Volume 92, Issue 4, October 2015
Virtue and the Emotions
Boredom and the Divided Mind
On one predominant conception of virtue, the virtuous agent is, among other things, wholehearted in doing what she believes best. I challenge this condition by exploring the connections between the emotion of boredom and the states of continence and incontinence. An easily bored person is susceptible to these forms of inner disharmony because of two familiar characteristics of boredom: that we are often bored by what it is that we know would be best to do, and that occurrent states of boredom tend to give rise to positive interest in performing actions that we know would be bad to do. Moreover, while a susceptibility to boredom can indicate a lack of attentiveness, or be evidence of a vice such as ingratitude, it is in others inseparable from a number of positive qualities of character, such as perspicacity, liveliness, and certain forms of intelligence. Given this, we should reject wholeheartedness as a condition on the virtues, and recognize those possessed by more divided minds as well.