chapter  9
21 Pages

Acting Well

We have come a long way toward understanding the core components of virtuous agency, where “virtue” is defi ned as the state of character that reliably and predictably enables one to act well. We have seen that the virtuous agent commits to the aims of acting well, that is, to engaging in positive social interaction marked by care and respect for others. We have seen that she draws on this commitment as a source of motivation, so that her actions are motivated by this commitment, as opposed to whims or contingent feelings. We have also seen that the virtuous agent likely employs practical reason throughout this process. It is now time to consider exactly what else an individual can do in order to develop a virtuous character, and specifi cally, what else she can do to bridge the gap between knowing what to do and doing it. Traditional approaches to morality tend to rely on the assumption that their normative proposals (e.g., develop character traits, follow rules) will suffi ce to enable the properly motivated and informed agent to bridge this gap. As we saw in Chapter 5 , however, one of the morals of the debate about situationism is that a theory built on these assumptions runs the risk of generating prescriptions that are psychologically unrealistic or otherwise not successful in enabling people to bridge the gap and succeed in acting well. To avoid this position, we need to make sure that the normative proposals contained within this theory are ones that people can be reasonably expected to employ and that normally will enable the properly motivated and informed person to act well. With this aim in mind, in this chapter I turn to discussing research regarding successful strategies of self-regulation. Because the virtuous agent is essentially a self-regulated agent, who regulates her behavior for the sake of acting well, this research is of vital importance insofar as it allows us to replace assumptions with postulates backed by substantial research.