point of view, Reflective Values, dispositions, commitments, virtues, virtue ethics, pp, reflective person, L. W. Sumner, Cambridge University Press, Princeton University Press, Oxford, reflective judgment, The virtues, character traits, traditional question, standards, character development, moral philosophy, instrumental value, Reflective Value Account, Harry G. Frankfurt, Stephen Darwall, University of California Press, Thomas E. Hill, subjective responses, John Rawls, value commitments, Harvard University Press, practical wisdom, Oxford University Press, core commitments
The Reflective Life: Character and the Values We Live With Valerie Tiberius University of Minnesota
October 13, 2003/Last revised: June 24, 2005 Table of Contents 1. Introduction: The Good Life as the Reflective Life 1.1 The Good Life and Reflection 1.2 The Subjective Point of View 1.3 Aristotle and virtue ethics
1.4 Virtue 1.5 Process, Deliberation and Perspectives 1.6 Summary of Chapters Part I: Reflective Virtues 2. Stability 2.1 Features of our Value Commitments: Some Examples 2.2 Stability as a Virtue 2.3 Stability, Reflection and Idealized Value Commitments 2.4 Conclusion 3. Perspective 3.1 Having Perspective: Some Examples 3.2 Perspective and Reflective Values 3.3 Refining the Account of Perspective 3.4 The Value of Perspective 3.5 Conclusion 4. Wisdom and Perspective 4.1 A Reflective Conception of a Good Life 4.2 Reflection and the Need for Limits 4.3 Shifting Perspectives 4.4 Wisdom and Perspective Shifts 4.5 Wisdom and Rationality 4.6 Conclusion Part II: Values and Commitment-relative Virtues 5. Values 5.1 The Question 5.2 Evidence and Reflective Values 5.2.1. The Case for Universal Values 5.2.2. Correlations and Compatibility 5.3. Philosophical Conclusions
5.3.1. Controversial Values 5.3.2. Humean Justification 5.3.3. Values and Meta-Values 5.4 Values and the Challenges of Modern Life 6. Self-Awareness 6.1 The Scope of Self-Knowledge 6.2. Self-awareness and the Capacities for Self-knowledge 6.3 The Value of Self-awareness 6.3.1. The Instrumental Value of Self-awareness 6.3.2. Self-awareness and Autonomy 6.4 The Limits of Self-Awareness 6.5 Conclusion 7. Cynicism, Optimism, and Realism 7.1 Preliminaries: Endorsement and Virtue 7.2 The Value of Being Realistic 7.3 Cynicism 7.4 Optimistic Realism 7.5. The Value of Optimistic Realism 7.6. Conclusion 8. Character Development 8.1. Training our Thoughts 8.2. Gratitude and Mindfulness 8.3. Being a Good Friend 8.4. Conclusion Part III: Beyond the Subjective Point of View 9. Morality and the Reflective Life 9.1 Reflective Character and Moral Agency 9.2 Conflicts 9.3 Self-Interest and Morality 9.4 Chaos, Discretion, and Complacency 9.5 Conclusion 10. Normativity and Ethical Theory 10.1 The Desire to Live Well 10.2 Arbitrariness 10.3 Contingency 10.4 The Painter and the Anatomist 10.5 Conclusion
1 The Reflective Life: Character and the Values We Live With Chapter 1: Introduction 1.1. The Good Life and Reflection What is it for life to go well? How should I live in order to live a good life, to flourish, or to be happy? These questions can mean different things, but one important thing that is sometimes being asked is what it is for a life to go well from one's own point of view. What is it for life to go well, in other words, not from the moral point of view, not for the sake of others, but for me, from my own subjective point of view? What kind of question is this? And what kind of answer does it merit? First of all, although it is not a question about morality per se, it is a normative question. It is a request for guidance and for reasons to live one way or another that cannot be answered by appeals to evolution or brain chemistry, at least not without some story about why these facts provide a justification for the way of life they would recommend. "How should I live?" even when this is not a moral question is a question that is asked by reflective creatures who are looking for answers that give them a reason to do things one way rather than another. It is also, perhaps surprisingly, a question that is not easily answered. Living well from your own point of view seems to have something to do with doing what you want, but doing what you want is not as simple as it seems. First of all, we often don't know what we want and this means that getting it is no simple matter. Especially in modern Western culture
we are bombarded by messages telling us what we need in order to be happy that mislead and confuse us about our own interests and concerns. Second, when we do know what we want it is not always easy to satisfy our various desires together, given that there are usually some tensions
2 among them. Modern life is full of conflicting pressures and demands pulling us in different directions; desires for friends, family, career, personal fulfillment and moral virtue or rectitude are not easy to fit neatly into a single life. Moreover, even when we can figure out what we want and how to get it, getting what we want is not all there is to having our lives go well, even from our own point of view. Comedian Orny Adams expresses this familiar theme when he says "I got everything I wanted this year and I've never been more stressed and more miserable".1 The idea that living well from your own point of view is the same as getting what you want assumes that desires are the only significant feature of a person's point of view. This picture is an attractive one because of the presumed close connection between a good life and motivation: if living well is getting what we want, it is easy to see why we are motivated to live well. In fact, desires are not all there is to our subjective point