Between freedom and necessity: Félix ravaisson on habit and the moral life

Inquiry 53 (2):123 – 145 (2010)
This paper examines Feacutelix Ravaisson's account of habit, as presented in his 1838 essay _Of Habit_, and considers its significance in the context of moral practice. This discussion is set in an historical context by drawing attention to the different evaluations of habit in Aristotelian and Kantian philosophies, and it is argued that Kant's hostility to habit is based on the dichotomy between mind and body, and freedom and necessity, that pervades his thought. Ravaisson argues that the phenomenon of habit challenges these dualisms, and at least in this respect anticipates the discussions of habit in the work of twentieth-century phenomenologists such as Merleau-Ponty and Ricoeur.

The paper outlines Ravaisson's account of habit in general, showing how his analysis of the “double law” of habit develops from the work of Maine de Biran, and highlighting the way in which Ravaisson offers a new and original philosophical interpretation of the phenomena of habit. Whereas Maine de Biran remains within a dualistic framework, and finds that habit is problematic within this framework, Ravaisson uses habit to demonstrate continuity between mind and body, will and nature. Then the focus is narrowed to consider how this analysis of habit is applied to a specifically moral context, and how it illuminates traditional Aristotelian theories of virtue. The paper ends by considering several practical consequences of the foregoing discussion of habit and the moral life
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DOI 10.1080/00201741003612146
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