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date: 22 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter describes the introduction of the concept of personality in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century as a secularization and medicalization of the notion of character. This secularization served as the key prelude to the initiation of the scientific study of personality traits. It also examines the origins of the concept of personality disorder in psychiatry's rejection of the disease-based concept of the degenerate, morbid personality. After setting the historical stage, the chapter explores three validity-related issues. The first is a question about what role values should play in the conceptualization of personality disorders. It is argued that that recent empirical research has shown that the evaluative issues that were historically associated with the concept of character have not been (and maybe cannot be) eliminated from the modern notion of personality. The second is a question about the nature of psychopathology in personality disorders. It is argued that, while developing an empirically based capacity-failure model is an important goal, currently multiple models are needed to justify the pathological nature of personality disorders. The third question is about the extent to which personality traits can be considered causal entities in the head that "carve nature at the joints." Characterizing the received view in contemporary trait theory as scientific realism, it is argued that in some cases, the arguments for realism about traits can be empirically refuted, or at least cast into doubt. The conclusion is that the relative merits of a more empiricist instrumental view and scientific realism have not been sorted out.

Keywords: psychopathology, five-factor model, latent variables, heritability, lexical hypotheses, scientific realism, virtue ethics

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