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The Learner’s Motivation and the Structure of Habituation in Aristotle

Margaret Hampson

Abstract

Moral virtue is, for Aristotle, a state to which an agent’s motivation is central. For anyone interested in Aristotle’s account of moral development this invites reflection on two questions: how is it that virtuous motivational dispositions are established? And what contribution do the moral learner’s existing motivational states make to the success of her habituation? I argue that views which demand that the learner act with virtuous motives if she is to acquire virtuous dispositions misconstrue the nature and structure of the habituation process, but also obscure Aristotle’s crucial insight that the very practice of virtuous actions affords a certain discovery and can be transformative of an agent’s motivational states. Drawing attention, in Aristotle’s account, to an asymmetry between the agential perspective and the observation of others, I consider what the agential perspective affords the learner, and offer a novel interpretation of the role a learner’s existing motives play in her habituation.

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Published Online: 2022-09-10
Published in Print: 2022-09-07

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