of view and the assumption that they are should strike us as an odd one. This is because the person who asks the question "How should I live?" is a person who is concerned with reasons and standards. The fact that the question "what is a good life for me?" is a normative question, a request for reasons, is vitally important because it means that what we are aiming at when we strive to live a good life is to live in accordance with good reasons or appropriate standards for how life should go. A crucial component of a person's point of view, then, is the set of standards she endorses. Conceiving of a good life in terms of the satisfaction of desires is just too narrow. The fact that we care about standards, reasons and justification also reveals that living well from your own point of view is not necessarily the same as thinking that you are living well. We can make a distinction between two different senses of "your own point of view". According to one, living well from your own point of view is equivalent to thinking that or
3 feeling as if you are living well.2 Whether you are living well or not is entirely subjective; your own thoughts or feelings on the matter are infallible and cannot be corrected. According to the other, living well from your own point of view is living in accordance with the standards you endorse as the right ones. This way of thinking of the good life introduces the possibility of criticism and fallibility. You may incorrectly think you are living well either because the standards you are following are not the ones you reflectively endorse or because you are not actually meeting these standards even though you think you are. Insofar as our concern to live a good life is a normative concern, and insofar as it is a presumption of this concern that we could go wrong, the second notion of living well is more true to our actual interests. Taken as a normative ideal, living well from your own point of view means living in accordance with your own standards, the standards you regard as justified or appropriate. A good life, paraphrasing David Hume
, is one that can bear your reflective survey.3 It is a life we endorse or approve upon reflection. Endorsement is a fitting word here because it connotes both an affective and a cognitive component. To endorse how your life is going is to have feelings of approval in addition to a judgment that these feelings are appropriate or warranted.4 Now for our standards to sustain genuine evaluation and justification, it must be possible to go wrong. If we take a person's standards to be whatever standards she happens to have, then the resulting notion of the good life will not answer our deep normative concern which brings with it the assumption that we can be wrong about various things, including what standards we ought to use to assess how well our lives are going. For our standards to play the justificatory role we want them to play, there must be more to their justification than the fact that we happen to endorse them at the time.
4 Following this line of thought, we might conceive of the relevant standards as highly idealized: the standards a person would endorse or accept if she were reflecting in an ideally rational way. Alternatively, we might say that the standards to live by are the objectively right ones. But neither of these proposals is adequate for an account of living well from one's own point of view. A highly idealized or an objective account of the relevant standards is problematic because extreme ideals and objective truths can be very far removed from a person's own point of view. Given this fact, while such notions might be useful for understanding other normative notions, it is difficult to see what relevance they have to questions about how to live well from a subjective point of view. We need a middle path that takes seriously a person's own point of view without abandoning the possibility of rational criticism and room for improvement. We can find this middle path, I suggest, by examining what it is to be a reflective agent who has standards of evaluation and believes that these standards and her ability to live according to them might be improved. In other words, I suggest that we turn our attention to the character of a reflective agent and the nature of the reflective survey she takes on her life. When we do so, we find that a person who is concerned to live a good life from her own point of view has reasons to develop the virtues that make reflection and evaluation possible. As we build our account of a reflective agent, we will also find that such a person has reason to cultivate some virtues because they help her to achieve particular values that are part of a good life. The virtuous ideal provides motivation and grounds for improvement of the standards we endorse. Moreover, these grounds for improvement will not be too far removed from the subjective point of view of a reflective agent because the virtuous ideal is constructed on the basis of claims about what the reflective point of view is like for human beings
