. In the spirit of book discussions in this journal, I will focus less on raising objections and more on exploring how the discussion could be extended in new directions or connected with related topics. The plan is to focus on four topics: (i) the scope of Sreenivasan’s project, (ii) his response to the situationist challenge, (iii) some implications of his view for practical wisdom, and (iv) his account of virtue conflicts.

Available here

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice Cover

“How Situationism Impacts the Goals of Character Education.” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, Special Issue on Moral Psychology and the Goals of Moral Education 27 (2024): 73-89.

Abstract: The focus of this special issue is on moral psychology and the goals of moral education. My focus will be considerably narrower in addressing the following question: In light of the situationist movement in psychology and philosophy, what should be the goal(s) of character education? The main conclusion will be that the central goal of character education should be modified in a certain way to make it more empirically informed. But not to worry, as this modification should be amenable to most contemporary supporters of character education.

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“Technology and the Virtue of Honesty,” in Technology Ethics: A Philosophical Introduction and Readings. Eds. Gregory J. Robson and Jonathan Y. Tsou. Routledge, 2023, 83-92.

Abstract: Technology today provides many opportunities for deception and other failures of honesty. But in surprising ways, it also helps to keep our tendencies to deceive in check, so that we do not lie or cheat nearly as much as we are capable of doing. In this chapter, I look at some of the recent empirical date on honesty and technology, and consider some of the ethical issues that often come up.

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“All Christians are Conspiracy Theorists,” in QAnon, Chaos, and the Cross: Christianity and Conspiracy Theories. Eds. Michael W. Austin and Gregory L. Bock. Eerdmans Publishing, 2023, 98-107.

Abstract: To call someone a ‘conspiracy theorist’ these days is usually not meant to be a compliment. It has negative connotations, implying that the person is being irrational or in some other way irresponsible in his or her thinking. All Christians are conspiracy theorists. And, as a Christian myself, I am therefore a conspiracy theorist. Yet as I will also suggest, this does not make me irrational.

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“Reflections on Six Reflections on Radical Humility.” Public Philosophy Journal, 4 (2022).

Abstract: I am grateful for the chance to briefly reflect on these six rich essays, each of which engages with writings in the collection, Radical Humility: Essays on Ordinary Acts. As a philosopher reading these essays, I was especially interested in how the authors understand humility. And what struck me was how much agreement there seems to be. In what follows, I want to highlight four threads that seem to run through the essays, while being very clear that these are general observations and some authors may not accept all of them.

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“Intellectual Honesty.” Scientia et Fides 10 (2022): 83-98. 

Abstract: Until recently, almost nothing had been written about the moral virtue of honesty in the past 50 years of Western analytic philosophy. Slowly, this is beginning to change. But moral honesty is not the only kind of honesty there is. In this paper, I focus specifically on the intellectual cousin to moral honesty, and offer a preliminary account of its behavioral and motivational dimensions. The account will be centered on not intentionally distorting the facts as the person takes them to be, for one of a variety of intellectually virtuous motivating reasons

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Journal of Character and Leadership Development cover

“Honesty and Character in Contention: Author Meets Cadet Critics.” Journal of Character and Leadership Integration (2022): 114-118.

Abstract: The U.S. Air Force Academy’s National Character and Leadership Symposium (NCLS) staff invited me to participate in a unique opportunity at the 2022 NCLS. In addition to delivering a traditional presentation, I was invited to participate in an “author meets critics” session, where the critics would be cadets competitively selected as part of a contest conducted in the fall prior to the Symposium. Cadets Marc Brunner, Madelyn Letendre, and Caden Wilson were selected to participate by an interdisciplinary panel of experts. The session was held on February 24th, 2022. Each cadet was given ten minutes to present their critical remarks, followed by a twenty minute response by m. The following article captures this event.

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“Cultivating Virtue in the University: Some Ideas from Philosophy and Psychology,” in Cultivating Virtue in the University. Eds. Michael Lamb, Jonathan Brant, and Edward Brooks. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2022, 157-177.

Abstract: What is the role of colleges and universities in forming the character of students? Should universities even attempt to cultivate virtue? If so, how can they do so effectively in a pluralistic context? Cultivating Virtue in the University seeks to answer these questions by gathering diverse perspectives on character education within twenty-first-century universities. Bringing together experts from a variety of academic disciplines, this volume catalyzes a critical debate about the possibilities and limits of character education in the university while offering theoretical and practical perspectives on what such education could look like in increasingly global, pluralistic, and intercultural institutions. Ultimately, by engaging insights from education, history, literature, philosophy, psychology, sociology, and theology, the volume encourages faculty, staff, and administrators to embrace the opportunities and challenges of cultivating virtue in the university.

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Journal of Information Ethics cover

“Further Thoughts on Honesty: A Reply to Robert Hauptman.” Journal of Information Ethics 31 (2022): 115-117.

Abstract: I am very grateful to Robert Hauptman for taking the time to read my
book, Honesty: The Philosophy and Psychology of a Neglected Virtue, and for
writing such a generous (and, I might add, highly entertaining!) review of it in
these pages. As if that were not enough, he also gave me the option to respond
to his review essay, which I will gladly do in what follows.

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Motivation Science cover

“Batson on Prosocial Motivation.” Motivation Science 8 (2022): 14-15.

Abstract: My comments focus on what Batson says about “orchestration,” and develop his proposal further in two respects. For moral praiseworthiness it matters what combination of motives leads to helping behavior, and also what the comparative strength of the motives is. 

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Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Phsychology cover

“Accountability, Autonomy, and Motivation.” Commentary for Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology 29 (2022): 61-63.

Abstract: John Peteet, Charlotte Witvliet, and C. Stephen Evans are to be commended for drawing our attention to the relatively neglected virtue of accountability, and for making the case that it is an important virtue to cultivate in general and specifically within the context of psychiatry. I find little to object to in their discussion, and so my comments here will be more of an invitation for them to address in greater detail two important issues: the relationship between accountability and autonomy, and the role of motivation in the virtue of accountability.

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Res Philosophica cover

“McPherson on Virtue and Meaning.” Book Symposium, Res Philosophica 2021: 641-649.

Abstract: At its heart, David McPherson’s book Virtue and Meaning is a critique of the leading neo-Aristotelian approaches to virtue and happiness today, combined with a sketch of an alternative approach. I personally found much of what McPherson said to be plausible. He is at his best when objecting to the work of Foot, Hursthouse, McDowell, and others, and most of his objections clearly express concerns that I have had with their work for many years. When it comes to his own positive account, though, I would have liked to have seen more details, and that is where I will focus my attention in what follows.

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“Brady on Virtue and Suffering.” Book Symposium, The Journal of Value Inquiry 55 (2021): 583-591.

Abstract: Michael Brady’s latest book, Suffering and Virtue, is simply extraordinary. It is crystal clear and very well-written. It is packed with interesting arguments. It breaks new ground on a host of topics. And it is wide-ranging, engaging with everything from the philosophy of pain to the nature of virtue to religious claims about suffering. It is one of the best books I have read on character in many years.

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The Psychology of Extremism cover

William Fleeson, Christian Miller, R. Michael Furr, Angela Knobel, and Eranda Jayawickreme, “What Are the Key Issues for the Study of the Morally Exceptional?” in The Psychology of Extremism: A Motivational Perspective, Eds. Arie W. Kruglanski, Catalina Kopetz, and Ewa Szumowska. Routledge, 2021, 230-258.

Abstract: The goal of this chapter is to introduce some issues that might be of interest to scholars considering conducting empirical or conceptual scholarship on the morally exceptional. We define the morally exceptional as the morally best or morally exemplary individuals among us. Morally exceptional individuals evoke fascination and can prevent atrocity and save lives. We take as analogies the study of exceptional cognitive talent or of highly effective businesses. By analyzing the successful, we may learn processes that lead to that success.

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Practical Wisdom cover

“Flirting with Skepticism about Practical Wisdom,” in Practical Wisdom: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Eds. Mario De Caro and Maria Silvia Vaccarezza. New York: Routledge, 52-69.

Abstract: This paper maps out various options for thinking about two issues: the structural relationship between practical wisdom and the moral virtues, and the various functions of practical wisdom. With the help of a case study of the virtue of honesty, three main concerns are raised for what I call the Standard Model of practical wisdom. Two other models, the Socratic Model and the Fragmentation Model, are also critically evaluated. I end by taking seriously an eliminativist approach according to which the trait of practical wisdom does not exist.

