In this major contribution to philosophy and rhetoric, Eugene Garver shows how Aristotle integrates logic and virtue in his great treatise, the Rhetoric. He raises and answers a central question: can there be a civic art of rhetoric, an art that forms the character of citizens? By demonstrating the importance of the Rhetoric for understanding current philosophical problems of practical reason, virtue, and character, Garver has written the first work to treat the Rhetoric as philosophy and to connect its themes with parallel problems in Aristotle's Ethics and Politics. Garver's study will help put rhetoric at the center of investigations of practice and practical reason.
The defining quality of Black womanhood is strength, states Tamara Beauboeuf-Lafontant in Behind the Mask of the Strong Black Woman. But, she argues, the idea of strength undermines its real function: to defend and maintain a stratified social order by obscuring Black women’s experiences of suffering, acts of desperation, and anger. This provocative book lays bare the common perception that strength is an exemplary or defining quality of “authentic” Black womanhood.
The author, a noted sociologist, interviews 58 Black women about being strong and proud, to illustrate their “performance” of invulnerability. Beauboeuf-Lafontant explains how such behavior leads to serious symptoms for these women, many of whom suffer from eating disorders and depression.
Drawing on Black feminist scholarship, cultural studies, and women’s history, Behind the Mask of the Strong Black Woman traces the historical and social influences of normative Black femininity, looking at how notions of self-image and strength create a distraction from broader forces of discrimination and power.
Character and the Individual Personality in English Renaissance Drama: Tragedy, History, Tragicomedy studies instantiations of the individualistic character in drama, Shakespearean and non-Shakespearean, and some of the Renaissance ideas allowing for and informing them. Setting aside such fraught questions as the history of Renaissance subjectivity and individualism on the one hand and Shakespearean exceptionalism on the other, we can find that in some plays, by a range of different authors and collaborators, a conception has been evidenced of who a particular person is, and has been used to drive the action. This evidence can take into account a number of internal and external factors that might differentiate a person, and can do so drawing on the intellectual context in a number of ways. Ideas with potential to emphasize the special over the general in envisioning the person might come from training in dialectic (thesis vs hypothesis) or in rhetoric (ethopoeia), from psychological frameworks (casuistry, humor theory, and their interpenetration), or from historiography (exemplarity). But though they depicted what we would call personality only intermittently, and with assumptions different from our own about personhood, dramatists sometimes made a priority of representing the workings of a specific mind: the patterns of thought and feeling that set a person off as that person and define that person singularly rather than categorically. Some individualistic characters can be shown to emerge where we do not expect, such as with Fletcherian personae like Amintor, Arbaces, and Montaigne of The Honest Man’s Fortune; some are drawn by playwrights often uninterested in character, such as Chapman’s Bussy D’Ambois, Jonson’s Cicero, and Ford’s Perkin Warbeck; and some appear in being constructed differently from others by the same author, as when Webster’s Bosola is set in contrast to Flamineo, and Marlowe’s Faustus is set against Barabas. But Shakespearean characters are also examined for the particular manner in which each troubles the categorical and exhibits a personality: Othello, Good Duke Humphrey, and Marc Antony.
Published by University of Delaware Press. Distributed worldwide by Rutgers University Press.
A classic political philosophy text, available again
The revival of political philosophy has frequently assumed that a theory of human well-being and fulfillment is necessary, preoccupied with questions of epistemology and technical conceptual analysis. In instances where the nature of the human good is considered, the paradigm of autonomous individualism customarily dominates. In Character, Community, and Politics, Cochran moves away from these prevailing ideas to develop a communal theory of political order, helping to redefine a number of fundamental, but often neglected, ideas. Chief among them are commitment, community, responsibility, and character—concepts Cochran develops through discussions of authority, freedom, pluralism, and the common good.
