David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Philosophical Topics 32 (1/2):65-94 (2004)
In this work I argue that an agent assumes responsibility for her traits of character by making them her own during the process of their formation. One makes a character trait one's own by identifying oneself with its constitutive desires, or in the case of a particular kind of vice, by failing to identify oneself with desires to act in the corresponding virtuous manner. Unlike the view traditionally attributed to Aristotle, this view does not require that an agent be the original knowing author of her character; and unlike some other recent accounts employing the notion of identification, it does not impose the implausible requirement that an agent's conception of the good be autonomous in any robust sense. ;Chapters 1-3 address three preliminary tasks. I first propose that "character" be understood to refer to those dispositional aspects of a person's personality which are open to moral assessment . I next argue that providing an account of responsibility for character is important because: we hold agents responsible for their character traits, as well as their actions; and it is prima facie plausible to suppose that an agent is responsible for those actions expressing her character only if she is responsible for her character. Thirdly, I examine the Aristotelian account of responsibility for character and diagnose its flaw. ;Chapters 4-6 develop the suggestion that an agent assumes responsibility for a character disposition by identifying herself with its constitutive desires. In chapter 4, I argue that one identifies with a desire in the relevant sense through the formation of an endorsing higher-order desire which reflects the agent's judgment that it would be good to be moved to action by the lower-order desire. Secondly, I contend that such judgments themselves need not be subject to critical scrutiny. That one's identification with a trait must be causally effective in its development is defended in the 5th chapter. Finally, I argue in chapter 6 that being responsible for a trait of character requires that the process of making a trait one's own be grounded appropriately in one's experience and that this experience be sufficiently rich
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