Christian B. Miller, "The Character Gap: How Good Are We?" (Oxford UP, 2018)


My guest today is Christian Miller. Christian is A. C. Reid Professor of Philosophy at Wake Forest University. He is a moral philosopher specializing on character, with special interest in the empirical study of the virtues and vices. He currently directs The Beacon Project, which studies morally exemplars; and he has recently completed a 5-year research project called The Character Project. His latest book is titled The Character Gap: How Good Are We? (Oxford University Press, 2017) Moral thinking and evaluation often occur at the level of the person. We find ourselves asking not simply “What ought I do?” but “Who should I be?” Similarly, in assessing others, we tend to evaluate their behavior be means of concepts that ascribe to them character traits of various kinds--these are virtue and vice concepts such as generous, untrustworthy, timid, honest, and so on. A long tradition going back at least as far as Aristotle takes the person’s character to be the fundamental item of moral evaluation. But an equally long tradition wonders what, exactly, character is. And, more recently, experimental studies of human behavior have given reason to wonder whether there is such a thing as a person’s character at all. In The Character Gap, Christian Miller reviews the philosophical and psychological material pertaining to character. Miller defends the thesis that although there is such a thing as character, most of us lack both the virtues and the vices. I hope you enjoy the interview.

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Robert Talisse

Robert Talisse is the W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University.

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