Drawing on a wide variety of fields, such as philosophy, ethics, literature, moral theology, and sociology, the author renews these concepts to outline a theory of human life and political order distinct from sclerotic categories such as conservatism, socialism, radicalism, or Marxism.
Modern permissiveness and the new culture of entitlement allows disturbed people to reach adulthood without proper socialization. In a book meant both for the general public and for professionals, bestselling author and psychologist George Simon explains in plain English:
•How most disturbed characters think.
•The habitual behaviors the disturbed use to avoid responsibility and to manipulate, deceive, and exploit others.
•Why victims in relationships with disturbed characters do not get help they need from traditional therapies.
•A straightforward guide to recognizing and understanding all relevant personality types, especially those most likely to undermine relationships.
•A new framework for making sense of the crazy world many find themselves in when there's a disturbed character in their lives.
•Concrete principles that promote responsibility and positive change when engaging disturbed characters.
•Tactics (for both lay persons and therapists) to lessen the chances for victimization and empower those who would otherwise be victims in their relationships with many types of disturbed characters.
Can the novel survive in an age when tales of historical figures and contemporary personalities dominate the reading lists of the book-buying public?
Naomi Jacobs addresses this question in a study of writers such as William Styron, E. L. Doctorow, and Robert Coover, who challenge the dominance of nonfiction by populating their fictions with real people, living and dead. Jacobs explores the genesis, varieties, and implications of this trend in a prose as lively as that of the writers she critiques.
Using as a case study Robert Coover’s portrait of Richard Nixon in The Public Burning, Jacobs addresses the important legal and ethical questions raised by this trend and applies contemporary libel law to the fictionalization of living people, such as Richard Nixon. She closes her study by speculating on the future of this device and of the novel.
Will Dunne first brought the workshop experience down to the desk level with The Dramatic Writer’s Companion, offering practical exercises to help playwrights and screenwriters work through the problems that arise in developing their scripts. Now writers looking to further enhance their storytelling process can turn to Character, Scene, and Story.
Featuring forty-two new workshop-tested exercises, this sequel to The Dramatic Writer’s Companion allows writers to dig deeper into their scripts by fleshing out images, exploring characters from an emotional perspective, tapping the power of color and sense memory to trigger ideas, and trying other visceral techniques. The guide also includes a troubleshooting section to help tackle problem scenes. Writers with scripts already in progress will find they can think deeper about their characters and stories. And those who are just beginning to write will find the guidance they need to discover their best starting point. The guide is filled with hundreds of examples, many of which have been developed as both plays and films.
Character, Scene, and Story is fully aligned with the new edition of The Dramatic Writer’s Companion, with cross-references between related exercises so that writers have the option to explore a given topic in more depth. While both guides can stand alone, together they give writers more than one hundred tools to develop more vivid characters and craft stronger scripts.
Over the last few decades, character-based criticism has been seen as either naive or obsolete. But now questions of character are attracting renewed interest. Making the case for a broad-based revision of our understanding of character, Character rethinks these questions from the ground up. Is it really necessary to remind literary critics that characters are made up of words? Must we forbid identification with characters? Does character-discussion force critics to embrace humanism and outmoded theories of the subject?
Across three chapters, leading scholars Amanda Anderson, Rita Felski, and Toril Moi reimagine and renew literary studies by engaging in a conversation about character. Moi returns to the fundamental theoretical assumptions that convinced literary scholars to stop doing character-criticism, and shows that they cannot hold. Felski turns to the question of identification and draws out its diverse strands, as well as its persistence in academic criticism. Anderson shows that character-criticism illuminates both the moral life of characters, and our understanding of literary form. In offering new perspectives on the question of fictional character, this thought-provoking book makes an important intervention in literary studies.
Competence and Character through Life
Edited by Anne Colby, Jacquelyn Boone James, and Daniel Hart University of Chicago Press, 1998 Library of Congress BF818.C66 1998 | Dewey Decimal 155.25
Competence and character are at the heart of our notions of a mature and successful adult, yet many questions about their nature and development remain unanswered.
