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Proceedings of the XXIII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 25, 2018

Moral Psychology

Marcia Homiak
Pages 31-36

On Learning to be Virtuous

On a view derived from Plato and Aristotle, being virtuous involves entrenched, wide-ranging dispositions not only to reason and act, but also to respond and feel. Because affective responses are crucial to being virtuous, Plato and Aristotle thought that it made all the difference how we are brought up. For Aristotle, this is matter of habituation: we learn by doing. What is it that we do when we learn by doing? There is no specific act associated with any virtue, so the answer cannot be that we perform the same kind of action countless times. Moreover, being virtuous involves caring sufficiently about someone or something such that we want to be virtuous. These remarks suggest that habituation is not a straightforward matter. I argue that we become virtuous not by performing actions stereotypically associated with the virtues, but by engaging in activities that give rise to the right loves and attachments. These attachments are the psychological grounding of virtue; without them, having a virtuous character is not possible.