Utilitas

Research Article

Is Situationism All Bad News?

LUKE RUSSELLa1

a1 University of Sydney luke.russell@usyd.edu.au

Abstract

Situationist experiments such as the Milgram experiment and the Princeton Seminary experiment have prompted philosophers to warn us against succumbing to fear of embarrassment and sliding down slippery slopes. Yet it would be a mistake to conclude that situationism is all bad news for moral agents. Fear of embarrassment can often motivate right actions, and slippery slopes can slide us away from wrongdoing. The reason that philosophers have seen situationism as bringing all bad news is that they have focused on the very demanding moral goals of virtuous and autonomous action, while ignoring important moral goals that are less demanding. Fear of embarrassment does undermine virtuous and autonomous action, but that very same fear can help us to act resolutely and rightly, and allows us to manipulate would-be wrongdoers into doing the right thing. This is good news.