In this collection, leading psychologists, sociologists, and criminologists highlight the potential for positive development in different domains. By positing the possibility of multiple pathways of development rather than a single universal sequence, the contributors view the individual as potentially advancing in a wide range of interrelated and overlapping competencies. The nine essays in the book cover the years from youth to middle age, and they examine a range of social, political, and moral components of "competence and character" from teenage pregnancy and life-planning skills to voting records and educational attainment in low income households. Unlike comparable studies, this original and comprehensive volume frames issues, events, and longitudinal data through the lens of possibility rather than the pathology of defeat, stressing a positive approach to our conception of human potential.
Reviewing Annette Baier’s 1995 work Moral Prejudices in the London Review of Books, Richard Rorty predicted that her work would be read hundreds of years hence; Baier’s subsequent work has borne out such expectations, and this new book further extends her reach. Here she goes beyond her earlier work on David Hume to reflect on a topic that links his philosophy to questions of immediate relevance—in particular, questions about what character is and how it shapes our lives.
Ranging widely in Hume’s works, Baier considers his views on character, desirable character traits, his treatment of historical characters, and his own character as shown not just by his cheerful death—and what he chose to read shortly before it—but also by changes in his writings, especially his repudiation of the celebrated A Treatise on Human Nature. She offers new insight into the Treatise and its relation to the works in which Hume “cast anew” the material in its three books. Her reading radically revises the received interpretation of Hume’s epistemology and, in particular, philosophy of mind.
In the past twenty years, an increasing number of authors have written memoirs focusing on the last stage of their lives: Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, for example, in The Wheel of Life, Harold Brodkey in This Wild Darkness, Edward Said in Out of Place, and Tony Judt in The Memory Chalet. In these and other end-of-life memoirs, writers not only confront their own mortality but in most cases struggle to “die in character”—that is, to affirm the values, beliefs, and goals that have characterized their lives. Examining the works cited above, as well as memoirs by Mitch Albom, Roland Barthes, Jean-Dominique Bauby, Art Buchwald, Randy Pausch, David Rieff, Philip Roth, and Morrie Schwartz, Jeffrey Berman’s analysis of this growing genre yields some surprising insights. While the authors have much to say about the loneliness and pain of dying, many also convey joy, fulfillment, and gratitude. Harold Brodkey is willing to die as long as his writings survive. Art Buchwald and Randy Pausch both use the word fun to describe their dying experiences. Dying was not fun for Morrie Schwartz and Tony Judt, but they reveal courage, satisfaction, and fearlessness during the final stage of their lives, when they are nearly paralyzed by their illnesses. It is hard to imagine that these writers could feel so upbeat in their situations, but their memoirs are authentically affirmative. They see death coming, yet they remain stalwart and focused on their writing. Berman concludes that the contemporary end-of-life memoir can thus be understood as a new form of death ritual, “a secular example of the long tradition of ars moriendi, the art of dying.”
At the start of the eighteenth century, talk of literary "characters" referred as much to letters and typefaces as it did to persons in books. Yet by the nineteenth century, characters had become the equals of their readers, friends with whom readers might spend time and empathize.
Although the story of this shift is usually told in terms of the "rise of the individual," Deidre Shauna Lynch proposes an ingenious alternative interpretation. Elaborating a "pragmatics of character," Lynch shows how readers used transactions with characters to accommodate themselves to newly commercialized social relations. Searching for the inner meanings of characters allowed readers both to plumb their own inwardness and to distinguish themselves from others. In a culture of mass consumption, argues Lynch, possessing a belief in the inexpressible interior life of a character rendered one's property truly private.
Ranging from Defoe and Smollett to Burney and Austen, Lynch's account will interest students of the novel, literary historians, and anyone concerned with the inner workings of consumer culture and the history of emotions.