5 The emphasis here on reflection should not be taken to imply that the activity of reflection comprises a large part of the content of a good life. The reason for starting with the notion of a reflective agent is that reflective agency is, to put the point in terms that Christine Korsgaard has made familiar, the source of normativity. We experience the world as imbued with norms only because we are reflective agents concerned about reasons and justification. I part company with Korsgaard in the conclusions that I draw from this basic starting point because I see the subjective and contingent features of human beings that a Humean perspective highlights as equally important to the construction of normative theory. If it is helpful to have a label, we could call the metaethical view that underlies my account of the good life "Humean Constructivism".5 On this view, as we shall see, the fact that reflective agency is a starting point for normative theory does not entail that we ought to be reflective all the time; other features of human life give us good reason not to reflect too much. Further, taking reflective agency as a starting point in the way I intend does not imply that our reflective capacities are the means by which each of us discovers what has value for us. As Harry Frankfurt aptly puts it "If we are to resolve our difficulties and hesitations in settling upon a way to live, what we need most fundamentally is not reasons or proofs. It is clarity and confidence".6 I agree with Frankfurt that the strong commitments we have to our friends, families and projects are not (usually) caused by reflection. Insofar as we are reflective beings, however, I do think we assume that reasons could be given. And failing to find reasons can undermine our commitments: this is the source of mid-life and existential crises that befall people at certain stages of life. Justification of our commitments is crucial to my account, then, but the precise nature of this justification is open textured; for many, a strong emotional attachment may count as a justification for valuing something.7
6 This book is an investigation into the character of a "happy" person, a person whose life is going well from her own point of view.8 I call the account I develop the Reflective Values Account of the good life. This account differs from many traditional virtue ethical accounts of flourishing or living well because of the centrality of the subjective point of view. At the same time, the account defended here differs from many subjective accounts of living well in its attention to virtue and its reliance on assumptions about shared Human Values
. By the end of the book, I hope it will be evident that these differences from traditional approaches are a strength of the Reflective Values Account. Before we get to the main arguments, though, it will be helpful to clarify and elaborate on the starting points from which the book departs. 1.2. The Subjective Point of View Subjective accounts of well-being or welfare are very attractive because it is compelling to think that nothing can make a difference to a person's welfare unless it affects her experiences, that is, unless it impinges upon her subjective point of view.9 Well-being, however, is not the same thing as a good life. Well-being, in my view, is a narrower notion than that of a good life and it is the latter notion on which I will focus. A good life may include well-being, but achieving a good life may also require acting morally in ways that decrease one's own wellbeing.10 By "the good life" I intend the broadest, overarching goal; it is what we aim at that includes all of our particular goals, including our own welfare. One reason for focusing my discussion on the good life rather than welfare is that the good life, because it is overarching, is the more natural object of deliberation about how to live. The Reflective Values Account assumes that the subjective point of view is vitally important to what it is to live a good life and some might find this emphasis on the subject's point of view wrong-headed from the start. One worry is that there are other perspectives to take
7 on what it is to live well that are equally if not more important. What is important, one might say, is how to live our lives in accordance with moral principle
s, religious standards, or our human nature
. I agree that some of these questions are also important, but the fact is that many people do care deeply about whether or not their lives go well from their own point of view. The subjectively good life may not be the only concern people have, but it is certainly one of them and it is a powerful motivator. It is also therefore a good starting point for arguments that one's own good and the moral good are not at odds with each other. Another worry is that the focus on the subjective point of view will result in an account of living well that is unconstrained, selfish, or solopsistic. But whether this is true or not depends on the nature of the subjective point of view. If that point of view is selfish and reckless, then living well from one's own point of view may turn out to be something quite far from any intuitively compelling account of living well. But why should we think that the subjective point of view is selfish and reckless? The subjective point of view articulated here includes commitments to values that exist outside of the agent. Living well for someone who has such commitments requires achieving or acting in accordance with these values and this means that there is a difference between living well and merely thinking that you are, even on a subjective account (at least on the kind of subjective account I am defending). Further, the subjective point of view that is our starting point is essentially reflective and one of the main arguments of this book is that this point of view does not lead us to an objectionably selfish and unconstrained account of living well.11 Instead, I hope to show that beginning from this nearly universal and powerful concern to live a good life from one's own point of view, we can generate an account of living well that will seem attractive from the vantage point of moral theory and theories of human flourishing that begin from less subjective starting points.