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Personality Science logo

“The Philosophy and Psychology of Character.” Personality Science 2 (2021): 1-5.

Abstract: In this short reflection piece, I outline how I see both philosophy and psychology contributing to the study of character. In addition, I highlight an area where far more collaborative work needs to be done.

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“Moral Relativism and Virtue,” in Virtues and Virtue Education in Theory and Practice: Are Virtues Local or Universal? Eds. Catherine A. Darnell and Kristján Kristjánsson. New York: Routledge, 2021, 11-25.

Abstract: While there is an extensive literature on moral relativism in meta-ethics, little has been said in assessing the view with respect to virtue specifically. The goal of this paper is to provide an overview of what I take to be the central issues surrounding moral relativism and moral virtue. Hence rather than trying to advance a moral relativist or moral realist position in detail myself, my approach is more programmatic. I also try to avoid too much technicality in the hope that the paper will be of interest and relevance to those outside the narrow halls of contemporary analytic philosophy.

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Ethical Theory and Moral Practive

“Motivation and the Virtue of Honesty: Some Conceptual Requirements and Empirical Results.” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice. Special Issue on Character. 23 (2020): 355-371.

Abstract: The virtue of honesty has been stunningly neglected in contemporary philosophy, with only two papers appearing in the last 40 years. The first half of this paper is a conceptual exploration of one aspect of the virtue, namely the honest person’s motivational profile. I argue that egoistic motives for telling the truth or not cheating are incompatible with honest motivation. At the same time, there is no one specific motive that is required for a person to be motivated in a virtuously honest way. Instead I advance a pluralistic theory of honest motivation, which allows for motives of caring, fairness, and virtue, among others. The second half of the paper then turns briefly to the empirical literature in psychology and behavioral economics on cheating, to see to what extent honest motives appear to be operative. The upshot is that we have good preliminary evidence for the claim that most people are not virtuously honest.

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“Honesty and Dishonesty: Unpacking Two Character Traits Neglected by Philosophers.” 75th Anniversary Special Issue on Virtue Ethics: Contemporary Issues. Portuguese Journal of Philosophy 76 (2020): 343-362.

Abstract: There has been almost nothing written in philosophy on honesty in the past fifty years. This paper contributes one piece to a larger project of trying to change this unfortunate state of affairs. In section one, I outline an original account of the behavioural component of honesty as involving being disposed to not intentionally distort the facts as the person sees them. Section two turns to the vice of deficiency, namely dishonesty, which I suggest is the only vice corresponding to honesty. It has at least five different dimensions, and a person’s character needs to be assessed along all of them before an overall judgment as to her dishonesty can justifiably be made.

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“The Virtue of Honesty, Nazis at the Door, and Huck Finn Cases.” Belgrade Philosophical Annual. Special Issue on Moral Psychology 32 (2019): 51-66.

Abstract: I begin by outlining some of the central conceptual features of the virtue of honesty. But the real focus of the paper is on seeing how my account of honesty can handle certain challenging cases. One case is the “Nazi at the door” example. The other is Mark Twain’s Huck Finn, who seemed to think that what he was doing in helping Jim was morally wrong, and yet we would be reticent to count it as a case of failing to be honest. I argue that my proposed account of honesty can recommend plausible ways to think about both of these famous cases.

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Journal of Philosophical Research cover

“Précis of The Character Gap: How Good Are We?” and “Replies to Nancy E. Snow and Jennifer Cole Wright.” Authors-Meets-Critics Symposium on The Character GapJournal of Philosophical Research 44 (2019): 197-200, 225-235.

Abstract: To provide some background for the commentaries by Nancy Snow and Jennifer Cole Wright, I summarize the main ideas from the three parts of my book, The Character Gap: How Good Are We? Then in the second essay, I respond to their very helpful and insightful commentaries.

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“Some Complexities of Categorizing Character Traits,” in Virtue Ethics: Retrospect and Prospect. Ed. Elisa Grimi. Springer,  2019, 81-98.

Abstract: With the explosion of interest in virtue and virtue ethics, one set of issues that has been comparatively neglected is how to categorize moral character traits. This paper distinguishes three approaches—what I call the Stoic, personality psychology, and Aristotelian—and critically assesses each of them. The Stoic approaches denies that virtues come in degrees. There is perfect virtue or nothing at all. The personality psychology approach denies that virtues have thresholds. So everyone has all the virtues to some degree or other. The Aristotelian approach accepts both degrees and thresholds. So some people might not have the virtues, and if they do, they might have them to various degrees. In addition, each of these positions takes a different stand on how to understand the vices as well. Using the virtue of honesty as the central example, the paper ends up favoring the Aristotelian approach but notes some of the complexities involved in adopting it.

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Journal of Positive Psychology cover

“Some Philosophical Concerns about How the VIA Classifies Character Traits and the VIA-IS Measures Them.” Journal of Positive Psychology 14 (2019): 6-19.

Abstract: Written from the perspective of a philosopher, this paper raises a number of potential concerns with how the VIA classifies and the VIA-IS measures character traits. With respect to the 24 character strengths, concerns are raised about missing strengths, the lack of vices, conflicting character strengths, the unclear connection between character strengths and virtues, and the misclassification of some character strengths under certain virtues. With respect to the 6 virtues, concerns are raised about conflicting virtues, the absence of practical wisdom, and factor analyses that do not find a 6 factor structure. With respect to the VIA-IS, concerns are raised about its neglect of motivation and about the underlying assumptions it makes about character traits. The paper ends by sketching a significantly improved classification which omits the 6 virtues and introduces additional strengths, vices, and a conflict resolution trait.

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The Routledge Handbook of Virtue Epistemology cover

“Virtue Epistemology and Developing Intellectual Virtue,” (with Alan Wilson) in The Routledge Handbook of Virtue Epistemology, Ed. Heather Battaly. New York: Routledge, 2018, 483-495.

Abstract: Virtue theorists have recently been focusing on the important question of how virtues are developed, and doing so in a way that is informed by empirical research from psychology. However, almost all of this recent work has dealt exclusively with the moral virtues. In this paper, we present three empirically-informed accounts of how virtues can be developed, and we assess the merits of these accounts when applied specifically to intellectual (or epistemic) virtues.

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Metaphilosophy cover

“Generosity: A Preliminary Account of a Surprisingly Neglected Virtue.” Metaphilosophy. Special Issue on Connecting Virtues. 49 (2018): 216-245.

Reprinted in Connecting Virtues: Advances in Ethics, Epistemology, and Political Philosophy, Ed. Michel Croce and Maria Silvia Vaccarezza. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2018, 23-50.

Abstract: There have only been three articles in mainstream philosophy journals going back at least to the 1970s on generosity. By building on what work has already been done, and trying to advance that discussion along several different dimensions, I hope that others will take a closer look at this important and surprisingly complex virtue. More specifically, the paper formulates three important necessary conditions for what is involved in possessing the virtue of generosity, and considers other contenders as well. The necessary conditions have to do with whether what is given must be of value to the giver, whether the giver’s primary motivation has to be altruistic, and whether the act of giving has to be supererogatory.

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“Virtue as a Trait,” in Oxford Handbook of Virtue. Ed. Nancy Snow. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018, 9-34.

Abstract: One of the most common assumptions about the moral virtues is that they are traits, or more specifically, traits of character. But what are character traits, and what character traits do individuals actually possess today? This chapter takes up each of these questions in turn. First it considers the metaphysics of character traits, distinguishing between three competing views: the summary view, the conditional view, and the dispositional view. Then it turns to the empirical issue of whether most people actually have character traits, and if so, what they tend to look like. Different options include the possession of traditional virtues, traditional vices, local traits, and mixed traits.

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“Wong on Three Confucian Metaphors for Ethical Development.” Dao 16 (2017): 551-558.

Abstract: It is a great honor to be a part of this symposium on David Wong’s article, “Early Confucian Philosophy and the Development of Compassion” (Wong 2015). My comments focus on the following questions: (1) On Wong’s interpretation, how exactly are the adornment, craft, and sprout metaphors supposed to differ? (2) For each of the metaphors, what are some of the areas of our psychological lives to which they pertain? (3) What would it look like for a person to try to carry out the processes of ethical development suggested by all three metaphors at the same time?

