Virtue as Social Intelligence: An Empirically Grounded Theory takes on the claims of philosophical situationism, the ethical theory that is skeptical about the possibility of human virtue. Influenced by social psychological studies, philosophical situationists argue that human personality is too fluid and fragmented to support a stable set of virtues. They claim that virtue cannot be grounded in empirical psychology. This book argues otherwise.
Drawing on the work of psychologists Walter Mischel and Yuichi Shoda, Nancy E. Snow argues that the social psychological experiments that philosophical situationists rely on look at the wrong kinds of situations to test for behavioral consistency. Rather than looking at situations that are objectively similar, researchers need to compare situations that have similar meanings for the subject. When this is done, subjects exhibit behavioral consistencies that warrant the attribution of enduring traits, and virtues are a subset of these traits. Virtue can therefore be empirically grounded and virtue ethics has nothing to fear from philosophical situationism.
"Reports of the death of character are greatly exaggerated. Nancy Snow does a wonderful job of defending the empirical viability of virtue ethics, not by dismissing or ignoring the importance of the social psychological literature, but by properly understanding its significance. This is a must-read for anyone interested in psychologically realistic ethics."
-Edward Slingerland, University of British Columbia, Canada
"Snow’s book is fascinating and timely. No other book on virtue ethics goes nearly so far in dealing with psychological studies. A must-read for anyone interested in virtue as a category for moral evaluation."
-Linda Zagzebski, University of Oklahoma, USA
"Nancy Snow’s book, with its focus on the social psychological underpinnings of virtue ethics, is a major contribution to virtue ethical theorizing. In a much needed and insightful discussion, and opposing the situationist critique, she shows how character traits as traditionally conceived have reality and importance."
-Christine Swanton, University of Auckland, New Zealand
Chapter One, "In Search of Global Traits"
Chapter Two, "Habitual Virtuous Actions and Automaticity"
Chapter Three, "Social Intelligence and Why It Matters"
Chapter Four, "Virtue as Social Intelligence"
Chapter Five, "Philosophical Situationism Revisited"