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By Fraser, H M

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This suggests that Melville is less interested in supporting the characterological assumptions that back a metaphysical foundation for moral behavior than he is in attacking consistency for normalizing the forms of variability possible in social life. The unreliable responses hang over the strangers as so many possibilities of sensitive realignment, and the con men themselves, like James’s most perceptive improvisers, perform marvelous feats of social adjustment, saying just what is necessary to bring their dupes along.

I intend to clarify the importance of virtuality and other vitalist concepts in shaping modernist conceptions of character. That some of these concerns have not come to the fore in accounts of modernist character has a lot to do with the influence of other continental intellectual theories that had a decisive influence on Anglo-American literary history. Psychoanalysis, the most prominent psychological discourse to emerge out of the fin de siècle, had a large hand in obscuring vitalist ideas and its rich conceptual legacy.

10 ethics and psychology The alternative to psychological accounts that insist on an antecedent personality are situation-specific accounts of behavioral response, which need not refer to any special quality within the self that subsists across time. Personality psychology coincided with the historical development of a contrasting science of psychology, behaviorism, which played down the antecedent role of personality and instead showed the influence of classical and operant conditioning on behavioral response.

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