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“How Contemporary Psychology Supports Central Elements of Simḥah Zissel’s Picture of Character.” Journal of Jewish Ethics 3 (2017): 120-130.

Abstract: This is a contribution to the book symposium on Professor Geoffrey Claussen’s book Sharing the Burden: Rabbi Simḥah Zissel Ziv and the Path of Musar. These brief comments note that when Simḥah Zissel was writing, he did not have the benefit of results from controlled experimental studies in psychology that we do today. Remarkably, though, it turns out that many of his empirical claims hold up quite well in light of recent findings. This article will focus on just two topics that figure prominently in Professor Claussen’s book: human nature and the virtue of love.

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“Character and Situationism: New Directions.” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice. Special Issue on New Directions in Character and Virtue. 20 (2017): 459-471.

Abstract: The early work by Gilbert Harman and John Doris on character and situationism has fostered a vast literature over the past 15 years. Yet despite all this work, there are many important issues which remain largely unexplored. The goal of this paper is to briefly outline eight promising research directions: neglected moral virtues, neglected non-moral virtues, virtue assessment and measurement, replication, non-Aristotelian virtue ethics, positive accounts of character trait possession, prescriptive situationism, and virtue cultivation.

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“Honesty,” in Moral Psychology, Volume V: Virtue and Character. Ed. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Christian B. Miller. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2017, 237-273.

Abstract: I have two central aims: (i) to sketch some of the conceptual parameters of the virtue of honesty in general, as well as its subordinate virtues, and then (ii) to draw on leading work in psychology to determine, at least in a preliminary way, whether we should think that most people instantiate this virtue or not.

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“Honesty Revisited: More Conceptual and Empirical Reflections,” in Moral Psychology, Volume V: Virtue and Character. Ed. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Christian B. Miller. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2017, 295-307.

Abstract: I am very grateful to Jason Baehr and Bella DePaulo for the careful attention they have paid to my chapter. As I noted, this is my initial foray into providing a conceptual account of the virtue of honesty, and for that matter it is about the only such attempt any philosopher has offered in the past forty years. If others start to go down this road too, I would be thrilled.

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“The Psychology of Virtue,” Handbook of Virtue Ethics in Business and Management. Ed. Alejo Sison. Springer, 2017, 491-500.

Abstract: This chapter provides a brief overview of recent work in psychology on virtue, with a focus on the implications for business. It begins by characterizing what is involved in having a virtuous character trait. It then reviews some of the claims made in two of the leading research traditions on traits in psychology: situationism and the Big Five model. Finally, it ends with an application of research on the Big Five trait of conscientiousness to the business environment.

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“Categorizing Character: Moving Beyond the Aristotelian Framework,” in Varieties of Virtue Ethics. Ed. David Carr. Palgrave Macmillan, 2017, 143-162.

Abstract: Philosophers have inherited a familiar taxonomy of character types from Aristotle. We are all acquainted with the labels of the virtuous, vicious, continent, and incontinent person. The virtuous are said to have the best moral character, the vicious the worst, with the continent person’s character closer to being virtuous and the incontinent person’s character closer to being vicious. The goal of this paper is to argue that we should jettison this framework. The main reason is that psychological research in the past fifty years has suggested a much more complex picture of moral character than what can be usefully captured by these four categories. In its place, I will suggest a better taxonomy that makes use of the idea of what I call mixed character.

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“On Kristjánsson on Aristotelian Character Education.” Journal of Moral Education 45 (2016): 490-501.

Abstract: I pursue three of the many lines of thought that were raised in my mind by Kristjánsson’s engaging book. In the first section, I try to get clearer on what exactly Aristotelian character education (ACE) is, and suggest areas where I hope the view is developed in more detail. In the second and longest section, I draw some lessons from social psychology about the pervasive role of what I call ‘Surprising Dispositions,’ and invite Kristjánsson to take up the difficult challenge of clarifying how ACE would help to address their influence on our thought and action. Finally, in section three I consider whether there is any robust empirical support for ACE, and if not, where that leaves us.

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“A New Approach to Character Traits in Light of Psychology,” Questions of Character. Ed. Iskra Fileva. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016, 249-267.

Abstract:  This chapter proposes a novel way of thinking about character traits. On the standard picture, some traits people have (e.g., kindness, honesty, or compassion) are good, while others (rudeness, dishonesty, or callousness) are bad. Drawing on multiple empirical studies, I argue that most people do not have virtues and vices as traditionally conceived. The idea is that traits are best thought of as clusters of dispositions to form or not to form certain kinds of beliefs and desires. Thus, a non-malevolent person is disposed not to desire to harm others, while a cruel person is disposed to desire inflicting harm. I argue that most of us are neither non-malevolent, nor cruel. More generally, people have neither virtues nor vices. Rather, they have “mixed traits”: clusters of dispositions constitutive of a given virtue and of the corresponding vice.

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“The Moral Animal: Virtue, Vice, and Human Nature.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. Exchange with Heather Berlin and Michael Shermer (2016): 39-56.

Abstract: In Leo Tolstoy’s famous novella, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, a rich and meaningful inner life is sacrificed in pursuit of material rewards and social status. How can we cultivate something intrinsic that transcends our worldly accomplishments? Assuming that a basic model or map of human nature is needed to navigate the road to the good life, what desires, tendencies, and aversions constitute our core nature? How has our evolutionary history shaped our moral impulses? Are we inherently good or fundamentally flawed? Steve Paulson, executive producer and host of To the Best of Our Knowledge, moderated a discussion with philosopher Christian Miller, neuroscientist Heather Berlin, and historian of science Michael Shermer to examine our moral ecology and its influence on our underlying assumptions about human nature.

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“Virtue Cultivation in Light of Situationism,” in Developing the Virtues: Integrating Perspectives. Ed. Julia Annas, Darcia Narvaez, and Nancy Snow. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016, 157-183.

Abstract:  Various themes have been discussed under the heading of “situationism” in psychology over the past forty years. Much of this discussion has been extremely controversial, leading to deep divisions among psychologists and, more recently, among philosophers as well. This paper will pick up on one of those themes having to do with the influence of certain unconscious mental dispositions. It assumes that these dispositions are widely possessed, and also that they disqualify the people who have them from counting as virtuous at that moment. The main goal of the paper is to consider various strategies for trying to still develop the virtues in the face of this particular obstacle. Four strategies are outlined, and only the fourth one will turn out to be promising, but with a residual worry about its limitations.

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“Should Christians be Worried about Situationist Claims in Psychology and Philosophy?” Faith and Philosophy 33 (2016): 48-73.

Abstract: The situationist movement in psychology and, more recently, in philosophy has been associated with a number of striking claims, including that most people do not have the moral virtues and vices, that any ethical theory that is wedded to such character traits is empirically inadequate, and that much of our behavior is causally influenced to significant degrees by psychological influences about which we are often unaware. Yet Christian philosophers have had virtually nothing to say about situationist claims. The goal of this paper is to consider whether Christians should start to be worried about them.

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“Does the CAPS Model Improve Our Understanding of Personality and Character?” in From Personality to Virtue. Ed. Jonathan Webber and Alberto Masala. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016, 155-185.

Abstract:  Over the past forty years, Walter Mischel, Yuichi Shoda, and Jack Wright have developed a version of the social-cognitive approach to the study of personality in great detail. Their ‘cognitive-affective personality system’ or ‘CAPS’ model, as it has become known, is now one of the leading approaches to understanding personality in psychology today. In addition, it is receiving increased attention in philosophical work on character. The goal of this chapter is to offer the first detailed critical assessments of the CAPS model from a philosophical perspective. The chapter argues for the following claim: using technical language, the CAPS model re-describes and finds supporting evidence for basic platitudes of commonsense folk psychology.

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“The Mixed Trait Model of Character Traits and the Moral Domains of Resource Distribution and Theft,” in Character: New Directions from Philosophy, Psychology, and Theology. Ed. Christian B. Miller, R. Michael Furr, Angela Knobel, and William Fleeson. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015, 164-191.

