Towards an Empirically and Developmentally Informed Account of Virtue



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



In this thesis, I aim to build upon recent attempts to situate a theory of virtue within work on character traits by social-cognitive scientists like Walter Mischel and Yuichi Shoda. I begin by examining the empirical adequacy of global cognitive-affective processing systems (CAPS) based character traits and virtues. I contend that empirical research does seem to support the existence of the former and is compatible with the existence of the latter.

Next, I argue that one model of moral development that is compatible with my findings in the previous chapter is the communal and tradition based model of moral development. I go on to defend the claim that this model is also well-suited to play a significant role in an account of human moral development that is in keeping with my findings in the previous chapter. Here I specifically focus on pre-adult human moral development.

I then turn my attention to consider human moral development in adults. I argue that character-friendships between adult human beings are compatible with and well-suited for CAPS based accounts of virtue that tie virtue to human flourishing. Recent empirical research on the impact of groups on helping behavior does not subvert the moral significance of character-friendships for adult moral development.

I conclude my thesis by considering future issues that CAPS based virtue theorists need to address. This discussion is undergirded by my attempt to extend CAPS based accounts of virtue by defending three primary theses. First, some CAPS based theories of virtue are empirically adequate. Second, the communal and tradition based model of moral development is compatible and well-suited for such theories, particularly their accounts of pre-adult moral development. Third, character-friendships are compatible with and well-suited for adult moral development in said accounts of virtue. Instead of arguing for a single CAPS based account of virtue, I defend components and models of virtuous development that are consonant with a variety of accounts. Thus, while it excludes some accounts of virtue, my project is broad enough to serve as a framework for a number of different understandings of virtue.