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Enacting Virtue

Hampson, Margaret Róisín; (2017) Enacting Virtue. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis is about how we develop as moral agents and come to realise the virtuous activity on which flourishing depends. Aristotle’s account of how this is effected is familiar: we become virtuous through practice of the actions in which virtue finds its expression. But how should we understand the difference between the doings of the learner and the activity of the virtuous agent, and what is it that happens when a learner does these things that results in her realisation of virtuous activity? Whilst both agents perform virtuous actions, the two are engaged in different activities: one is in the process of acquiring a disposition, the other is engaged in its exercise. But we can also see each as related to the actions they perform in different ways. The learner is not yet the author of her actions in the strict sense that the virtuous agent is, who chooses these actions as an expression of a settled way of seeing and valuing things; indeed, the learner’s actions stand in the relation of copy to those of the virtuous agent, or so I argue. How, then, does the learner’s practice of these alienable actions result in her becoming an author of virtuous actions in the strict sense? I argue that by seeing the learner as engaged in the imitation of a virtuous agent we can begin to explain this transition. In imitating a virtuous agent and adopting her perspective, the learner is positioned so as to perceive the value of virtuous action, and thus to discover its attraction. With the aid of Aristotle’s psychological works, I offer a picture of the learner’s habituation which shows how it is that through acting, her perceptions, desires and other capacities are shaped in such a way that she comes eventually to perceive things and to act in the way that the virtuous agent does.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Enacting Virtue
Event: UCL
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10040101
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