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Just shy of virtue

Harley, D; (2014) Just shy of virtue. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

In the 'Nicomachean Ethics' Aristotle presents four categories regarding character: vice, incontinence, continence and virtue. The question I will raise is whether these categories exhaust the possibilities of the psychological states that agents can find themselves in with regard to morality. Are we able to conceive of an agent who cannot be said to fall under any of the categories that Aristotle has presented, and is this state a plausible phenomenon? If such a scenario is not only conceivable, but highly plausible, then it would seem that Aristotle's account is unsatisfactory to the extent that he fails to account for this state in his ethical theory. The aim of this thesis is to raise a particular case of moral conversion where it will be argued that the agent depicted in the scenario fails to fall under the categories of character that Aristotle sets out. This agent, I will argue, possesses a set of psychological features that does not match the features that make up the other categories, and, to this extent, Aristotle's account is inadequate. The agent I describe is someone who does not experience the motivational conflict that characterises the continent agent, despite possessing some vicious appetites that have been weakened by means of reason. He is capable of taking the proper pleasure in the fineness of his act even though he has these residual appetites that are vicious. Consequently, this agent cannot be said to be either continent or virtuous, and falls under a distinct category that I will name good-willed. Even though Aristotle does not explicitly endorse this further category, it will be argued that the case I will raise (and what is to be said about it) is not inconsistent with Aristotle's account as a whole, and may even be suggested by it.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Just shy of virtue
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1402574
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