With formal responses from Owen Flanagan (Stonybrook University)
“Early Confucian Virtue Ethics and the Situationist Critique”Virtue ethics has recently been mooted as a potentially more psychologically realistic, and therefore empirically plausible, model of ethics than the currently-dominant deontological and consequentialist models. Its claim to psychological plausibility, however, has been challenged by the situationist critique, which argues that the very notion of character traits or virtues is empirically indefensible. This talk will review evidence suggesting that strong versions of the situationist critique of virtue ethics are empirically and conceptually unfounded, and will further argue that, even if one accepts that the predictive power of character may be limited, this is not a fatal problem for early Confucian virtue ethics. Early Confucianism has explicit strategies for strengthening and expanding character traits over time, as well as for managing a variety of situational forces. The talk concludes by suggesting that Confucian virtue ethics represents a more empirically responsible model of ethics than those currently dominant in Western philosophy.
Friday - April 29th, 2011
Rm. 101, Department of Religion
80 Claremont Avenue