8 1.3. Aristotle and Virtue Ethics In some important respects, the strategy of argument described briefly above resembles the Aristotelian strategy for defining human flourishing. It is therefore worth pausing to consider the comparison. An investigation into the character of a happy person certainly sounds Aristotelian, and yet the virtues I discuss are not all Aristotelian virtues. The divergence results from a difference in initial starting point: the Aristotelian begins with thoughts about the human being as a natural organism and proceeds to think about what is good, given this nature. I begin with thoughts about the concerns embedded in the normative questions of reflective creatures. This difference makes a difference to which virtues are discussed first, and to the justificatory structure of the theory.12 Furthermore, there is a way in which the account of the good life discussed here is contingent in a way that Aristotle's is not usually taken to be. My account of the good life is addressed to people with a specific concern to live a reflective life, it relies on claims about the values that people tend but might fail to have, and it relies on facts about western culture that are historically and geographically specific. Aristotle's account of flourishing is not meant to be contingent in any of these ways. That said, there are some important similarities that should be acknowledged. First, Aristotle and Aristotelians are very sensitive to what people are like because they rely on a conception of our nature to justify the virtues. A similar attention to the facts about us will be evidenced in this book. For example, the discussion of commitment relative virtues in Part II relies on data about what value commitments people have and how these commitments are related to each other. Very recently a new field has arisen in empirical psychology: the field of positive psychology
. Positive psychologists aim to ascertain the constituents of what they call subjective well-being, and to establish correlations between different values and different
9 measures of happiness. Given the sensitivity of what counts as a virtue to facts about human beings and our commitments, it seems reasonable to refer to this new literature in our discussion of virtues. A subsidiary aim in this book, then, is to provide one preliminary model for how such work in empirical moral psychology might be taken account of by philosophers. Second, at least on one standard interpretation, the Aristotelian strategy does not divide moral values from non-moral values and attempt to ground the one in the other. The ancients did not draw a hard distinction between these two "types" of value, nor did they assume that one or the other was primary.13 So too in my investigation the intent is to take people as they are with a variety of commitments, some that would fall into a traditional conception of morality, some that would be categorized as prudential, and others that defy neat categorization (such as the commitment to friends and friendship). What I hope to establish through this investigation also echoes the Aristotelian tradition according to which morality and prudence, traditionally conceived, are much closer than might at first have appeared. In describing the character of the happy person we will come to see that such a person fares well from the point of view of traditional moral theories. The intention is not to prove that it is always prudentially rational to be moral; rather, the intention is to show that when we begin our inquiry from the right place, the question about whether morality is prudentially rational looks much less important. Given the similarities to Aristotelian theories and the attention to virtue in my account, one might think that the Reflective Values Account is a brand of virtue ethics. It will be helpful to clarify the way in which this is true and the way in which it is not. If we take "virtue ethics" to name a kind of theory according to which virtues are the fundamental ethical concept, then my account of the good life is not virtue ethical. The basic concern to live a reflective life is ethically fundamental on my view and this concern can be understood without reference to the
10 virtues. If, however, we take virtue ethics to include theories according to which the good life cannot be defined without reference to certain virtues, then the Reflective Value Account does count as virtue ethics. On my view, the reflective virtues are a constitutive part of living well; these virtues are not instrumental to some other good that is independently defined (pleasure or satisfaction, say). There is another respect in which the Reflective Values Account of the good life departs from most virtue ethical theories: it does not attempt to be a comprehensive ethical theory. This is an account of the good life from a person's own point of view, not an account of all of morality. While I do intend to argue that living well from one's own point of view includes being moral in many standard ways, I am not assuming that what it is to be moral in these standard ways can be accounted for by virtue ethics nor that everything that is of concern to us in morality can be captured by the Reflective Values Account. 1.4. Virtue Virtues, in my view, are sets of dispositions to think, act and feel in certain ways, that work together as a regulative ideal for reflection and conduct. To say that a virtue is a regulative ideal is to say that it can play a particular role in a project of character development. A virtue must be a state at which it makes sense to aim and there must be reasons for cultivating it that people can grasp as reasons. The reasons we have to cultivate the virtues essential to the reflective life derive from our interest in living well. It makes sense to cultivate these virtues because we will live better from our own point of view with them than without them. The virtues I discuss, then, are virtues that benefit their possessor insofar as she is concerned about living well in the way I have described. These virtues are related to the good life in two ways. First, they are instrumental to achieving features of the good life. For
11 example, I shall argue that optimistic realism is a means to the end of pursuing moral ideals. Second, virtues are constitutive of the kind of good life that answers to the concerns of a reflective person. Stability, for example, is a virtue without which we have no reflective perspective on our own lives at all. When it comes to the instrumental value of the virtues, the position I will take is that virtues are a reasonable strategy for achieving certain goals that are relevant to living a good life, but not a guarantee. As Rosalind Hursthouse puts it [T]he claim is not that possession of the virtues guarantees that one will flourish. The claim is that they are the only reliable beteven though, it is agreed, I might be unlucky and, precisely because of my virtue, wind up dying early or with my life marred or ruined.14 Insofar as virtues are constitutive of living well we cannot achieve the goal without developing the virtues. Nevertheless, developing the virtues is not a guarantee of living a good life from our own point of view. First, the character that is required for living well is one in which the virtues work together. If a person develops a single virtue and ignores the larger context of her character, she may not achieve a good life. Second, given our particular commitments, for most people there will be elements of living well that character cannot guarantee. For instance, most people value their health and the health of their loved ones, but no amount of virtue can protect us from cancer or car accidents. Still, insofar as the virtues are partly constitutive of a good life, we are better off with them than without them, even though having the virtues does not protect us from the bad luck that may mar our lives. The fact that I define virtues in terms of their instrumental and their constitutive relationships to certain goods has two important implications. First, virtues include an orientation to certain goods or values. Second, the account of virtue I favor is not tightly unified.