Abstract: My chapter expands on the Mixed Trait Model for understanding moral character traits. On this model, most people have neither any moral virtues nor any moral vices but, rather, traits of character that are morally positive in some respects but negative in others. The chapter moves beyond the model’s earlier focus on empirical work pertaining to the moral domains of helping, physical aggression, lying, and cheating. It extends the Mixed Trait Model in two additional areas—resource distribution and theft—and in so doing, considers whether the existing research is compatible with the Mixed Trait Model in order to determine how broadly applicable the model really is. The conclusion is that the results are, so to speak, a mixed bag.

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“Some Foundational Questions about Character” (with Angela Knobel), in Character: New Directions from Philosophy, Psychology, and Theology. Ed. Christian B. Miller, R. Michael Furr, Angela Knobel, and William Fleeson. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015, 19-40.

Abstract:  This chapter for our edited volume (Character: New Directions from Philosophy, Psychology, and Theology) provides background material on what we consider to be several of the fundamental questions about character, such as whether character traits exist, what their makeup is, and how they can be improved.

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“Are Most of Us Honest People? Or Dishonest? Or Neither?” [Translated in Polish] in W poszukiwaniu moralnego charakteru. Ed. Artur Szutta and Natasza Szutta. Lublin: Academicon Publishing House, 2015, 103-145.

Abstract: In section one of this paper, I review some of the leading research on cheating behavior, and in section two I do the same for cheating motivation. Section three then outlines several requirements for honesty and dishonesty, and I explain why, in light of the current psychological evidence, these requirements do not seem to be met. Finally in section four I step back and present some of the details of my Mixed Trait approach to thinking about the character traits which, I claim, most people actually do possess.

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“Empathy as the Only Hope for the Virtue of Compassion and as Support for a Limited Unity of the Virtues.” Philosophy, Theology, and the Sciences. Special Issue on Empathy, Compassion, and Love (2015): 89-113.

Abstract:  This paper tries to establish a robust connection between the emotion of empathy and the virtue of compassion. Indeed, the central claim is that without empathy we have little hope for becoming compassionate people. But empathy has a dark side as well, and so the second goal of this paper is to show how several other virtues will also be needed to complement empathy-based compassion in order to guarantee that a person reliably acts well in helping others.

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“Russell on Acquiring Virtue,” in Current Controversies in Virtue Theory. Ed. Mark Alfano. New York: Routledge, 2015, 106-117.

Abstract: It is a great pleasure to be able to engage with Professor Russell’s important work on virtue. Russell is one of the leading scholars working on issues about character today, and there is much to learn from his paper and his many other writings. In what follows, I first summarize what I take to be the main claims made by Russell’s paper. While I will largely agree with the framework he has set out, I will nevertheless suggest in section two that there is a significant challenge to virtue cultivation that comes in the form of certain widely held unconscious psychological dispositions which are not virtuous. Finally in the last section I briefly discuss Russell’s main suggestion for addressing the challenge posed by such dispositions.

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“Lack of Virtue and Vice: Studies of Aggression and Their Implications for the Empirical Adequacy of Character.” Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics. Volume 4. Ed. Mark Timmons. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015, 80-112.

Abstract:  In recent years there has been a great deal of interest in experimental findings from psychology and their implications for better understanding character. This interest has focused almost exclusively on certain well-known studies of helping behavior—such as the Darley and Batson Princeton Theological Seminary study and the Isen and Levin phone book experiment—which allegedly have some bearing on the extent to which people possess the virtue of compassion. This chapter focuses on an underexplored area of the psychological literature—research on harmful as opposed to helpful behavior—and uses it in a preliminary way to further develop and support a new conception of the character traits which most people actually possess.

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“The Real Challenge to Virtue Ethics from Psychology,” in The Philosophy and Psychology of Virtue. Ed. Nancy Snow and Franco Trivigno. New York: Routledge, 2014, 15-34.

Abstract: In section one, I briefly review the Harman/Doris argument and outline the most promising response. Then in section two I develop what I take the real challenge to virtue ethics to be. The final section of the chapter suggests two strategies for beginning to address this challenge.

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“Moral Virtues, Epistemic Virtues, and the Big Five,” in Naturalizing Epistemic Virtue. Ed. Owen Flanagan and Abrol Fairweather. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014, 92-117.

Abstract:  This chapter provides a detailed assessment in philosophy of the Big Five approach, specifically on the question of whether it provides empirical support for the widespread possession of the moral and epistemic virtues. It briefly reviews some of the recent discussions in philosophy concerning the empirical adequacy of the virtues. The chapter also provides an overview of the Big Five approach in personality psychology. It focuses on three important reasons for why the Big Five taxonomy, however well supported it might be, does not offer any empirical support for the widespread possession of the traditional moral and epistemic virtues. Three important concerns are: Big Five traits are only summary labels; problems for the leading causal trait model of the Big Five; and Big Five and responsibility. The labeling approach can apply to the facets which use virtue concepts.

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“The Problem of Character,” in The Handbook of Virtue Ethics. Ed. Stan van Hooft. Durham: Acumen Press, 2014, 418-429.

Abstract: In the recent literature there has been a widely discussed attack on using what I will call “traditional” character traits in ethical theorizing. These character traits include the classic moral virtues such as compassion, honesty and courage, along with the classic moral vices such as cruelty, dishonesty and cowardice. The main philosophers leading this attack have been Gilbert Harman (in a series of papers dating back to 1999), and John Doris in several papers and most importantly in his Lack of Character: Personality and Moral Behavior (2002). 1 In this chapter, I first summarize the main line of argument used by Harman and Doris against Aristotelian virtue ethics in particular. In the following section I present what seems to me to be the most promising response to their argument. Finally I briefly review and assess the other leading responses in the now sizable literature that has developed in this area.

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“Honesty, Cheating, and Character in College.” The Journal of College and Character. Special Issue on Moral Character. (2013): 213-222.

Abstract:  Most college faculty care about the characters of their students, especially when it comes to questions of honesty. But can students today be trusted not to cheat when completing papers and exams, and not to do so for the right reasons? In section one of this article, the author reviews some of the leading research on cheating behavior, and in section two he does the same for cheating motivation. In section three, he then draws some implications from this research, both about what faculty can typically expect the characters of their students to be like when it comes to cheating, and what colleges might try to do to help foster character improvement in this area of their students’ lives.

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“Do People have the Virtues or Vices? Some Results from Psychology,” in Ethics and the Challenge of Secularism: Russian and Western Perspectives. Ed. David Bradshaw. Washington D.C.: Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, 2013, 63-88.

Reprinted in Russian translation in Eticheskaya Mysl (Ethical Thought). Ed. Abdusalam Guseynov. Moscow: Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences, Issue 13, 2013, 212-245.

Abstract: I focus on just one area of our moral lives, namely cheating motivation and behavior, and briefly examine whether there is any empirical support for the relevant virtue of honesty or vice of dishonesty. My conclusions in this area generalize to other domains of moral concern, although I will not be able to show that here.

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“The Challenge to Virtue, Character, and Forgiveness from Psychology and Philosophy.” Symposium on Forgiveness. Philosophia Christi 14 (2012): 125-143.

Abstract:  Much has been made of the situationist argument against virtue ethics by Gilbert Harman and John Doris, an argument which draws on empirical results from social psychology. After presenting their argument as well as the most plausible reply, I turn to what I believe is the real challenge to virtue ethics in this area, a challenge that needs to be addressed by both philosophers and theologians alike. The paper ends by applying this challenge to the specific virtue of forgiveness.

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“Guilt, Embarrassment, and Global Character Traits Associated with Helping,” in New Waves in Ethics. Ed. Thom Brooks. Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, 150-187. This is an expanded version of “Guild and Helping.”

Abstract: The first section of this paper briefly summarizes my positive view of global helping traits. The remaining sections then develop the view in two new directions by examining the relationship between guilt, embarrassment, and helping behavior. It turns out that guilt and embarrassment reliably and cross-situationally enhance helping behavior, but in such a way that is incompatible with the nature of compassion as traditionally understood.

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“Character Traits, Social Psychology, and Impediments to Helping Behavior.” Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 5 (2010): 1-36.

Abstract:  In a number of recent papers, I have begun to develop a new theory of character which is conceptually distinct both from traditional Aristotelian accounts as well as from the positive view of local traits outlined by John Doris. On my view, many human beings do have robust traits of character which play an important explanatory and predictive role, but which are triggered by certain situational variables which preclude them from counting as genuine Aristotelian virtues. Like others in this discussion, I have focused on helping behavior in particular, and have gone on to argue that much of the social psychology literature is compatible with this new approach. The goal of this paper is to develop the model as it pertains to helping behavior further by examining how helping-relevant traits can serve as impediments to helping behavior.

