Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
There are many significant factors, such as one’s natural temperaments and upbringing, that are outside of one’s control and affect one’s character. This calls into question one’s responsibility for one’s character, and if we are not responsible for our characters, then it seems we cannot be held responsible for the many actions that stem from them. I will show how a person can be responsible for her character and actions stemming from it despite the pervasiveness of character luck. To do this, I develop an account of character and responsibility from various passages in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Rhetoric, and Politics. The latter two texts take into consideration the ordinary citizen who has not been met with good character luck, and they teach us much concerning the way contingent factors like one’s natural temperament or upbringing can affect one’s character and actions springing from it. I argue that we can construct an account of responsibility from Aristotle’s empirically-grounded texts, the Rhetoric and Politics, that is broader than the standard account taken from the Nicomachean Ethics since it does not assume ideal conditions surrounding one’s character development and maintenance and thus can apply to more people. This view of responsibility takes into account not only control and moral awareness, but also one’s capacity to develop virtue and perform virtuous actions. This capacity can be affected by one’s natural temperaments, upbringing, or circumstances that make it easier or more difficult to develop virtue or perform virtuous actions. I finally will show how the account of character of ordinary people in Aristotle is consistent with recent findings in contemporary social psychology which is important for establishing that his moral theory passes the minimal requirement for psychological realism.
Linn, Marcella, "Character Luck and Moral Responsibility: The Character of the Ordinary Person in Aristotle's Rhetoric and Politics" (2017). Dissertations. 2594.
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