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Circumstance, Character or Both? The Intersection of Situationist Social Psychology, Virtue Ethics and Virtue-Ethical Moral Education Open Access


Other title
situationist social psychology
moral education
virtue ethics
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Finnie, Bianca K
Supervisor and department
Welchman, Jennifer (Philosophy)
Examining committee member and department
Nye, Howard (Philosophy)
Schmitter, Amy (Philosophy)
Griener, Glenn (Philosophy and Public Health Sciences)
Department of Philosophy

Date accepted
Graduation date
Master of Arts
Degree level
Situationist social psychology challenges the existence of robust character traits of the sort moral virtues are taken to be. This problematizes a virtue-ethical moral education project which aims to develop good character and thereby improve “interpersonal human relations” (Carr 1999, p.29). Nevertheless, there is good reason to believe that the virtue-ethical concept of character can withstand the critique from situationist social psychology in such a way that the theoretical basis of virtue-ethical moral education (VEME) is not wholly undermined. Moreover, there is reason to believe that VEME may be educationally valuable as it encourages students to be critical and reflective, but also caring and creative, and it does so while trying to develop good character. Consequently, there is reason to believe that experimentally investing in VEME as a way of improving relations among people may be fruitful. However, as the situationist literature suggests, situations do indeed have the power to overwhelm virtuous dispositions and the sensitivities required to recognise a situation calling for a virtuous response. Furthermore the cognitive-affective personality system (CAPS) theory suggests that the details of situations and the meanings that situations have for people play a significant role in virtuous character and action. Given the power of situations, it is reasonable to believe that the insights of situationism and CAPS theory should be taken into account when creating social programmes, such as VEME, that aim to improve interpersonal human relations. Therefore, situation selection and institution development (as suggested by the situationists) should go hand in hand with VEME that is sensitive to CAPS theory when trying to improve “interpersonal human relations” (Carr 1999, p.29).
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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