This book is a provocative contribution to contemporary ethics and moral psychology, challenging fundamental assumptions about character dating to Aristotle. John Doris draws on an array of social scientific research, especially experimental social psychology, to argue that people often grossly overestimate the behavioral impact of character and grossly underestimate the behaviorial impact of situations. Circumstance, Doris concludes, often has extraordinary influence on what people do, whatever sort of character they may appear to have. He then considers the implications of this observation for a range of issues in ethics, arguing that with more realistic picture effect, cognition, and motivation, moral psychology can support more compelling ethical theories and more humane ethical practices.
Preface: a renaissance of virtue; 1. Joining the hunt; 2. Character and consistency; 3. Moral character, moral behavior; 4. The fragmentation of character; 5. Judging character; 6. From psychology to ethics; 7. Situation and responsibility; 8. Is there anything to be ashamed of?
"Lack of Character is a very important book both for psychologists and philosophers. It presents the best summary available of the psychological literature documenting the typically weak effects of personality on moral behavior and the massive effects that situations can have. The book also presents a powerful case against 'virtue ethics', which assumes that people act morally to the degree that they have certain dispositions." --Richard E. Nisbett, Theodore M. Newcomb Distinguished University Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
"Adopting a new stance towards character in moral psychology as Doris suggests ought to bring a welcome revolution..." Metapshychology
"Lack of Character is a very important book both for psychologists and philosophers. It presents the best summary available of the psychological literature documenting the typically weak effects of personality on behavior and the massive effects that situations can have. The book also presents a powerful case against philosophical 'virtue ethics,' which assumes that people act morally to the degree that they have certain dispositions. Richard E. Nisbett, Theodore M. Newcomb Distinguished University Professor, Dept. of Psychology, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor
"Doris is a punchy, spirited and bold writer who tackles the important issue of whether we are justified in our belief that there is something called stable moral character that leads to predictable behavior... His arguments do moral psychology proponents an important service by indicating how to integrate moral philosophy with current empirical research... His work should cause quite a stir within virtue ethics circles. At the very least, it should lead to a reexamination of time-worn views about character traits and their manifestations in coherent patterns of actions." Nancy Sherman, Professor of Philosophy, Georgetown Univ.
"...Lack of Character is by far the best thing I know of written on the implications of recent social psychology for philosophical discussions of virtue and character. The book refers to and assesses an extraordinarily large literature in psychology, philosophy, and beyond, and works out in considerable detail one very plausible way of thinking of ethics in the light of the facts of psychology. Gilbert Harman, Stuart Professor of Philosophy, Princeton University
"In addition to presenting his ideas in a clear and jaunty way that allows undergraduates to follow him with little difficulty, Doris has written a book that will interest especially those working on moral theory.... This book is particularly appropriate for collections serving a philosophy major. Recommended." Choice
"This book is a rich and stimulating contribution."
William P. Smith, Philosophical Psychology