Susan A. Stark
Ph.D., M.A., Georgetown; B.A., Brown
Susan Stark works primarily in ethics and moral psychology. She is interested in the psychology of moral virtue and the role emotions play in moral goodness and badness. One of the lessons from Aristotle’s account of morality and to a lesser extent, Kant’s account, is that the agent’s internal states (for Aristotle, her character and emotions) are morally significant, indeed as significant as her actions. Individuals, as a result, can be morally assessed for these internal states, including their emotions and their characters, as well as for their actions. One of Susan’s projects has been to investigate whether Kantianism can provide an adequate role for moral emotions. She argues that although Kantian ethics can allow a robust role for moral emotions, ultimately Aristotelian virtue theory can allow a greater role for moral emotions. This is one of virtue theory’s strengths.
Susan is also interested in recent work in empirical philosophy and in psychology, work that aims to understand the psychological states involved in moral virtue and vice. In particular, she is interested in understanding whether and if so, how individuals can be held accountable for actions that result from implicit associations. Susan is also interested in whether the Aristotelian idea of character is empirically supported. Some have argued, that is, that studies in psychology undermine the idea that actions are the result of character; according to this view, which actions an individual does are best explained by the circumstances in which the agent finds herself. Susan argues that this view (often referred to as “situationism”) does not undermine the Aristotelian idea of character.