12 Which particular dispositions count as a virtue depends upon the role that is played by the character trait in question. Some virtues may include dispositions to overt behavior, others may include dispositions to have certain emotional responses. That there is this variation does not mean that the virtues have nothing in common. There is a common characterization or profile of the virtues, a profile that virtues need to have in order to figure as regulative ideals for the development of our character. This profile includes the following elements.15 First, all virtues include a value orientation or commitment to some value and a disposition to take certain considerations related to this value as reasons that justify action. Second, virtues have certain value commitments in common: in particular, they presuppose a concern to live a life that goes well where this implies living up to certain standards one endorses. Further, because of the centrality of one's own value commitments to this concern, the virtues presuppose a degree of self-acceptance, a sense that one's own commitments are worth pursuing. Third, the virtues benefit their possessor either due to a very strong but contingent relationship between virtue and our values or because they are constitutively related to these values. Fourth, the set of dispositions that constitute a virtue is one that can be developed either by oneself or with help from one's community. Fifth, virtues exist on a continuum. A person can be more or less virtuous and can have different virtues to different degrees. These five features are intended as a general characterization of the nature of virtue, not as necessary and sufficient conditions for a trait to count as a virtue. It is not the task of this book to defend a general account of the nature of the virtues and so I do not argue for this profile, but the discussions of particular virtues that share this profile support the claim that this characterization of virtue is on the right track.
13 Philosophical discussions of the virtues have been under attack recently by those who think that broad and stable traits of character have been shown by social psychologists not to exist.16 Conceiving of virtues as regulative ideals reduces these concerns by emphasizing the way in which virtues are related to practical reasoning
, a strategy of response that has been explored by others in much greater detail than I can do here.17 The basic idea is that possessing a virtue means taking certain considerations to be reasons for acting, feeling or judging in a specific way and that the empirical studies that have cast doubt on the existence of broad traits of character do not have this notion of virtue in mind.18 The virtues discussed here, we might say, are more like habits of thought than like the robust character traits familiar to Aristotelian virtue ethics. The question about the existence of robust traits is not going to be settled here, but it is worth noting on this topic that there is abundant empirical evidence
for the claim that people do have certain kinds of stable traits of character and that these traits can be acquired. The so-called "big five" personality traits openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism are well established traits.19 Of course, these traits are not the same as the traditional virtues, but the fact that there are such traits casts doubt on the view that character, understood broadly, has no role to play in the explanation of human behavior
. Furthermore, when it comes to what we can do to live well, the recommendations of the Reflective Values Account do not preclude attending to the role of SITUATIONAL FACTORS
in determining how we see things, what considerations we are likely to be moved by, and what we value. These factors may be very important in the project of character development.20
14 1.5. Process, Deliberation and Perspectives There is an important structural difference between my account of the good life and other substantive accounts that it is worth highlighting. According to many different views about the nature of a good life (Aristotelian accounts, objective list theories, rational life plan views), the components of a good life can be arranged neatly into a plan or a model of how to live. Our various values, virtues or projects are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle
that can be put together to form an ideal picture of a life. It seems to be a fact of life, however, that many of the things that are valuable to us do not fit neatly together: it can sometimes be difficult to be a good husband and a good friend to someone your wife doesn't like, a good mother to your children and a generous person to strangers, or a good analytic philosopher and a polite and affable conversationalist. The different perspectives
a person has when she is being a mother, a lawyer, or a friend are not ones that can be taken up all at once. The Reflective Values Account recognizes that taking up different evaluative perspectives is vital for a good life. Part of living well is learning how to live with these mismatched pieces. What does this mean for the possibility of arriving at a reflective conception of a good life? When we are being reflective we think about what really matter to us. We can try to assess what matters most without being able to figure out ahead of time how the things that matter all fit together into a unified plan
. Further, new experience may change the way it makes sense to resolve tensions and which tensions need resolution will change as our lives unfold. So, a reflective conception of a good life is not a plan or a unified conception, but a cluster of priorities that is open to interpretation and revision.
