“Music to the Ears of Weaklings”: Moral Hydraulics and the Unseating of Desire

Manuscrito 41 (4):71-112 (2018)
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Psychological eudaimonism is the view that we are constituted by a desire to avoid the harmful. This entails that coming to see a prospective or actual object of pursuit as harmful to us will unseat our positive evaluative belief about that object. There is more than one way that such an 'unseating' of desire may be caused on an intellectualist picture. This paper arbitrates between two readings of Socrates' 'attack on laziness' in the Meno, with the aim of constructing a model of moral education based on PE's implied moral psychology. In particular, we argue against the view that when we come to see - through prudential reasoning - that our blatant evaluative beliefs and desires disserve eudaimonism, we will no longer perceive their intentional objects as choice-worthy. We suggest, instead, that it is by experiencing shame that we cease to see the intentional objects of our evaluative beliefs and desires as worthy of pursuit. This form of 'hydraulic education' bypasses reason-responsiveness altogether. As such, it only allows for practical norms to be derived from the nature of agency indirectly, namely by enabling the use of discursive practical reasoning.

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Author Profiles

Constantine Sandis
University of Hertfordshire
Louise R. Chapman
Cambridge University

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