Are we responsible for our characters?

Neil Levy
2002 Ethic@: an International Journal for Moral Philosophy  
A number of philosophers have argued in recent years that we are each, typically, responsible for our characters; for what we are, as well as what we do. This paper demonstrates that this is true only of the basically virtuous person; the basically vicious are not responsible for their characters. I establish this claim through a detailed examination of the conditions upon the attribution of moral responsibility. Most accounts of moral responsibility claim that it is only appropriately
more » ... ropriately attributed to an agent if she exercises control over the action, omission or consequence for which she is held responsible; it is therefore natural to think that we are responsible for our characters only if we exercise a sufficient degree of the right kind of control over their contents. Accordingly, I devote the first half of the paper to establishing that only the basically virtuous person exercises the requisite control. It is a condition upon responsibility for bringing about a consequenc! e that we are capable of understanding the value of that consequence obtaining or failing to obtain; I show that the vicious are unable to understand this value. I then turn to an examination of various non-control conceptions of responsibility for character; I show that all fail. Responsibility for character requires control, but only those who are already basically virtuous exercise the requisite degree of control.
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