Utilitas

Research Article

Character, Global and Local

JONATHAN WEBBERa1

a1 University of Bristol jonathan.webber@bristol.ac.uk

Abstract

Philosophers have recently argued that we should revise our understanding of character. An individual's behaviour is governed not by a set of ‘global’ traits, each elicited by a certain kind of situational feature, they argue, but by a much larger array of ‘local’ traits, each elicited by a certain combination of situational features. But the data cited by these philosophers support their theory only if we conceive of traits purely in terms of stimulus and response, rather than in the more traditional terms of inner mental items such as inclinations. We should not adopt the former conception, moreover, since doing so would impede pursuit of the ethical aims for which we need a theory of character, whereas retaining the latter conception will facilitate this pursuit. So we should not revise our understanding of character in the way proposed.