La Rochefoucauld: Agents and Patients

Michael Moriarty

in Disguised Vices

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199589371
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191728808 | DOI:
La Rochefoucauld: Agents and Patients

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This chapter examines that implication of many of the Maximes that a praiseworthy deed or behaviour-pattern reflects no credit on the nominal agent, because he or she cannot legitimately claim responsibility for it. It encompasses two strands of argument: (i) the agent’s role in the action is in fact purely nominal: some other factor determined its performance, so that he or she is not truly responsible; (ii) the agent’s responsibility for the action is not in question, but he or she deserves no praise because he or she was not acting freely. La Rochefoucauld frequently personifies psychological traits or processes (vices or passions) in such a way as to suggest that they operate as independent agencies, over which we have no control. In cases where the agent is clearly making a moral effort, the effort itself is taken to indicate that the resultant virtue is not authentic.

Keywords: La Rochefoucauld; agency; responsibility; vice; passion; temperament; effort

Chapter.  10068 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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