Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program



English (en)

Date of Award

January 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Christopher Wellman


Many people think that integrity is a central concept for moral reasoning. Political, educational, and business leaders tout the importance of integrity for our society's moral health. But there are reasons to doubt that it is solely a moral concept. Our intuitions seem to confirm that a committed Mafia boss may have some form of integrity. Or one might say that integrity is the mere expression of other moral commitments or depict it as a formal virtue lacking any moral content. Others question whether or not it is even desirable or achievable. In this dissertation, I develop an account of integrity that defends integrity from these doubts and present it as a central moral concept. In Chapter 1, I distill a basic notion of integrity from the existing discussions. In Chapter 2 I answer the question, "Is integrity a moral concept?" In Chapter 3 I answer the question "Is integrity a virtue?". In Chapter 4 I respond to an important empirical objection to the moral identity account of integrity. John Doris and Gilbert Harman argue that consistency of character is doubtful because situational factors often overwhelm a person's moral identity. The purpose of this chapter is not to contradict the findings of the social psychology experiments presented in defense of their position, but rather to show that the moral identity account of integrity can better explain their findings. In Chapter 5 I take up another empirical challenge to integrity as a moral virtue. David Luban claims that the quest for integrity is dangerous because we tend to rationalize our unethical acts in the name of integrity. I conclude that individuals can maintain their substantive integrity even when situational pressures and professional roles pressure them to compromise their moral values.



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