Nudging Us Across the "Character Gap": A Theory of Virtue Architecture

Although on the face of it they make strange bedfellows, virtue ethics should be thought together with “choice architecture” (also known as “nudging”). This is because both theories have weaknesses that can be addressed by each other. Psychological studies undermine the project of virtue ethics by arguing that we have no characters and are completely shaped by our situations which leaves virtue ethics with a “character gap.” Meanwhile, nudging has an impoverished view of individuals as ideally rational, preference bundles. Choice architecture theory can teach virtue ethics that even a cursory look at Aristotle’s Politics and biology shows that we are shaped passively, yet this is not a reason to abandon the idea of character if our situations are more rational and therefore shape us to be more rational. Virtue ethics can teach choice architects that choice is not the correct target for “nudging” but that instead it is habit and emotion that should be more intrusively targeted such that we can begin to “bridge the character gap.”