Research Publications

Books

Miller, ChristianHonesty: The Philosophy and Psychology of a Neglected Virtue. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021.

Abstract: Honesty is clearly an important virtue. Parents want to develop it in their children. Close relationships typically depend upon it. Employers value it in their employees. Yet philosophers have said almost nothing about the virtue of honesty in the past fifty years. This book aims to draw attention to this surprisingly neglected virtue. Part I looks at the concept of honesty. It takes up questions such as what honesty involves, the motives of an honest person, how practical wisdom relates to honesty, and whether there is anything that connects all the different sides of honesty, including not lying, not stealing, not breaking promises, not misleading others, and not cheating. A central idea is that the honest person reliably does not intentionally distort the facts as she takes them to be. Part II looks at the empirical psychology of honesty. It takes up the question of whether most people are honest, dishonest, or somewhere in between. Drawing extensively on recent studies of cheating and lying in particular, the emerging model ends up implying that most of us have a long way to go to reach an honest character. Honesty: The Philosophy and Psychology of a Neglected Virtue thus provides a richer understanding of what our character actually looks like as well as what the goal of being an honest person really involves. It will then be up to us to decide if we want to take steps to shrink the character gap between the two.

Miller, Christian and Ryan West. Integrity, Honesty, and Truth Seeking. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020.

Abstract: Integrity, honesty, and truth seeking are important virtues that most people care about and want to see promoted in society. Yet surprisingly, there has been relatively little work among scholars today aimed at helping us better understand this cluster of virtues related to truth. This volume incorporates the insights and perspectives of experts working in a variety of disciplines, including philosophy, law, communication and rhetorical studies, theology, psychology, history, and education. For each virtue, there is a conceptual chapter, an application chapter, and a developmental chapter. The resulting volume significantly deepens our knowledge about and appreciation for these central virtues.

Articles

Cooper, B., Cohen, T. R., Huppert, E., Levine, E. E., & Fleeson, W. “Honesty in organizations: A systematic review and new conceptual framework.” The Academy of Management Annals, Vol 17, Issue 2, forthcoming. 

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Miller, Christian. “Honesty and Character in Contention: Author Meets Cadet Critics.” Journal of Character and Leadership Integration, forthcoming.

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Miller, Christian. “Further Thoughts on Honesty: A Reply to Robert Hauptman.” Journal of Information Ethics, forthcoming.

Miller, Christian. “Bullshit,” in The Blackwell International Encyclopedia of Ethics. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, forthcoming.

Abstract: Harry Frankfurt begins his famous paper, “On Bullshit,” with these words: “One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share” (1988: 117). But what is bullshit? And how does it relate to concepts such as lying and dishonesty? This entry begins by introducing some useful distinctions, and then turns to reviewing the accounts of bullshit provided by Harry Frankfurt, G. A. Cohen, and Andreas Stokke. It ends by clarifying the connection between bullshit and honesty.

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Miller, Christian. “Technology and the Virtue of Honesty,” in Technology Ethics: A Philosophical Introduction and Readings. Eds. Gregory J. Robson and Jonathan Y. Tsou. Routledge, forthcoming.

Miller, Christian. “Honesty,” in The Blackwell International Encyclopedia of Ethics. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, forthcoming.

Abstract: Honesty is held in great esteem in most societies. There is little controversy that honesty is a virtue, nor about whether it is worthwhile to try to cultivate in ourselves and others. At the same time, there has been remarkably little work done on honesty by philosophers in the past one hundred years. So the primary goal here is to outline many of the central philosophical issues and questions that can arise when thinking about honesty, without offering much by way of a review of the literature as there is so little on offer.

Miller, Christian. “Cultivating Virtue in the University: Some Ideas from Philosophy and Psychology,” in Cultivating Virtue in the University. Eds. Michael Lamb, Jonathan Brant, and Edward Brooks. Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.

Abstract: Philosophers have said very little about cultivating virtue in the university. In order to make some preliminary headway, I consider a number of questions including:

  • What is virtue? What are the virtues?
  • Should universities be in the business of cultivating virtue? If so, for which members of the university?
  • How good or bad are students’ characters to begin with?
  • Should a university promote all the virtues in general? Or just focus on a few specific virtues?
  • If it is a few specific virtues, which ones?
  • How should universities go about fostering those specific virtues?

The chapter ends by focusing on the virtue of honesty in particular. It first clarifies some of the philosophical issues and experimental findings which pertain to this virtue. Then it briefly outlines some strategies for fostering honesty in university students.

