Frankfurt’s concept of identification

Asian Journal of Philosophy 3 (1):1-19 (2024)
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Abstract

Harry Frankfurt had insightfully pointed out that an agent acts freely when he acts in accord with the mental states with which he identifies. The concept of identification rightly captures the ownership condition (something being one’s really own), which plays a significant role in the issues of freedom and moral responsibility. For Frankfurt, identification consists of one’s forming second-order volitions, endorsing first-order desires, and issuing in his actions wholeheartedly. An agent not only wants to φ but also fully embraces his desire to φ (and φ). Frankfurt’s official theory above encounters some serious problems, especially since it is believed that his concept of wholehearted identification is too strong to be necessary for freedom. In this paper, I propose that we can uncouple identification from wholeheartedness and thus get two different senses of identification: weak identification and strong identification. Then, I argue that this distinction does a better job than Frankfurt’s official theory. On the one hand, weak identification is enough for ownership and freedom and thus more promising than strong identification; on the other hand, this distinction has an attractive implication that it fits well with our intuition about the degree of freedom and responsibility.

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References found in this work

Freedom and Resentment.Peter Strawson - 1962 - Proceedings of the British Academy 48:187-211.
Free agency.Gary Watson - 1975 - Journal of Philosophy 72 (April):205-20.
Necessity, Volition and Love.Harry G. Frankfurt - 2001 - Philosophical Quarterly 51 (202):114-116.

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