What role does reason play in our lives? What role should it play? And are claims to rationality liberating or oppressive? For the Sake of Argument addresses questions such as these to consider the relationship between thought and character. Eugene Garver brings Aristotle's Rhetoric to bear on practical reasoning to show how the value of such thinking emerges when members of communities deliberate together, persuade each other, and are persuaded by each other. That is to say, when they argue.
Garver roots deliberation and persuasion in political friendship instead of a neutral, impersonal framework of justice. Through incisive readings of examples in modern legal and political history, from Brown v. Board of Education to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he demonstrates how acts of deliberation and persuasion foster friendship among individuals, leading to common action amid diversity. In an Aristotelian sense, there is a place for pathos and ethos in rational thought. Passion and character have as pivotal a role in practical reasoning as logic and language.
Frank J. Williams. Foreword by Harold Holzer. Epilogue by John Y. Simon Southern Illinois University Press, 2002 Library of Congress E457.2.W69 2002 | Dewey Decimal 973.7092
Judging Lincoln collects nine of the most insightful essays on the topic of the sixteenth president written by Frank J. Williams, chief justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court and one of the nation’ s leading authorities on Abraham Lincoln. For Judge Williams, Lincoln remains the central figure of the American experience— past, present, and future.
Williams begins with a survey of the interest in— and influence of— Lincoln both at home and abroad and then moves into an analysis of Lincoln’ s personal character with respect to his ability to foster relationships of equality among his intimates.
Williams then addresses Lincoln’ s leadership abilities during the span of his career, with particular emphasis on the Civil War. Next, he compares the qualities of Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill. The final essay, cowritten with Mark E. Neely Jr., concerns collecting Lincoln artifacts as a means of preserving and fostering the Lincoln legacy.
Currently fashionable among critics of enlightenment thought is the charge that Kant's ethics fails to provide an adequate account of character and its formation in moral and political life. G. Felicitas Munzel challenges this reading of Kant's thought, claiming not only that Kant has a very rich notion of moral character, but also that it is a conception of systematic importance for his thought, linking the formal moral with the critical, aesthetic, anthropological, and biological aspects of his philosophy.
The first book to focus on character formation in Kant's moral philosophy, it builds on important recent work on Kant's aesthetics and anthropology, and brings these to bear on moral issues. Munzel traces Kant's multifaceted definition of character through the broad range of his writings, and then explores the structure of character, its actual exercise in the world, and its cultivation.
An outstanding work of original textual analysis and interpretation, Kant's Conception of Moral Character is a major contribution to Kant studies and moral philosophy in general.
Our nation began with the simple phrase, “We the People.” But who were and are “We”? Who were we in 1776, in 1865, or 1968, and is there any continuity in character between the we of those years and the nearly 300 million people living in the radically different America of today?
With Made in America, Claude S. Fischer draws on decades of historical, psychological, and social research to answer that question by tracking the evolution of American character and culture over three centuries. He explodes myths—such as that contemporary Americans are more mobile and less religious than their ancestors, or that they are more focused on money and consumption—and reveals instead how greater security and wealth have only reinforced the independence, egalitarianism, and commitment to community that characterized our people from the earliest years. Skillfully drawing on personal stories of representative Americans, Fischer shows that affluence and social progress have allowed more people to participate fully in cultural and political life, thus broadening the category of “American” —yet at the same time what it means to be an American has retained surprising continuity with much earlier notions of American character.
Firmly in the vein of such classics as The Lonely Crowd and Habits of the Heart—yet challenging many of their conclusions—Made in America takes readers beyond the simplicity of headlines and the actions of elites to show us the lives, aspirations, and emotions of ordinary Americans, from the settling of the colonies to the settling of the suburbs.