Byerly, T. Ryan. “Group Intellectual Transparency: A Novel Case for Non-Summativism,” Synthese, 2022. 

Abstract: Philosophical reflection on transparency, including group transparency, is beginning to gain steam. This paper contributes to this work by developing a conceptualization of transparency as an intellectual character trait that groups can possess, and by presenting a novel argument for thinking that such transparency should be understood along non-summativist lines. According to the account offered, a group’s being intellectually transparent consists in the group’s tending to attend well to its perspective and to share its perspective faithfully with others in order to promote their epistemic goods. It is argued that this kind of group intellectual transparency, pace summativism, does not always consist merely in group members possessing intellectual transparency. The argument given for this conclusion works differently from existing arguments for non-summativism about group character traits, and it retains persuasive power even if summativist views of most group phenomena, including other group character traits, are correct.

Byerly, T. Ryan. “Intellectual Honesty and Intellectual Transparency,” Episteme (2022).

Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to advance understanding of intellectually virtuous honesty, by examining the relationship between a recent account of intellectual honesty and a recent account of intellectual transparency. The account of intellectual honesty comes from Nathan King, who adapts the work of Christian Miller on moral honesty, while the account of intellectual transparency comes from T. Ryan Byerly. After introducing the respective accounts, I identify four potential differences between intellectual honesty and intellectual transparency as understood by these accounts. I then turn to the question of how to think about the relationship between these traits in light of these potential differences. I make the case that intellectual transparency can either be regarded as an exceptionally strong or ideal variety of intellectual honesty, or it can be regarded as a distinct virtue from intellectual honesty which is a more cardinal virtue than the latter. Along the way, I also note some places where a case can be made that Miller’s and King’s accounts of honesty and intellectual honesty are in need of refinement or clarification.

Cohen, T. R., Helzer, E. G., & Creo, R. A. “Honesty among lawyers: Moral character, game framing, and honest disclosures in negotiations.” Negotiation Journal (2022).

Abstract: Lawyers have broad discretion in deciding how honestly to behave when negotiating. We propose that lawyers’ choices about whether to disclose information to correct misimpressions by opposing counsel are guided by their moral character and their cognitive framing of negotiation. To investigate this possibility, we surveyed 215 lawyers from across the United States, examining the degree to which honest disclosure is associated with lawyers’ moral character and their tendency to frame negotiation in game-like terms—a construal of negotiation that we label game framing. We hypothesize that the more that lawyers view negotiation through a game frame—that is, the more they view negotiation as an adversarial context with arbitrary and artificial rules—the less honest they will be in situations in which honest disclosure is not mandated by professional rules of conduct. We further hypothesize that lawyers with higher levels of moral character will apply a game frame to negotiation to a lesser degree than will lawyers with lower levels of moral character, and that honesty when negotiating will be higher when lawyers have higher versus lower levels of moral character. Our study results support these hypotheses. This work suggests that focusing on game-like aspects of negotiation can induce a less moral and ethical mindset. To the extent that teaching law students to “think like a lawyer” encourages them to adopt a game frame of negotiation, we can expect such training to reduce the likelihood of honest disclosure.

Fleeson, W., and Jayawickreme, E. “Whole traits: Revealing the social-cognitive mechanisms constituting personality’s central variable.” In B. Gawronski (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 2021, 69-128.

Abstract: Whole Trait Theory articulates a modern theory of individuals’ traits, one that incorpo- rates social-cognitive responsiveness to situations into the nature of traits themselves. It articulates two parts of individuals’ traits, which are joined together into whole traits. One part of individuals’ traits is the descriptive part, and describes how much people enact the trait content in their behavior. The other part is the explanatory part, and con- sists of social-cognitive, motivational, and biological mechanisms that cause the trait contents people enact in their behavior. Two decades of supportive research showed first that trait-content enactments are quite variable. People change the trait contents they enact from moment to moment as much as they change their affect from moment to moment and more than people differ from each other. Nonetheless, people differ in average trait-content enactments in very consistent and reliable ways. The density dis- tribution expresses these joint findings in a unified way, standing as the descriptive side of personality. Second, these descriptive accounts of personality were found to be predicted by social-cognitive mechanisms. Within-person variations in trait-content enactments (states) were predictable from situation features in systematic and mean- ingful ways. Most of the variance—both within-person and between-person—in states was explained by momentary variation in goal pursuit. States were shown to be con- sequential (e.g., extraverted states cause positive affect). Goals were shown to cause states as well. People appear to change states in order to accomplish the consequences desired by current goals at the time. These findings highlight the functional role of personality traits.

