Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Christopher Tollefsen


In this dissertation, I argue that it is possible to develop an empirically adequate form of virtue ethics even if one grants that situationism is true. I define situationism as a skeptical thesis about globalism, or the thesis that temporally stable and trans-situationally consistent character and personality traits are widely instantiated. Situationists such as John Doris and Gilbert Harman argue that globalism is an empirically inadequate thesis. While I accept Doris and Harman’s situationist thesis, they also make a further argument which is the subject of this dissertation. They argue that since globalism is empirically inadequate and Aristotelian virtue ethics is committed to globalism, it follows that Aristotelian virtue ethics is also empirically inadequate. I reject both the minor premise and the conclusion of this argument. I argue that it is possible to construct a form of virtue ethics in which virtues are not understood as global character traits but as habits. Therefore, whatever problems Doris and Harman uncover for the empirical adequacy of globalism do not affect a theory which need not be committed to globalism. By itself, the construction an empirically adequate form of virtue ethics with habits instead of global character traits is not sufficient as a rejoinder to Doris and Harman. In order to be sufficient as a rejoinder, this form of virtue ethics must also be normatively adequate by enabling those who develop such habits to do what they have moral reasons to do. In addition, since virtue ethics is an Aristotelian tradition, such a theory must also be consistent with the claims that Aristotle made about normative ethics in such works as Nicomachean Ethics and Eudaemian Ethics. I argue that my account of virtue ethics meets all three criteria.


© 2015, Richard Barclay Holmes

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