Academic journal article Analysis and Metaphysics

Character as Moral Fiction

Academic journal article Analysis and Metaphysics

Character as Moral Fiction

Article excerpt

Character as Moral Fiction Mark Alfano (University of Oregon) New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013, 226 pp. ISBN 978-1-107-02672-8

Alfano claims that we have reason to attribute robust character traits such as courage, honesty, and open-mindedness to people because such attributions function as self-fulfilling prophecies. Judging the permissibility of an attribution solely in light of the evidence one has before the attribution is too limited. We should think of virtue and character as social constructs. The fully virtuous person possesses at least a critical mass of the virtues, doing the appropriate thing in a wide range of circumstances. It is a presupposition of theories of virtue that moral agents have counterfactual-supporting dispositions. Alfano's theory is descriptively naturalistic: it is methodologically naturalistic, using only the methods consonant with those of the sciences; it is substantively naturalistic, purporting to refer only to entities recognized by the sciences; it is abductively related to the rest of the sciences; and it draws on the soft sciences. Alfano weakens the stringency of normative ethical prescriptions while co-opting aspects of our moral psychology. Moral technology is political neutral, focusing on people's interactions with one another. Libertarian paternalism is its political cousin, primarily concerning itself with third-personal interventions, and is solely about human behavior. …

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