The virtue of taking ownership.
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Wilson, Matthew F., 1978-
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This dissertation argues that the capacity to “take ownership” is a fundamental feature of human life to which people may be well or poorly disposed. Although we commonly exhort others to “take ownership” in their work, education, or other projects, there has been very little conceptual or philosophical analysis of the concept. To my knowledge, no one has conceived of it as a virtue. This dissertation offers a full conceptual account of what the virtue is, its related vices, and how the virtue is related to neighboring concepts like responsibility and stewardship. It also offers some practical ethical guidance for people who wish to cultivate the virtue in themselves. Chapter Two offers an account of the psychology of “taking ownership.” I argue that taking ownership is best understood as a species of psychological attachment, whereby one conceives of a project under the aspect of “mine” or “ours.” Chapter Three extends this account by developing it further into an account of my proposed virtue – “taking-ownership.” This virtue is a character trait that disposes one well to forming these psychological attachments. I argue that the virtue is also situated between a set of related vices, those of “over-investment” and “over-possessiveness” on the one hand, and a “lack of ownership” on the other. This chapter also provides rich descriptions of the characteristic feelings and actions that constitute being well and poorly disposed to taking ownership. Although Chapter three illuminates many of the good-making feature of taking-ownership, chapter four takes up the issue in more explicit fashion. There I provide further justification for the claim that the character trait is good, why the character trait is good, and I address the worry that people may take ownership in bad or evil projects. Chapter five responds to three other possible objections for considering this character trait a virtue. Chapter six concludes the dissertation by considering the ways in which one might attempt to cultivate the virtue of taking-ownership personally. There I emphasize the role that habits of “attention” might play in the development of the virtue. I also provide some idea for directions on future research.