What makes some characters seem so real? Mimetic Lives: Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Character in the Novel explores this question through readings of major works by Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky. Working at the height of the Russian realist tradition, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky each discovered unprecedented techniques for intensifying the aesthetic illusion that Chloë Kitzinger calls mimetic life—the reader’s sense of a character’s autonomous, embodied existence. At the same time, both authors tested the practical limits of that illusion by extending it toward the novel’s formal and generic bounds: philosophy, history, journalism, theology, myth.
Through new readings of War and Peace, Anna Karenina, The Brothers Karamazov, and other novels, Kitzinger traces a productive tension between mimetic characterization and the author’s ambition to transform the reader. She shows how Tolstoy and Dostoevsky create lifelike characters and why the dream of carrying the illusion of “life” beyond the novel consistently fails. Mimetic Lives challenges the contemporary truism that novels educate us by providing enduring models for the perspectives of others, with whom we can then better empathize. Seen close, the realist novel’s power to create a world of compelling fictional persons underscores its resources as a form for thought, and its limits as a direct source of spiritual, social, or political change.
Drawing on scholarship in Russian literary studies as well as the theory of the novel, Kitzinger’s lucid work of criticism will intrigue and challenge scholars working in both fields.
Lysaker examines the relationship between philosophical thought and the act of writing to explore how this dynamic shapes the field of philosophy.
Philosophy’s relation to the act of writing is John T. Lysaker’s main concern in Philosophy, Writing, and the Character of Thought. Whether in Plato, Montaigne, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, or Derrida, philosophy has come in many forms, and those forms—the concrete shape philosophizing takes in writing—matter. Much more than mere adornment, the style in which a given philosopher writes is often of crucial importance to the point he or she is making, part and parcel of the philosophy itself.
Considering how writing influences philosophy, Lysaker explores genres like aphorism, dialogue, and essay, as well as logical-rhetorical operations like the example, irony, and quotation. At the same time, he shows us the effects of these rhetorical devices through his own literary experimentation. In dialogue with such authors as Benjamin, Cavell, Emerson, and Lukács, he aims to revitalize philosophical writing, arguing that philosophy cannot fulfill its intellectual and cultural promise if it keeps to professional articles and academic prose. Instead, philosophy must embrace writing as an essential, creative activity, and deliberately reform how it approaches its subject matter, readership, and the evolving social practices of reading and reflection.
How do the funding, setting architecture, and exhibition of a presidential library shape our understanding of the president’s character? And how do diverse performances of the presidency create radically different opportunities for the practice of American citizenship? In Presidential Libraries as Performance: Curating American Character from Herbert Hoover to George W. Bush, Jodi Kanter analyzes presidential libraries as performances that encourage visitors to think in particular ways about executive leadership and about their own roles in public life.
Kanter considers the moments in the presidents’ lives the museums choose to interpret, and not to interpret, and how the libraries approach common subjects in the presidential museum narrative—the presidents’ early years in relation to cultural ideals, the libraries’ representations of presidential failures, personal and political, and the question of presidential legacy. Identifying the limited number of strategies the libraries currently use to represent the diversity of the American experience and American character, Kanter offers concrete suggestions for reinventing and reshaping the practices of museum professionals and visitors within the walls of these institutions.
Presidential museums can tell us important things about the relationships between performance and politics, entertainment and history, and leaders and the people they lead. Kanter demonstrates how the presidential libraries generate normative narratives about individual presidents, historical events, and what it means to be an American.
Boeckmann links character, literary genre, and science, revealing how major literary works both contributed to and disrupted the construction of race in turn-of-the-century America.
In A Question of Character, Cathy Boeckmann establishes a strong link between racial questions and the development of literary traditions at the end of the 19th century in America. This period saw the rise of "scientific racism," which claimed that the races were distinguished not solely by exterior appearance but also by a set of inherited character traits. As Boeckmann explains, this emphasis on character meant that race was not only a thematic concern in the literature of the period but also a generic or formal one as well.
