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Burdened VirtuesVirtue Ethics for Liberatory Struggles$
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Lisa Tessman

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195179149

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2005

DOI: 10.1093/0195179145.001.0001

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 Regretting the Self One Is

 Regretting the Self One Is

(p.11) 1 Regretting the Self One Is
Burdened Virtues

Lisa Tessman (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines a practice known by feminists as the politics of personal transformation, a practice that has attempted to respond critically to the fact that selves have been morally damaged under oppression. This practice recognizes that participants in social justice movements must remake their own desires or inclinations so that they better reflect the commitments of the movement. While feminists such as Claudia Card have used the concept of moral luck to characterize oppression and its resulting moral damage as a matter of systemically patterned bad luck, this chapter points out that luck also has an impact on the possibilities of transforming one’s own character in the context of political resistance, so that one may be unable to alter one’s own problematic character traits. Given such luck, one may end up experiencing what Bernard Williams has called “agent-regret,” an attitude that one can have toward what one would not have chosen, but came to enact anyway precisely because of one’s own lack of control. Experiencing this discomforting agent-regret about one’s own character—as well as experiencing anger at the systemic forces that ingrained objectionable values into one’s self—is appropriate, and yet the very need for a self-reflective attitude that is so disturbing should be considered a harm.

Keywords:   Claudia Card, Bernard Williams, agent-regret, regret, moral damage, politics of personal transformation, moral luck, feminism, character, oppression

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