Constancy, fidelity and integrity

Authored by: Clea F. Rees , Jonathan Webber

The Handbook of Virtue Ethics

Print publication date:  November  2013
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9781844656394
eBook ISBN: 9781315729053
Adobe ISBN: 9781317544777


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To possess the virtue of honesty or kindness, it is not enough to act sometimes in honest or kind ways. Virtues, like character traits in general, are standing properties of agents that explain their actions. Over the past decade or so, philosophers have debated whether the findings of experimental social psychology undermine the traditional confidence that people do indeed possess such dispositions. This debate has supposed that dispositions are states that generate a particular kind of output from a particular kind of input. The fragility of a vase, on this view, is the disposition to shatter when struck with a certain amount of force. Likewise, the virtue of compassion is, or includes, a disposition to respond to other people’s suffering, or the prospect of it, with actions, or at least thoughts and feelings, that tend towards alleviating or averting that suffering. The disagreement has concerned whether people really can develop dispositions to respond appropriately to such a stimulus irrespective of the fine details of the context in which that stimulus occurs (see Miller, this volume, Chapter 37).

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