Seduced Into Caring: Virtue and the Life of the Reader
Clifton, Walter Scott
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Can reading novels and watching films make you a morally better person? In my dissertation I argue that living a life in which the experience of fictional narrative artworks occupies a significant role--what I call the life of the reader--can contribute to the cultivation of virtue. I begin by presenting what I take to be a serious moral problem: on the one hand, being able to access the mental lives of others is key to determining and properly weighting the interests of those around us when reasoning morally, while, on the other hand, psychological research has shown that humans are naturally very poor at attaining such access. In the course of presenting the psychological evidence for our evincing poor "empathic accuracy," I lay out four areas of improvement that researchers have suggested might help us become better at this task. I then turn to showing how living the life of the reader results in improvements in each of these areas, thereby showing that living this kind of life will allow us to make considerable headway toward solving the moral problem described in the early chapters.
- Philosophy