15 A reflective life, then, is one in which we work out how to uphold these priorities as we go, making changes and resolving tensions between them in the light of new experiences and further reflection. This dialectical nature of the reflective life emphasizes the importance of the process of deliberation and reflection. Living well in the sense at issue here requires a willingness to think about what matters and to revise your views of what matters in response to new experience. Given this emphasis, the discussions of virtue that follow will often focus on the ways in which traits of character can aid us in deliberating well about how to live. This emphasis on deliberation and reflection should not be taken to privilege the life of a philosopher or other intellectual. The kind of reflection I have in mind, as we shall see, is not something beyond ordinary people who have the liberty to think about how their lives are going in this sense.21 A reflective person thinks about what matters to her and why and it seems, in fact, a bit of intellectual hubris to think that only academics think about these things. There is perhaps a distinctive way that academics and intellectuals engage in reflection about their lives, but nothing in my account of reflection requires this particular way of thinking. In fact, one might think that academics and intellectuals are more likely to encounter certain barriers to good reflection: excellent capacities for rationalization and argument, a tendency toward selfdeception and self-aggrandizement, and a lack of sensitivity to others are vices that abound among academics and these traits do not aid our reflection on how to live. 1.6. Summary of Chapters The book is divided into three parts. Part I discusses that aspect of character that allows us to have genuine value commitments and a point of view from which to evaluate how our lives are going, whatever the particular objects of our commitments may be. Part II discusses our shared human values and some virtues that are contingent on our having particular value
16 commitments. Part III draws out some of the implications of the Reflective Values Account for traditional questions in moral philosophy
. For our lives to go well from our own point of view we must have commitments to serve as standards of evaluation. Given that this inquiry is addressed to people who are concerned to have reasons for doing one thing rather than another, these standards must be justified: they must stand up to rational criticism so that we can be confident that they are reasonable standards to have. The part of our character that allows us to take our commitments seriously and yet have critical distance when we need to is what I call the virtue of stability.22 Stability as I define it in Chapter 2 is a virtue because we need value commitments about which we can be confident to serve as standards for assessing how our lives are going. Stability is, in this sense, a prerequisite for being a reflective person. Of course, having standards that constitute our point of view is not sufficient for a good life. We also need to act in accordance with our value commitments and this sometimes means being completely absorbed by them in a way that is incompatible with deep reflection. We need the ability to stand back from our particular commitments in order to remind ourselves of our reflective values and then to bring our feelings, thoughts, and actions in accord with these core commitments. In other words, we must have the virtue of perspective, which is the topic of Chapter 3. Knowing when to be reflective and when not, and being able to shift our attention between the various evaluative perspectives that engage us is a component of practical wisdom. This aspect of practical wisdom is the topic of Chapter 4. The divisions between stability, perspective, and other aspects of practical wisdom are somewhat artificial. Each of these parts of our reflective character requires the ability to reflect critically on our value commitments and the capacity to take an evaluative perspective and
17 commit to it. Nevertheless, it makes sense to begin by considering the three traits separately because each does emphasize a different aspect of reflective character. In order to characterize the reflective person, we need only think of a person who has some value commitments and a concern to live well in accordance with reasons or standards; we do not need any account of the content of these commitments. The reflective virtues are virtues for anyone with a commitment to living well, no matter what other commitments he or she has. Once we have an account of the character of a reflective person, we can build up the account of the good life by asking what reflective people tend to value. What commitments do reflective people have? This is not a question about the commitments of some unachievably ideal version of a person. Such an analysis would be useless for guiding people in how to live well from their own point of view. Moreover, anyone who grasps the question we are addressing is reflective to the minimal extent of having a concern to find reasons to live one way or another; the reflective ideal is achievable in degrees and some degree of it is accessible to just about anyone. Nevertheless, this is not a purely empirical question because people are often committed to things in spite of their reflective judgment rather than because of it. What we must do, then, is filter the empirical evidence about people's commitments so that we have an account of what people are committed to qua reflective. In Chapter 5 I survey the empirical literature and argue that most people upon reflection value close relationships with other people, helping others or doing good, selfdirection, achievement, and pleasure or enjoyment. Many of the traditional virtues are a means to or a constitutive part of these valuable ends. But the list of traditional virtues does not take our contemporary western culture into account and there are features of life now that give rise to the need for different character traits