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“Guilt and Helping,” in Advances in Psychology Research. Ed. Alexandra Columbus. New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2010, 117-138.
Reprinted in International Journal of Ethics 6:2/3 (2010): 231-252.
Reprinted in Perspectives on Ethics. Jeremy Duncan (ed.). New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2011.

Abstract: A wealth of research in social psychology over the past twenty years has examined the role that guilt plays in our mental lives. In this paper, I examine just one aspect of this vast literature, namely the relationship between guilt and prosocial behavior. Researchers have typically found a robust positive correlation between feelings of guilt and helping, and have advanced psychological models to explain why guilt seems to have this effect. Here I present some of their results as well as draw out certain important implications that seem to follow for moral psychology and ethical theory.

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“Social Psychology, Mood, and Helping: Mixed Results for Virtue Ethics.” The Journal of Ethics. Special Issue on Situationism. 13 (2009): 145-173.

Abstract: I first summarize the central issues in the debate about the empirical adequacy of virtue ethics, and then examine the role that social psychologists claim positive and negative mood have in influencing compassionate helping behavior. I argue that this psychological research is compatible with the claim that many people might instantiate certain character traits after all which allow them to help others in a wide variety of circumstances. Unfortunately for the virtue ethicist, however, it turns out that these helping traits fall well short of exhibiting certain central features of compassion.

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“Empathy, Social Psychology, and Global Helping Traits.” Philosophical Studies 142 (2009): 247-275. Reviewed in Philosopher’s Digest.

Abstract:  The central virtue at issue in recent philosophical discussions of the empirical adequacy of virtue ethics has been the virtue of compassion. Opponents of virtue ethics such as Gilbert Harman and John Doris argue that experimental results from social psychology concerning helping behavior are best explained not by appealing to so-called ‘global’ character traits like compassion, but rather by appealing to external situational forces or, at best, to highly individualized ‘local’ character traits. In response, a number of philosophers have argued that virtue ethics can accommodate the empirical results in question. My own view is that neither side of this debate is looking in the right direction. For there is an impressive array of evidence from the social psychology literature which suggests that many people do possess one or more robust global character traits pertaining to helping others in need. But at the same time, such traits are noticeably different from a traditional virtue like compassion.

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“Social Psychology and Virtue Ethics.” The Journal of Ethics  7 (2003): 365-392.

Abstract: Several philosophers have recently claimed to have discovered a new and rather significant problem with virtue ethics. According to them, virtue ethics generates certain expectations about the behavior of human beings which are subject to empirical testing. But when the relevant experimental work is done in social psychology, the results fall remarkably short of meeting those expectations. So, these philosophers think, despite its recent success, virtue ethics has far less to offer to contemporary ethical theory than might have been initially thought. I argue that there are plausible ways in which virtue ethicists can resist arguments based on empirical work in social psychology. In the first three sections of the paper, I reconstruct the line of reasoning being used against virtue ethics by looking at the recent work of Gilbert Harman and John Doris. The remainder of the paper is then devoted both to responding to their challenge as well as to briefly sketching a positive account of character trait possession.

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Papers on Moral Psychology and Philosophy of Action

“Rationalism and Intuitionism,” in Routledge Handbook on Moral Epistemology. Ed. Mark Timmons, Karen Jones, and Aaron Zimmerman. New York: Routledge, 2019, 329-346.

Abstract: One of the liveliest areas in moral psychology in recent years has been research on the extent to which conscious reasoning leads to the formation of moral judgments. The goal of this chapter is to review and briefly assess three of the leading positions today on this topic, each of which has significant implications for moral epistemology. The positions are traditional rationalism, social intuitionism, and morphological rationalism. My goal is not to advance my own preferred view but rather to try to provide a fair summary and assessment of each of the leading ones.

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“Situationism, Social Psychology, and Free Will,” in The Routledge Companion to Free Will. Ed. Kevin Timpe, Meghan Griffith, and Neil Levy. New York: Routledge, 2017, 407-422.

Abstract: In philosophy and psychology, much of the focus has been on the extent to which people possess certain traits. Less of a focus, but still of significant importance, is whether work in this area bears on issues of free will and moral responsibility. A small but growing literature in philosophy has carefully examined this question. In this chapter I briefly review the situationist movement in both psychology and philosophy before turning to some of the main connections that have been drawn to the topic of this companion.

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“Naturalism and Moral Psychology,” in Blackwell Companion to Naturalism. Ed. Kelly Clark. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2016, 416-434.

Abstract: This chapter considers recent work in ethics that takes seriously empirical work in moral psychology, and from that starting point ends up drawing certain conclusions in metaethics that go against traditional moral realist positions. In particular, it considers the work of four leading naturalistic moral psychologists: Joshua Greene, Shaun Nichols, Jesse Prinz, and John Doris.

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“Assessing Two Competing Approaches to the Psychology of Moral Judgments.” Philosophical Explorations, 19 (2016): 28-47.

Abstract: This paper brings together the social intuitionist view of the psychology of moral judgments developed by Jonathan Haidt, and the recent morphological rationalist position of Terry Horgan and Mark Timmons. I will end up suggesting that Horgan and Timmons have offered us a more plausible account of the psychology of moral judgment formation. But the view is not without its own difficulties. Indeed, one of them might prove to be quite serious, as it could support a form of skepticism about understanding our own motivating reasons.

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Furlong and Santos on Desire and Choice,” in Moral PsychologyFree Will and Moral Responsibility. Volume 4. Ed. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2014, 367-374.

Abstract: Ellen Furlong and Laurie Santos helpfully summarize a number of fascinating studies of certain influences on both human and monkey behavior. As someone who works primarily in philosophy, I am not in a position to dispute the details of the studies themselves. But in this brief commentary I do want to raise some questions about the inferences Furlong and Santos make on the basis of those studies. In general, I worry that they may be overreaching beyond what their own data suggests.

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“Identifying with our Desires.” Theoria 79 (2013): 127-154.

Abstract: A number of philosophers have become convinced that the best way of trying to understand human agency is by arriving at an account of identification. My goal here is not to criticize particular views about identification, but rather to examine several assumptions which have been widely held in the literature and yet which, in my view, render implausible any account of identification that takes them on board. In particular, I argue that typically identification does not involve either reflective consideration of our mental states or endorsement of those states. If it did, we would rarely be agents.

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“Defining Empathy: Thoughts on Coplan’s Approach.” The Southern Journal of Philosophy Spindel Volume 49 (2011): 66-72.

Abstract: In this paper, I raise three sets of issues inspired by Amy Coplan’s paper, “Will the Real Empathy Please Stand Up.” They concern whether we need to distinguish between the three phenomena as Coplan suggests, what method(s) should be used in making those distinctions, and whether they are in fact made correctly.

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“Gert on Subjective Practical Rationality.” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 11 (2008): 551-561.

Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to consider Joshua Gert’s novel view of subjective practical rationality in his book Brute Rationality. After briefly outlining the account, I present two objections to his view and then consider his own objections to a rival approach to understanding subjective rationality which I take to be much more plausible.

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“Motivational Internalism.” Philosophical Studies 139 (2008): 233-255.

Abstract: Cases involving amoralists who no longer care about the institution of morality, together with cases of depression, listlessness, and exhaustion, have posed trouble in recent years for standard formulations of motivational internalism. In response, though, internalists have been willing to adopt narrower versions of the thesis which restrict it just to the motivational lives of those agents who are said to be in some way normal, practically rational, or virtuous. My goal in this paper is to offer a new set of counterexamples to motivational internalism, examples which are effective both against traditional formulations of the thesis as well as against many of these more recent restricted proposals.

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“Motivation in Agents.” Noûs 42 (2008): 222-266.

Abstract: The Humean theory of motivation remains the default position in much of the contemporary literature in meta-ethics, moral psychology, and action theory. Yet despite its widespread support, the theory is implausible as a view about what motivates agents to act. More specifically, my reasons for dissatisfaction with the Humean theory stem from its incompatibility with what I take to be a compelling model of the role of motivating reasons in first person practical deliberation and third-person action explanations.

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“The Structure of Instrumental Practical Reasoning.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 75 (2007): 1-41.