Miller, Christian. “The Philosophy and Psychology of Character,” Personality Science 2: 1-5, 2021.

Abstract:In this short reflection piece, I outline how I see both philosophy and psychology contributing to the study of character. In addition, I highlight an area where far more collaborative work needs to be done.

Miller, Christian. “Cultivating Honesty,” in Faith & Virtue Formation: Christian Philosophy in Aid of Becoming Good, Eds. Adam Pelser and Scott Cleveland. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021, 213-235.

Abstract: In this paper, I attempt to take some preliminary steps towards thinking about how to cultivate the virtue of honesty in a novel way. Its novelty stems from the fact that the approach will draw on the latest psychological research being done on honest and dishonest behaviors.

Miller, Christian. “Flirting with Skepticism about Practical Wisdom.” Practical Wisdom: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Routledge, 2021, 52-69.

Abstract: This paper maps out various options for thinking about two issues: the structural relationship between practical wisdom and the moral virtues, and the various functions of practical wisdom. With the help of a case study of the virtue of honesty, three main concerns are raised for what I call the Standard Model of practical wisdom. Two other models, the Socratic Model and the Fragmentation Model, are also critically evaluated. I end by taking seriously an eliminativist approach according to which the trait of practical wisdom does not exist.

Miller, Christian. “Moral Relativism and Virtue.” Virtues in Theory and Practice: Local or Universal? Routledge, 2021, 11-25.

Abstract: While there is an extensive literature on moral relativism in meta-ethics, little has been said in assessing the view with respect to virtue specifically. The goal of this paper is to provide an overview of what I take to be the central issues surrounding moral relativism and moral virtue. Hence rather than trying to advance a moral relativist or moral realist position in detail myself, my approach is more programmatic. I also try to avoid too much technicality in the hope that the paper will be of interest and relevance to those outside the narrow halls of contemporary analytic philosophy.

Miller, Christian. “Motivation and the Virtue of Honesty: Some Conceptual Requirements and Empirical Results.” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice. Special Issue on Character (2020), 23: 355-371.

Abstract: The virtue of honesty has been stunningly neglected in contemporary philosophy, with only two papers appearing in the last 40 years. The first half of this paper is a conceptual exploration of one aspect of the virtue, namely the honest person’s motivational profile. I argue that egoistic motives for telling the truth or not cheating are incompatible with honest motivation. At the same time, there is no one specific motive that is required for a person to be motivated in a virtuously honest way. Instead I advance a pluralistic theory of honest motivation, which allows for motives of caring, fairness, and virtue, among others. The second half of the paper then turns briefly to the empirical literature in psychology and behavioral economics on cheating, to see to what extent honest motives appear to be operative. The upshot is that we have good preliminary evidence for the claim that most people are not virtuously honest.

Miller, Christian. “Honesty and Dishonesty: Unpacking Two Character Traits Neglected by Philosophers.” 75th Anniversary Special Issue on Virtue Ethics: Contemporary Issues. Portuguese Journal of Philosophy 76 (2020): 343-362.

Abstract: There has been almost nothing written in philosophy on honesty in the past fifty years. This paper contributes one piece to a larger project of trying to change this unfortunate state of affairs. In section one, I outline an original account of the behavioural component of honesty as involving being disposed to not intentionally distort the facts as the person sees them. Section two turns to the vice of deficiency, namely dishonesty, which I suggest is the only vice corresponding to honesty. It has at least five different dimensions, and a person’s character needs to be assessed along all of them before an overall judgment as to her dishonesty can justifiably be made.

Miller, Christian. “The Virtue of Honesty, Nazis at the Door, and Huck Finn Cases.” Belgrade Philosophical Annual. Special Issue on Moral Psychology 32 (2019): 51-66.

Abstract: I begin by outlining some of the central conceptual features of the virtue of honesty. But the real focus of the paper is on seeing how my account of honesty can handle certain challenging cases. One case is the “Nazi at the door” example. The other is Mark Twain’s Huck Finn, who seemed to think that what he was doing in helping Jim was morally wrong, and yet we would be reticent to count it as a case of failing to be honest. I argue that my proposed account of honesty can recommend plausible ways to think about both of these famous cases.