This paper examines Flix 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. (shrink)
Foreword -- A note on the text -- Overview of themes and context -- Reading the text -- Preface -- Tuning up -- A tribute to Abraham -- A preliminary outpouring from the heart -- Problem I -- Problem II -- Problem III -- Epilogue -- Reception and influence.
This paper begins by reflecting on the concept of habit and discussing its significance in various philosophical and non-philosophical contexts – for this helps to clarify the connections between habit and selfhood. I then attempt to sketch an account of the self as ”nothing but habit,“ and to address the questions this raises about how such a self must be constituted. Finally, I focus on the issue of freedom, or liberation, and consider the possibility of moving beyond habit. I emphasize (...) the body since it is through the body that the un-doing of habit must take place. Deleuze and Merleau-Ponty are distinguished from the many philosophers who have recognized the importance of habit by their more radical claim that we not only have habits, but are habits – and for this reason I draw on their work in the first two sections of this paper. (shrink)