/ Minor Tweaks, Major Payoffs: The Problems and Promise of Situationism in Moral Philosophy
It seems hard to believe that finding a dime or being slightly pressed for time could impact behavior in such manifest ways. We normally think that if people behave charitably or deplorably it’s because of who they are, the kinds of values they embrace, or the kind of character they possess. But such notions about the efficacy of character traits were rendered problematic by compelling experimental data throughout the 70s and 80s. This led to a strong swing towards situationism. Situationism claims that morally significant behavior is influenced by situational factors to a far greater extent than we normally suppose. Think of the physicians discussed above: notwithstanding their commitment to practicing medicine impartially, their actual behavior was influenced by the small gifts they received from pharmaceutical companies.
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