18 (or, at least, different forms of the old ones). Life in modern western societies is characterized by competing demands and sources of stress, pressing and often overwhelming moral problems, and the imperative to be yourself in the context of a society that does not always foster the development of autonomy or approve of what people autonomously decide. In this context, I argue that we would do well to develop the virtues of self-knowledge (Chapter 6) and optimistic realism (Chapter 7). Chapter 8 draws on previous discussions of particular virtues to consider the project of character development, which, I suggest, requires training certain habits of thought. Among other things, this process includes thinking about what traits of character or habits of thought will be good for us, given our commitments and what we are like. I use the remainder of the chapter to consider other virtues from the point of view of the process of character development. All the virtues discussed in Part II are virtues that, in different ways, facilitate our taking pleasure in our friendships and personal projects, finding achievement in our moral and nonmoral commitments and discovering what combination of commitments will lead us to judge that we are living well. The commitment relative virtues are, therefore, instrumental to living well in our current setting. These virtues also make intrinsic contributions to a good life in their own ways, as we will see in the discussions of individual virtues. Our investigation into the happy person's character will provide a rich, empirically grounded description of the kind of person who lives well. This description will illuminate the traditional question about the relationship between morality and prudence, which will be discussed in Chapter 9. It will also illuminate another question of central importance to moral theory, namely, the question about the source of normativity given a naturalistic picture of the world. Decades ago, Elizabeth Anscombe accused moral philosophers of not bringing their
19 moral theories up to date with their naturalistic world views and perhaps we have still not come very far in meeting Anscombe's challenge.23 The investigation of this book sheds light on the nature of normativity through its inquiry, in Chapter 10, into the experience of normative or evaluative commitments. The main concern about naturalistic explanations of normativity that tie normative authority to our commitments is that our own commitments cannot provide us with any reflective closure because they are ultimately arbitrary. If the Reflective Values Account ultimately relies on the concern to live well from one's own point of view as a source of normative authority, then its whole account of normativity will be infected with the arbitrariness of this concern. On my view, however, as I will argue in Chapter 10, the commitment to living a good life from one's own point of view is not arbitrary in any interesting sense. Chapter 10 also takes up a concern about the methodology employed in defending the Reflective Values Account of living well, namely, that the fact that the argument for the account is contingent in several ways will unduly limit its scope. Claims about our reflective values are based on contingent facts about the kinds of commitments and concerns people tend to have. Claims about how we ought to develop our character are dependent on these contingent claims about values and also on contingent facts about the pressures of Modern Society
. Some might take these various contingencies to undermine any normative status the Reflective Values Account might have had. For naturalists in the Humean tradition, ethics must fit into the natural world: there are no pure principles of practical reason and no ethical facts woven into the fabric of the universe that have authority independently of our attitudes and commitments.24 One contribution I hope this book will make is to demonstrate by example one respectable way in which Humean naturalists can proceed in normative ethics
. Philosophers committed to naturalism of this kind have largely
20 turned away from normative philosophy and have focused their attention on metaethical analysis of the questions being asked and the status of the possible answers to them.25 If I am right, then there is another role for Humean ethicists: by drawing out the implications of our commitments in light of our ideals and aspirations about how to live, we can demonstrate the reasons that there are for developing our character and improving our lives. If my defense is persuasive, we should conclude that naturalists of this sort can defend first-order, normative theories. Such normative theories will be highly dependent on people turning out to be a certain way or being committed to certain norms and ideals. But this is not a problem if our assumptions about what people are like are well informed and justified. Pursuing this methodology requires philosophers to leave their armchairs, of course, but it should not surprise us that a commitment to fitting ethics into the natural world requires us to investigate what that world is like. The question about how to live well is addressed to people for whom this is a normative question, people who have a need for justification, reasons and standards. How to answer this question in the context of a naturalistic world view is the subject of this book. The scope of the book is not universal. If there are people who do not have these concerns, who do not care about what reasons they have to live one way rather than another, I have no argument to compel them to care. I do hope that the description of the happy person I provide is attractive in its own right and that it will therefore be natural to identify with the concerns that motivate this characterization. The concerns I identify as the concerns we have about our lives might be at times something to aspire to rather than something that already guides us. If this is the case, the Reflective Values Account of a good life is relevant to our practical life insofar as we aim to live in accordance with our aspirations.
21 Endnotes 1. From the film The Comedian, 2002. 2. Even the most subjective accounts of well-being have moved away from this kind of extreme subjectivism. L. W. Sumner, for instance, an influential defender of subjective accounts of wellbeing, maintains that a person's subjective responses to her life must not be misinformed or nonautonomous if they are to count as relevant to her well-being. See chapter six of his Welfare, Happiness and Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996). 3. Hume seems to assume that bearing one's own survey as an important goal in human life when he embarks on a brief exhortation to virtue at the end of the Treatise. Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature
, Second Edition, ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1978). pp. 619-620. Other philosophers who share this assumption include Rudiger Bittner, What Reason Demands, trans., Theodore Talbot (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 123; Thomas E. Hill
, "Pains and Projects" in his Autonomy and Self-Respect (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), pp. 173-188; John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, (Cambridge, MA.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University
