Moral Character, Commitment, and Persistence
Keywords:moral character, commitment, Aristotelian ethics
Virtue ethicists assume that the notion of (moral) character should hold a prominent place in our moral thought. In this paper, I offer an argument in support of this view. Central to my argument is a reflection on what it means to be committed to a principle of action. I argue that the notion of commitment is inherently connected to the notion of moral character in two ways. The first is based on the idea that an action that expresses our character is an action that we own in the most substantial way. I suggest that the notion of owning one’s action can be cashed out through the idea of committing to a practical principle. The second connection arises from the thought that the notion of moral character refers to a persistent, enduring moral identity. I argue that in order for a person to be genuinely committed to a principle, she must act in accord with it in a way that is not merely consistent, but persistent across a number of situations. Accordingly, to say of someone that they are committed to a principle of action is eo ipso to ascribe them an enduring moral character. Against this background, I turn to a reading of Aristotle’s notion of virtue as hexis prohairetike as a paradigm example of how the idea of enduring moral commitment may be spelled out in more specific detail.
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