Judging character

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Journal Article

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Cox, D. (2013). Judging character. American Philosopical Quarterly, 50(4), 387-397.

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© Copyright, University of Illinois Press, 2013

2013 HERDC Submission. FoR code: 220300




A lot is at stake in character judgment. How we treat others is influenced by what kinds of persons we take them to be. Our rational plans of life depend upon our insights into our own character and the character of those close to us. Given the importance of the way we judge character, the virtues and vices of character judgment deserve much closer attention than they have received in the philosophical literature. Some philosophers have discussed duties of friendship and how they impact upon the beliefs and judgments of friends. However, virtue theorists have had little to say about the specific virtues and vices of character judgment. This is odd because habits of character judgment are themselves very important aspects of character. We may develop good habits of judgment or bad. We may judge character with diligence and respect for evidence or with thoughtless haste. We may judge others fairly or in selfserving ways, with good motives or bad. The neglect of the virtues and vices of character judgment is especially odd because there is a philosophically troubling tension between apparently virtuous ways in which we may judge character. Should we judge others with clear-eyed impartiality, or is there a role for kindness and sympathy in the judgment of others? Both ways seem to constitute the exercise of a virtue, but on occasions, they pull in opposite directions.

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