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The Indispensability of Character


Gilbert Harman has argued that it does not make sense to ascribe character traits to people. The notion of morally virtuous character becomes particularly suspect.

How plausible this is depends on how broad character traits would have to be. Views of character as entirely invariant behavioural tendencies offer a soft target. This paper explores a view that is a less easy target: character traits as specific to kinds of situation, and as involving probabilities or real possibilities. Such ascriptions are not undermined by Harman's arguments, and it remains plausible that the agent's character often is indispensable in explanation of behaviour. Character is indispensable also as processes of control that impose reliability where it really matters.

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