Boeckmann explores the intersections between race and literary history by tracing the language of character through both scientific and literary writing. Nineteenth-century pseudo-sciences such as phrenology and physiognomy had a vocabulary for discussing racial character that overlapped conceptually with the conventions for portraying race in literature. Through close readings of novels by Thomas Dixon, Mark Twain, William Dean Howells, Charles Chesnutt, and James Weldon Johnson—each of which deals with a black character "passing" as white—Boeckmann shows how this emphasis on character relates to the shift from romantic and sentimental fiction to realism. Because each of these genres had very specific conventions regarding the representation of character, genres often dictated how races could be depicted.
What does it mean to live a good life or a happy life, and what part does reason play in the quest for fulfillment? Proceeding by means of a close and thematically selective commentary on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, this book offers a novel interpretation of Aristotle’s teachings on the relation between reason and moral virtue. Pangle shows how Aristotle’s arguments for virtue as the core of happiness and for reason as the guide to virtue emerge in dialectical response to Socrates’s paradoxical claim that virtue is knowledge and vice is ignorance, and as part of a politically complex project of giving guidance to lawgivers and ordinary citizens while offering spurs to deep theoretical reflection.
Against Socrates, Aristotle insists that both virtue and vice are voluntary and that individuals are responsible for their characters, a stance that lends itself to vigorous defense of moral responsibility. At the same time, Pangle shows, Aristotle elucidates the importance of unchosen concerns in shaping all that we do and the presence of some form of ignorance or subtle confusions in all moral failings. Thus the gap between his position and that of Socrates comes on close inspection to be much smaller than first appears, and his true teaching on the role of reason in shaping moral existence far more complex. The book offers fresh interpretations of Aristotle’s teaching on the relation of passions to judgments, on what it means to choose virtue for its own sake, on the way reason finds the mean, especially in justice, and on the crucial intellectual virtue of phronesis or active wisdom and its relation to theoretical wisdom. Offering answers to longstanding debates over the status of reason and the meaning of happiness in the Nicomachean Ethics, this book will kindle in readers a new appreciation for Aristotle’s lessons on how to make the most out of life, as individuals and in society.
"Tricks and treachery are the practice of fools that have not wit enough to be honest," wrote Benjamin Franklin. This volume explores ways in which the honest establish trust and enjoy good fortune, even without policing. The central mechanism at work is reputation. To work, information about the individual's conduct must be observed, interpreted, recorded, stored, and transmitted. Different forms of "seals of approval" develop to communicate the quality of an individual's reputation to others.
The studies in this volume reveal how vast information systems like Dun & Bradstreet and TRW generate reputation and beneficial exchange, and how brand names, middlemen, and dealers give their own sort of seal of approval. One chapter describes the origins of Underwriters' Laboratories, an organization that sells its inspection services and mark of approval for product safety. Another argues that J. P. Morgan's investment banking service was in large part applying astute judgment in granting the Morgan seal of approval to firms in need of capital. Other, less formal, reputational mechanisms such as gossip, customary law, and written correspondence are also explored. Contexts range from trust among merchants in Medieval Europe, social control in small communities, and good conduct in a vast anonymous society such as our own.
Throughout these broad-ranging studies, the central theme of the volume emerges: in an open, competitive environment, honesty can recruit cleverness to assert itself and to drive out the dishonest. Contributors include Bruce Benson, Harry Chase Brearly, J. Benson De Long, Avner Greif, Benjamin Klein, Keith B. Leffler, Sally Engle Merry, Paul R. Milgrom, J. Wilson Newman, Douglass C. North, Marc Ryser, Adam Smith, Gordon Tullock, and Barry R. Weingast.
Daniel B. Klein is Assistant Professor of Economics, University of California, Irvine.
The Science of Character makes a bold new claim for the power of the literary by showing how Victorian novelists used fiction to theorize how character forms.
