By Fraser, H M
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Extra resources for Apocalyptic Vision Modernism
But this raises the question: how and in what form does one have the freedom to depart from a previous behavioral repertoire without accepting an alternative situational account of character that renders response equally predicable? For a person to be of truly singular character, she or he would have to be in some degree autonomous, capable of adhering to situations or making departures from them in a variety of distinct ways. Yet modernists rejected the categorical logic of Kant’s ethics—even though he presupposed such autonomy—because his principles subordinated all individual differences to a universal equivalence between people premised on their putative free will, which in turn set in motion abstract rational imperatives.
19 According to Bernard Williams, whom he invokes, one has to ask how and to what end one is being consistent, or what one takes Personhood beyond Personality as one’s “supposed criterion of action” (Williams, “Replies,” 212). This suggests that holistic integration of behavior is not in and of itself good or bad. But to the extent that Doris sets up his own argument by taking cues from philosophers working within the Aristotelian tradition—even as he is working against them—he accepts the argument that consistency is a necessary but insufficient condition for ethical virtue: it “is necessary for executing one’s projects in the face of obstacles” and without it, “it is only by luck that one’s values will come to pass” (Lack of Character, 18).
In Chapter 4, I pursue elements of Eliot’s presentation of character that emerge through tone and through subtle shifts of perspective rather than through elaborate structures of personality that require self-protective masks and personae. By regulating their tone in a dramatic context, his characters adjust to the emotional climate of a situation. Although Eliot's representations are not set up as narratively sustained fictional individuals, they do dramatize aspects of voice and tone that reveal an everyday mobility connected to individual perspective.