Abstract: Standard views of instrumental practical reasoning often appeal just to an end-directed desire and a means-end belief. I argue that such accounts are insufficient when it comes to the practical lives of agents. Instead I offer a novel view of such reasoning, the heart of which is the addition of a normative belief concerning the desirability of the agent’s end.

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The Policy-Based Approach to Identification.” Philosophical Psychology 20 (2007): 105-125.

Abstract: In a number of recent papers, Michael Bratman has defended a policy-based theory of identification which represents the most sophisticated and compelling development of a broadly hierarchical approach to the problems about identification which Harry Frankfurt drew our attention to over thirty years ago. Here I first summarize the bare essentials of Bratmans view, and then raise doubts about both its necessity and sufficiency. Finally I consider his objections to rival value-based models, and find those objections to be less compelling than he makes them out to be.

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Papers on Papers on Meta-Ethics

“The Naturalistic Fallacy and Theological Ethics,” in The Naturalistic Fallacy. Ed. Neil Sinclair. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019, 206-225.

Abstract: What views are the primary target of Moore’s fallacy and his open question argument? A common answer, I suspect, would be naturalistic approaches to morality. It is the naturalistic fallacy, after all. But in fact both his fallacy and his argument apply just as straightforwardly to supernatural approaches to morality as well. In this chapter, I focus specifically on how philosophers of religion have tried to ground morality in God in ways that are clearly relevant to Moore’s project.

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“Moral Realism and Anti-Realism,” in The History of Evil. Volume Six. Ed. Jerome Gellman. Routledge, 2018.

Abstract: This chapter surveys work in meta-ethics in the past fifty years which explicitly deals with issues associated with evil. It discusses two examples from secular discussions: the argument developed by Gilbert Harman on the explanatory role of moral facts, and the argument developed by Gilbert Harman and John Doris on the empirical inadequacy of the virtues. The chapter then turns to two topics related to theistic meta-ethics: the problem of evil and moral realism, and theological voluntarism and evil.

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“What Should Theists Say about Constructivist Positions in Metaethics?” in Constructivism and Religious Ethics. Ed. Kevin Jung. New York: Routledge, 2018, 82-103.

Abstract: Constructivist positions in meta-ethics are on the rise in recent years, thanks to the work of philosophers such as John Rawls, Christine Korsgaard, Tim Scanlon, and Sharon Street, among many others. Similarly, there has been a flurry of activity amongst theistic philosophers examining the relationship between God and normative facts, including important contributions by John Hare, C. Stephen Evans, Mark Murphy, Robert Adams, and Philip Quinn. But so far as I am aware, these two literatures have almost never intersected with each other. Constructivists have said very little about God, and theists working on religious ethics have said very little about constructivist views in meta-ethics. In this paper, I draw some connections between the two literatures, and hopefully will inspire others to continue to investigate this sadly neglected area.

Available here

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“Theism and Morality,” in Philosophy for Us. Ed. Lenny Clapp. Cognella Academic, 2017, 113-123.

Abstract: Billions of people around the world today believe that an all-powerful, all-good, and all-knowing divine being exists. They believe that this being – God – created the universe in the first place and has done miraculous things in the universe since creating it. Not surprisingly, many of these religious believers also hold that God plays a very important role when it comes to morality. Indeed, God is said to be the author of morality. This chapter will briefly introduce and defend this way of thinking about the relationship between God and morality.

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“Morality is Real, Objective, and Supernatural.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (2016): 74-82.

Abstract: The goal of this paper is to briefly introduce and defend the idea that God is the source of our moral obligations. In contrast to Michael Shermer’s paper, which defends a naturalistic position about the foundations of morality, this approach is explicitly supernaturalistic. The paper begins by defining how “God” will be understood, and then spells out some of the details of how, on the proposed view, moral obligations are to depend upon God. The third section briefly reviews some of the leading arguments for this view, before the paper concludes with a discussion of the Euthyphro dilemma.

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“On Shermer on Morality.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (2016): 63-68.

Abstract: This is my critical commentary on Michael Shermer’s paper “Morality is real, objective, and natural.” Shermer and I agree that morality is both real and objective. Here I raise serious reservations about both Shermer’s account of where morality comes from and his account of what morality tells us to do. His approach to the foundations of morality would allow some very disturbing behaviors to count as moral, and his approach to what morality says does not provide the action guidance we need from a moral theory.

Available here

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“In Defense of a Supernatural Foundation to Morality: Reply to Shermer.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (2016): 91-96.

Abstract: In my original paper, I claimed that our moral obligations are real, objective, and grounded in the supernatural. In particular, I endorsed the claim that God’s will is the basis or source of our moral obligations, where “God” is to be understood as the theistic being who is omnibenevolent, omniscient, and omnipotent, who created the universe, and who is still actively involved in the universe after creating it. In his critical article, Michael Shermer has raised a number of important challenges to my view. Here I try to defend the position and respond to at least his most serious objections.

Available here

The Continuum Companion to Ethics cover

“Overview of Contemporary Metaethics and Normative Theory,” in The Continuum Companion to Ethics. Ed. Christian Miller. London: Continuum Press, 2011, xiv-lii. Translated into Arabic and published as a standalone book in Iran by Seyyed Mohsen Eslami (2019).

Abstract: The study of morality continues to flourish in contemporary philosophy. As the chapters of this Companion illustrate, new and exciting work is being done on a wide range of topics from the objectivity of morality to the relationship between morality and religious, biological, and feminist concerns. Along with this vast amount of work has come a proliferation of technical terminology and competing positions. The goal of this chapter is to provide an overview of the terrain in contemporary ethics. More precisely, we shall survey each of the following in the three sections of this chapter:

  (i)     Leading concepts and distinctions in the ethics literature.
(ii)    Central positions in contemporary meta-ethics, with a focus on what it takes for a position to count as a form of moral realism.
(iii)   Central positions in contemporary normative ethical theory, with a focus on the difference between monist versus pluralist theories.

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“Moral Relativism and Moral Psychology,” in The Blackwell Companion to Relativism. Ed. Steven Hales. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2011, 346-367.

Abstract: Much recent work in meta-ethics and ethical theory has drawn extensively on claims about moral psychology. The goal of this paper is to provide a broad overview of some of these claims and the implications that certain philosophers are taking them to have for the plausibility of moral relativism.

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“The Conditions of Moral Realism.” The Journal of Philosophical Research 34 (2009): 123-155.

Abstract: In this paper, I hope to provide an account of the conditions of moral realism whereby there are still significant metaphysical commitments made by the realist which set the view apart as a distinct position in the contemporary meta-ethical landscape. In order to do so, I will be appealing to a general account of what it is for realism to be true in any domain of experience, whether it be realism about universals, realism about unobservable scientific entities, realism about artifacts, and so forth.

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“The Conditions of Realism.” The Journal of Philosophical Research 32 (2007): 95-132.

Abstract: In this paper my concern is not with the truth of any particular realist or anti-realist view, but rather with determining what it is to be a realist or anti-realist in the first place. While much skepticism has been voiced in recent years about the viability of such a project, my goal in what follows is to articulate interesting and informative conditions whereby any view in any domain of experience can count as either a realist or an anti-realist position. Of course this is a highly ambitious (some would say foolhardy) undertaking, and so more modestly my goal is really just to help lay the groundwork for the provision of such conditions.

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“Shafer-Landau and Moral Realism.” Social Theory and Practice 32 (2006): 311-331.

Abstract: In 1903 Moore celebrated a robust non-naturalistic form of moral realism with the publication of his Principia Ethica. Subsequent years have witnessed the development and refinement of a number of views motivated at least in part by a deep resistance to the metaphysical and epistemological commitments of non-naturalism. Over time, Moore’s view arguably has become the position of last resort for philosophers working in meta-ethics. Exactly one hundred years later, analytic meta-ethics has come full circle with the publication of Russ Shafer-Landau’s Moral Realism: A Defence. This long review essay examines all five sections of his book.

Available here

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“Rorty and Tolerance.” Theoria: Special Issue on the Philosophy of Richard Rorty 101 (2003): 94-108.