Press, 1971), p. 422; and Charles Taylor, "Responsibility for Self" in Amelie Rorty, ed.., The Identities of Persons (Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1976), pp. 281-299. 4. Here I rely on L. W. Sumner's characterization of endorsement in his Welfare, Happiness and Ethics, op. cit., pp. 145-146. 5. There is some similarity, then, between my account of a good life and constructivist theories in ethics. On Kantian constructivism see John Rawls, "Kantian Constructivism in Moral Theory", The Journal of Philosophy 77 (1980), pp. 515-572 and Thomas E. Hill, "Kantian Constructivism in Ethics", Ethics 99 (1989), pp. 752-770. Other varieties of constructivism are also possible. Mark LeBar is working on an Aristotelian version of constructivism. See his "Good for You", Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 85 (2004): 195-217. One might call my view "Humean Constructivism", a term which, to the best of my knowledge, was coined by Jimmy Lenman who used it to describe the view that he and I both favor. 6. Harry G. Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love, (Princeton: Princeton University
Press), p. 28. 7. According to Frankfurt, "The fact that people ordinarily do not hesitate in their commitments to the continuation of their lives, and to the well-being of their children, does not derive from any actual consideration by them of reasons; nor does it depend even upon an assumption that good reasons could be found. Those commitments are innate in us. They are not based upon deliberation. They are not responses to any commands of rationality." The Reasons of Love, ibid., p. 29. I agree with Frankfurt that our commitments themselves are often not based upon rational considerations. However, reflective creatures sometimes do deliberate about how to
22 live, and when we do so we are looking for reasons and justification. Now the confidence and clarity that Frankfurt cites can be our justification for having some commitment. The point is that when we are asking for justification we do need something that counts as a reason for us. 8. "Happy" is an unfortunate term in some ways because it suggests an affective state like pleasure. "Well-off" suggests financial health and "flourishing" or "eudaimonic" connote the Aristotelian picture. Since there is no ideal term for the adjective corresponding to the good life from one's own point of view, I will use "happy". 9. Sumner makes a compelling argument for this view in his Welfare, Happiness, and Ethics, op. cit. 10. Here I am sympathetic to Stephen Darwall's claim that welfare has "no conceptual connection to normative reasons from the first person point of view", Welfare and Rational Care (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2002), p. 52. According to Darwall, one of the problems with accounts of welfare that do make this close connection to normative reasons is that they seem to make rational self-sacrifice impossible because whatever we have reason to do (at least on some such accounts) counts as contributing to our welfare. On my view, `the good life' encompasses everything we take ourselves to have reason to do, but I do not think it is an undesirable implication that we cannot rationally sacrifice living in accordance with our standards and reasons. 11. I use "reflective" rather than "rational" to describe the point of view of someone who is concerned to live her life in accordance with standards or reasons. This is because the word "rational" has so many technical meanings that it may create confusion. 12. Ultimately, it may be that the virtues I discuss can be mapped on to Aristotelian virtues, but it is not part of my project to show that this is so. 13. On this point see Martha Nussbaum, The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek tragedy
and Philosophy, revised edition, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), p. 5. 14. On Virtue Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 172. 15. My account here been greatly influenced by the work of Rosalind Hursthouse, On Virtue Ethics, op. cit., and Christine Swanton, Virtue Ethics: A Pluralistic View (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. 16. For the best developed of these critiques see John Doris, Lack of Character: Personality and Moral Behavior (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).
23 17. See, for example, Julia Annas, "Comments on John Doris' Lack of Character", Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, forthcoming, and Rachana Kamtekar, "Situationism and Virtue Ethics on the Content of Our Character", Ethics Vol. 114, No. 3, April 2004, pp. 458-491. 18. Doris charges that this strategy may rely on views about the power of practical reason that are also empirically suspect, "Book Symposium on Lack of Character", Philosophical and Phenomenological Research, forthcoming, pp. 10-13 (in manuscript version). In my view it is very difficult to create controlled Psychological Studies
that measure the effects of tendencies to take certain considerations to be reasons. When it comes to such traits we may be better off relying on the qualitative observations we find in literature, journalism and personal experience
. 19. For a helpful review see Shigehiro Oishi, Ed Diener, Christie Napa Scollon, and Robert Biswas-Diener, "Cross-Situational Consistency of Affective Experiences Across Cultures", Journal of personality
and Social Psychology
, Vol. 86, No. 3, 2004, pp. 460472. 20. For an account that emphasizes the importance of social factors to the development of character see Maria Merritt, "Aristotelian Virtue and the Social Contribution to Ethical Character", unpublished manuscript. 21. Certainly there are people for whom these questions about how to live well are not pressing. For a person whose basic needs are not met, living a reflective life is an extraordinary luxury. This does not mean, however, that such people are incapable of reflection, nor that they would not be interested in living well in this sense if they were at liberty to do so. 22. "Stability" has the unfortunate connotation of long-term, perhaps even stubborn endurance. As we shall see in the next chapter, virtuous stability is quite different from stubbornness. 23. Anscombe, "Modern Moral Philosophy", Philosophy 33 (1958), pp. 1-19. 24. The label "Humean" means different things to different people. As I intend it, the essential Humean commitment is to the rejection of claims about evaluative authority that are independent of contingent human nature. In another familiar sense a "Humean" is an instrumentalist about practical reason. The view I defend here is not Humean in this sense. 25. Simon Blackburn and Allan Gibbard have done very important and influential work in this area. I do not mean to suggest that there is anything wrong with this approach; my point is just that Humeans are not limited to it.