In 1843, the Victorian philosopher John Stuart Mill called for the establishment of a new science, “the science of the formation of character.” Although Mill’s proposal failed as scientific practice, S. Pearl Brilmyer maintains that it found its true home in realist fiction of the period, which employed the literary figure of character to investigate the nature of embodied experience. Bringing to life Mill’s unrealized dream of a science of character, novelists such as George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, and Olive Schreiner turned to narrative to explore how traits and behaviors in organisms emerge and develop, and how aesthetic features—shapes, colors, and gestures—come to take on cultural meaning through certain categories, such as race and sex. Engaged with materialist science and philosophy, these authors transformed character from the liberal notion of the inner truth of an individual into a materially determined figuration produced through shifts in the boundaries between the body’s inside and outside. In their hands, Brilmyer argues, literature became a science, not in the sense that its claims were falsifiable or even systematically articulated, but in its commitment to uncovering, through a fictional staging of realistic events, the laws governing physical and affective life. The Science of Character redraws late Victorian literary history to show how women and feminist novelists pushed realism to its aesthetic and philosophical limits in the crucial span between 1870 and 1920.
The Sumerians, the pragmatic and gifted people who preceded the Semites in the land first known as Sumer and later as Babylonia, created what was probably the first high civilization in the history of man, spanning the fifth to the second millenniums B.C. This book is an unparalleled compendium of what is known about them.
Professor Kramer communicates his enthusiasm for his subject as he outlines the history of the Sumerian civilization and describes their cities, religion, literature, education, scientific achievements, social structure, and psychology. Finally, he considers the legacy of Sumer to the ancient and modern world.
"There are few scholars in the world qualified to write such a book, and certainly Kramer is one of them. . . . One of the most valuable features of this book is the quantity of texts and fragments which are published for the first time in a form available to the general reader. For the layman the book provides a readable and up-to-date introduction to a most fascinating culture. For the specialist it presents a synthesis with which he may not agree but from which he will nonetheless derive stimulation."—American Journal of Archaeology
"An uncontested authority on the civilization of Sumer, Professor Kramer writes with grace and urbanity."—Library Journal
Blending social analysis and philosophy, Albert Borgmann maintains that technology creates a controlling pattern in our lives. This pattern, discernible even in such an inconspicuous action as switching on a stereo, has global effects: it sharply divides life into labor and leisure, it sustains the industrial democracies, and it fosters the view that the earth itself is a technological device. He argues that technology has served us as well in conquering hunger and disease, but that when we turn to it for richer experiences, it leads instead to a life dominated by effortless and thoughtless consumption. Borgmann does not reject technology but calls for public conversation about the nature of the good life. He counsels us to make room in a technological age for matters of ultimate concern—things and practices that engage us in their own right.
The opportunities to become a good person are not the same for everyone. Modern European ethical theory, especially Kantian ethics, assumes the same virtues are accessible to all who are capable of rational choice. Character development, however, is affected by circumstances, such as those of wealth and socially constructed categories of gender, race, and sexual orientation, which introduce factors beyond the control of individuals. Implications of these influences for morality have, since the work of Williams and Nagel in the seventies, raised questions in philosophy about the concept of moral luck. In The Unnatural Lottery, Claudia Card examines how luck enters into moral character and considers how some of those who are oppressed can develop responsibility.
Luck is often best appreciated by those who have known relatively bad luck and have been unable to escape steady comparison of their lot with those of others. The author takes as her paradigms the luck of middle and lower classes of women who face violence and exploitation, of lesbians who face continuing pressure to hide or self-destruct, of culturally Christian whites who have ethnic privilege, and of adult survivors of child abuse. How have such people been affected by luck in who they are and can become, the good lives available to them, the evils they may be liable to embody? Other philosophers have explored the luck of those who begin from privileged positions and then suffer reversals of fortune. Claudia Card focuses on the more common cases of those who begin from socially disadvantaged positions, and she considers some who find their good luck troubling when its source is the unnatural lottery of social injustice.