Abstract: While Richard Rorty’s general views on truth, objectivity, and relativism continue to attract much attention from professional philosophers, some of his contributions to ethical theory have thus far been remarkably neglected. In other work, I have begun the task of sketching what a Rortyan approach to traditional questions in meta-ethics might look like. Here, however, I shall attempt to summarize and evaluate some of the contributions that Rorty has made to important debates in first-order normative theory. More specifically, my attention will be devoted primarily to the question of what moral obligations of respect and tolerance, if any, we have towards those who act out of moral frameworks which are divergent from our own.

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“Rorty and Moral Relativism.” European Journal of Philosophy 10 (2002): 354-374.

Reprinted in Richard Rorty: Critical Assessments of Leading Philosophers’. Ed. James Tartaglia. New York: Routledge, 2009.

Abstract: Critics of Rorty’s views on truth, objectivity, and value often take them to imply some form of untenable relativism. While it would be worthwhile to investigate whether Rorty is in fact committed to what might be called global relativism, or relativism in most if not all domains of investigation, for our purposes in this paper we must proceed more selectively. By focusing on Rorty’s view of moral objectivity, we can hopefully shed some new light on the now stale charge of Rortian relativism. In the
process, we can also go quite a long way towards articulating what a Rortian approach to meta-ethics might look like.

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Papers on Philosophy of Religion

“Constructivism,” in The Moral Argument. Eds. David Baggett and John Hare. Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.

Abstract: Constructivist positions in meta-ethics have been developed with great sophistication in recent years. These positions appear to threaten many versions of the moral argument for the existence of God. Yet advocates of the moral argument have said surprisingly little about constructivism. The goal of this chapter is to bring these two literatures together, clarify what bearing constructivism might have on moral arguments for God, and offer a preliminary line of criticism of constructivist approaches.

Not Available Yet.

“Theological Voluntarism,” in Oxford Handbook of Meta-Ethics. Eds. David Copp and Connie Rosati. Oxford: Oxford University Press, in progress.

Abstract: Historically theological voluntarism has been one of the leading positions in meta-ethics, and today it continues to enjoy a significant amount of support from theistic philosophers. In broad outline, ‘theological voluntarism’ will refer in this chapter to any approach which metaphysically grounds moral properties in some act of the divine will of a theistic God. The leading version of theological voluntarism today is divine command theory, but as we will see, there are other versions as well that claim to have their own advantages.

Not Available Yet.

A New Theist Response to the New Atheists cover

“Are We Better Off Without Religion? The Harms (and Benefits) of Religious Belief,” in A New Theist Response to the New Atheists. Ed. Joshua Rasmussen and Kevin Vallier. New York: Routledge, 2020, 103-118.

Abstract: Religion has done a tremendous amount of damage to our well-being. Whatever good it has fostered can also be achieved by secular ways of thinking. Therefore, in order to make people better off, we should jettison religion and religious belief in all its various forms. Call this general line of reasoning the religious harms argument. In this chapter, I want to explore this argument in some detail.

Available here

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“Atheism and the Benefits of Theistic Belief.” Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion. Volume 4. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, 97-125. Finalist, 2010 Younger Scholars Prize.

Abstract: Most atheists are error theorists about theists; they claim that theists have genuine beliefs about the existence and nature of a divine being, but as a matter of fact no such divine being exists. Thus on their view the relevant theistic beliefs are mistaken. As error theorists, then, atheists need to arrive at some answer to the question of what practical course of action the atheist should adopt towards the theistic beliefs held by committed theists. The most natural answer and the one that we see being implemented by many prominent atheists today, is eliminativism. One of the main goals of this paper is to show that, despite its popularity, eliminativism is not the only option for the atheist to adopt. In order to do so, I draw on recent work in meta-ethics on moral error theories, work which has helped to outline a number of alterative courses of action that someone might take towards a group which is said to have widespread erroneous beliefs.

Available here

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“Divine Will Theory: Desires or Intentions?” Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion. Volume 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009, 185-207.

Abstract: Divine will theory does not specify which kind of mental state is supposed to ground S’s obligation; it could be God’s desires, beliefs, intentions, or emotions. My purpose here is not to challenge this view. Rather, I want to examine the decision by Murphy and Quinn to base their version of divine will theory on God’s intentions, and argue that this may have been an unwise move. As an alternative, I suggest that those who are initially attracted to divine will theory would be better served to develop the view with a focus on God’s desires rather than intentions.

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“Divine Desire Theory and Obligation,” in New Waves in Philosophy of Religion. Ed. Nagasawa and E. Wielenberg. Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, 105-124.

Abstract: Thanks largely to the work of Robert Adams and Philip Quinn, the second half of the twentieth century witnessed a resurgence of interest in divine command theory as a viable position in normative theory and meta-ethics. More recently, however, there has been some dissatisfaction with divine command theory even among those philosophers who claim that normative properties are grounded in God, and as a result alternative views have begun to emerge, most notably divine intention theory (Murphy, Quinn) and divine motivation theory (Zagzebski). My goal here is to outline a distinct theory, divine desire theory, and suggest that, even if it is not clearly superior to these extant views, it is at least worthy of serious consideration.

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“Quinn’s Philosophy of Religion,” in Essays in the Philosophy of Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. 1-18.

Abstract: The publication of these selected papers by Philip L. Quinn is intended to honor one of the leading philosophers of religion in the twentieth century. Philip Quinn died on November 15, 2004 at the age of 64, leaving behind an immensely impressive legacy of publication, service, and intellectual achievement. My goal in this brief introduction is twofold: first, to briefly sketch some of the life of this remarkable man; and second, to provide an overview of the papers that make up this collection. The papers themselves have been organized around the following central topics in Quinn’s research: religious ethics, religion and tragic dilemmas, religious epistemology, religion and political liberalism, Christian philosophy of religion, and religious diversity.

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“Defeaters and the Basicality of Theistic Belief,” in Basic Belief and Basic Knowledge: Papers in Epistemology. Eds. Ron Rood, Sabine Roeser, and René van Woudenberg. Frankfurt: Ontos Verlag, 2005, 147-176.

Abstract: Recently much work has been done in developing the reformed approach to religious epistemology in new and interesting ways. This paper hopes to continue that trend by investigating the relationship between basic belief in the existence of God and the impact of what purport to be various epistemic defeaters for that belief. Ultimately, I hope to show that while theistic beliefs might arise and even be warranted in the manner described by reformed epistemologists, they quickly will become non-basic in the presence of putative defeaters. Such a result may serve not only to elucidate the noetic structures of religious believers, but also to help find common ground between the warring parties of evidentialism and reformed epistemology.

Available here

Introductions, Prefaces, Encyclopedia Entries, Commentaries, Etc.

Blackwell International Encyclopedia of Ethics cover

“Bullshit,” in The Blackwell International Encyclopedia of Ethics. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2022, 1-6.

Abstract: Harry Frankfurt begins his famous paper, “On Bullshit,” with these words: “One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share” (1988: 117). But what is bullshit? And how does it relate to concepts such as lying and dishonesty? This entry begins by introducing some useful distinctions, and then turns to reviewing the accounts of bullshit provided by Harry Frankfurt, G. A. Cohen, and Andreas Stokke. It ends by clarifying the connection between bullshit and honesty.

Available here

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“Honesty,” in The Blackwell International Encyclopedia of Ethics. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2022, 1-10.

Abstract: Honesty is held in great esteem in most societies. There is little controversy that honesty is a virtue, nor about whether it is worthwhile to try to cultivate in ourselves and others. At the same time, there has been remarkably little work done on honesty by philosophers in the past one hundred years. So the primarily goal here is to outline many of the central philosophical issues and questions that can arise when thinking about honesty, without offering much by way of a review of the literature as there is so little on offer.

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“Divine Command Theory,” in the Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Philosophy of Religion. Ed. Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2021, 1-9.

Abstract: Divine command theory is one of the leading positions concerning the metaphysical basis of moral properties. As its name suggests, the view holds that all or at least certain moral properties are grounded in the commands of God. DCT is a version of what is called “theological voluntarism,” which is a more general label for any approach to grounding moral properties in God. Rather than commands, alternative versions of voluntarism focus on God’s desires, intentions, or emotions. This entry reviews some of the leading arguments for why one might adopt a voluntarist approach in general, as well as clarifies divine command theory and the main challenges it faces.

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“Introduction to Integrity, Honesty, and Truth Seeking,” (with Ryan West) in Integrity, Honesty, and Truth-Seeking. Ed. Christian B. Miller and Ryan West. New York: Oxford University Press, 2020, xv-xl.

