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Abstract

Virtuous behavior has often been construed as having three requisite elements: right action, done for the right reason, and also carried out with the “right feeling,” i.e. without the contrary inclination of Aristotle’s merely continent individual. Some have argued that even if the right motivating reason(s) for action might not be directly within our power to act on at will, there are a number of steps we can take in order to make ourselves more responsive to the appropriate reasons – thus giving us indirect control over which reasons we take to be compelling. However, I believe that such accounts emphasize the importance of right action done for the right reason at the expense of giving a complete account of right feeling – and are thus incomplete pictures of both virtuous behavior and the way in which it is, to a degree, within our control, rather than solely a matter of moral luck. In this paper, I elaborate on these views, arguing that if we can control our reasons-responsiveness, it follows that we can likewise influence our sensitivity to what we have reason to desire. If we can make ourselves responsive to the best reasons in support of what we ought to desire, then in doing the right action for the right reason we will presumably satisfy a desire of ours, and thus we will take pleasure in acting virtuously, without a contrary inclination to do otherwise. And, I think this is true regardless of the outcome of debates surrounding the nature of both motivation and desires. In this way, then, I argue that the necessary components for virtuous behavior – doing the right action, for the right reason, and especially with the right feeling – are truly “up to us” in large part, and not merely to chance.

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