Commitments, Integrity, and Identity

Dissertation, State University of New York at Buffalo (1994)

The purpose of this dissertation is to undertake an analytic study of commitment. As an opening move, commitments are compared with emotions. This comparison yields the distinction between organic and decisional commitments. The difference between these sorts of commitments is in the origin of the commitment. Commitments which are the result of the social structures the agent is immersed in are organic commitments; commitments which begin in a decision of the agent are decisional commitments. ;One of the features of commitments which is not explained by the comparison of commitments with emotions is their obligatory nature. In order to explain the general obligation to keep commitments, commitments are compared with promises. The utilitarian account of promise keeping is rejected, because it recognizes no obligation to keep promises that does not collapse into an obligation to keep the principle of utility. Kantian considerations of the obligation to keep promises are more helpful. I utilize the account of promising which locates the obligation to keep promises in the obligation to preserve one's own moral integrity. ;In order to make sense of this claim, we must understand the connection between integrity and strong identity. This connection is explicated by taking a look at Charles Taylor's notion of a "strong evaluation". Strong evaluations are evaluations of desires as worthy or not, and these sort of evaluations, I claim, are a part of what makes up strong identity. ;In the last full chapter of the dissertation, the value of commitments is explored. Commitments are found to often have eudaimic, and to sometimes have moral value. Commitments have eudaimic value in that they often foster a sense of efficacy on the part of the agent. They sometimes have moral value because they contribute to seriousness and friendship, both of which are important to leading the moral life conceived as a life of striving to approximate an ideal. ;In a post-script to the dissertation, I suggest commitment should be considered a virtue on the Aristotelian model as a mean between the extremes of aimlessness and fanaticism
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