Abstract: This introduction has two goals. In sections one through three, we provide some brief conceptual background on each of the three virtues. Then in section four, we turn to summarizing the volume’s ten chapters.

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“Teaching a Summer Seminar: Reflections from Two Weeks on the Philosophy and Psychology of Character in the Summer of 2018.” American Philosophical Association Newsletter on Teaching Philosophy, 2018: 12-19.

Abstract: During the summer of 2018, I had the tremendous good fortune to teach a two-week long summer seminar at Wake Forest University to philosophers and theologians from the US and UK. In this article, I summarize many of the key details about the seminar. But my ultimate aim is to explore some of the decisions I had to make in planning the event. My hope is that what I learned can be helpful to other philosophers who are thinking about teaching summer seminars in the future.

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“Preface,” Hume’s Moral Philosophy and Contemporary Psychology. Eds. Rico Vitz and Philip Reed. New York: Routledge, 2018, x-xi.

Abstract: Editing a collection of papers in philosophy is a massive undertaking. Contributors have to be invited. A proposal written. Contracts signed. Drafts read and comments prepared. Revised drafts read again. An introduction crafted (and in this case, a conclusion too!). Copy editing reviewed and proofs checked. An index constructed. This is not a task for the faint of heart. So Professors Vitz and Reed are to be commended for all their hard work in putting this collection together.

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“Introduction to Symposium on New Work on Character,” Journal of Moral Philosophy, 14 (2017): 621-622.

Abstract: These are exciting times to be working on character. New monographs are appearing every year. Several important collections have just come out. Much interesting new work is appearing in the journals. This symposium is an important contribution to this surge of philosophical activity on character. It engages with some of the most recent work being produced, and advances the discussion even further on a number of fronts.

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“Situationism,” in The Blackwell International Encyclopedia of Ethics. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2017.

Abstract: There are important similarities and differences between situationism in psychology and situationism in philosophy. This entry will only focus on the situationist movement in philosophy. The first two sections provide an overview of the central claims of situationism in philosophy. The third section briefly reviews the leading critical responses that have been offered in the literature. The final section ends by turning to some promising new areas of future research.

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“Introduction to ‘New Developments in the Theology of Character,’” (with Angela Knobel) Studies in Christian Ethics 30 (2017): 260-261.

Abstract: This introduction describes the origins and rationale behind the papers that comprise this special issue of Studies in Christian Ethics. These papers represent several recent contributions to scholarship on the theology of character.

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“Introduction,” (with Walter Sinnott-Armstrong), in Moral Psychology, Volume V: Virtue and Character. Ed. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Christian B. Miller. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2017, 1-9.

Abstract: Volume 5 of the Moral Psychology series turns to another important area of moral psychology, namely the virtues, vices, and character more generally. As is well known, there has been a resurgence of interest in these topics during the past forty years, especially in fields such as philosophy and religion. Much of that work, though, was done in relative isolation from results in the sciences. In recent years, however, such a trend has changed, and this volume is an outgrowth of the new wave of interest in interdisciplinary work on character. In particular, the papers which follow all drawn extensively from empirical work in psychology, some of which was actually conducted by the authors themselves. They each provide new and exciting avenues for better understanding character at the intersection of philosophy and psychology.

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“Modern Moral Relativism,” in Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science. Ed. Todd Shackelford and Viviana Weekes-Shackelford. Springer, 2016. DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_529-1.

Abstract: This entry first provides some background about how to define moral relativism. It then reviews two different strands of the contemporary discussion of moral relativism. The first concerns the question of whether most people endorse, either implicitly or explicitly, some form of moral relativism. The second concerns the question of whether moral relativism is actually true. Here the focus will be on the influential work of Shaun Nichols, who has proposed an account of the psychology of moral judgments which he takes to provide support for moral relativism. Some problems will briefly be raised with Nichols’s main argument.

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“Empirical Approaches to Moral Character.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2016. Updated version published in 2020. Another updated version published in 2023.

Abstract: This entry briefly examines four recent empirical approaches to moral character. It draws on the psychology literature where appropriate, but the main focus will be on the significance of that work for philosophers interested in better understanding moral character. The four areas are situationism, the CAPS model, the Big Five model, and the VIA.

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“Cornell Realism,” “Humean Theory of Motivation,” “Response-Dependent,” “Situationism,” and “Trait” in The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, Third Edition. Ed. Robert Audi. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015, 216-217, 481, 929, 987-988, and 1072-1073.

Abstract: 5 entries for this leading dictionary of philosophy.

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Character cover

“Introduction” (with R. Michael Furr, Angela Knobel, and William Fleeson), in Character: New Directions from Philosophy, Psychology, and Theology. Ed. Christian B. Miller, R. Michael Furr, Angela Knobel, and William Fleeson. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015, 1-16.

Abstract: The chapters in this volume capture a spirit of energy and excitement. They are full of new ideas, innovative arguments, and empirical discoveries that will advance our knowledge of character on many fronts. Our goal in this first chapter is to provide a brief overview of what we consider to be some of the foundational questions in philosophy about character. We will not try to settle any of these questions, but rather aim to provide some broad conceptual background on character that hopefully will be useful in approaching the chapters which follow.

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“Distributive Justice and Empirical Moral Psychology.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2015. Updated version published in 2020.

Abstract: Whether and to what extent people are motivated by considerations of justice is a central topic in a number of fields including economics, psychology, and business. Here I adopt the following limitations:

(i) We will look at the moral psychology of individuals as opposed to firms, societies, or other collective entities.

(ii) Our focus will be on empirical results, rather than armchair considerations of what the psychology of people might be like or what it should be like.

(iii) The kind of justice that will be our focus here is distributive justice, rather than retributive, international, transitional, or other kinds.

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“A Satisfactory Definition of Posttraumatic Growth Still Remains Elusive.” Target Article Commentary. European Journal of Personality (2014): 344-346.

Abstract: Jayawickreme and Blackie provide an excellent discussion of recent work on posttraumatic growth, and offer many good recommendations for future research in this area. Here I suggest that, even despite their efforts, important questions remain about just what the phenomenon of posttraumatic growth is supposed to be in the first place.

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“The Euthyphro Dilemma,” in The Blackwell International Encyclopedia of Ethics. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2013, 1-7. Updated version forthcoming 2023.

Abstract: The Euthyphro Dilemma is named after a particular exchange between Socrates and Euthyphro in Plato’s dialogue Euthyphro. The primary interest in the Euthyphro Dilemma over the years, however, has primarily concerned the relationship between God and morality in the monotheistic religious tradition, where God is taken to be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, having created the universe initially and still actively involved in it today. But as we will see at the end of this entry, there has also been a recent surge of interest in a version of the Dilemma which applies to so-called response-dependent accounts of normative properties in meta-ethics.

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The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Ethics cover

“Integrity,” in The Blackwell International Encyclopedia of Ethics. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2013, 1-11.

Abstract: Integrity is one of the leading normative concepts employed in our society. We frequently talk about the degree of integrity of community leaders and famous historical figures, and we highly value integrity in our elected public officials. But philosophers have had a difficult time arriving at consensus about what integrity consists in. Some claim that it is a purely formal relation of consistency, others that it has to do primarily with one’s identity, and still others that it involves subjective or objective moral requirements. The primarily goal here is to outline the leading facets of integrity in the contemporary philosophical literature.

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“Resources for the Fields of Metaethics and Normative Theory,” and “Selected Works in Contemporary Metaethics and Normative Theory,” in The Continuum Companion to Ethics. Ed. Christian Miller. London: Continuum Press, 2011, 293-316.

Abstract: This section contains a host of resources for further study in these fields, such as journals, institutes, and regular conferences.

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Ethics cover

“Introduction to Agency Symposium.” Ethics 118 (2008): 385-387.

Abstract: Among the topics which are considered at length are the possibility of practical knowledge, the relationship between knowledge how versus knowledge that, the constitution of intentions, the importance of knowledge without observation, the difference between genuine actions versus mere bodily movements, the role of making sense in action and valuing, the nature of valuing and of values, the relationship between being an actor and acting, the objectivity of values, the alleged existence of formal coherence requirements like non-contradiction, closure, and means-end coherence, the aim of belief and intention, the instrumental value of formal requirements, and the availability of an error theory for such requirements.

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