There is more akrasia than meets the eye: it can occur in speech and perception, cognitively and emotionally as well as between decision and action. The lures of akrasia are the same as those that are exercised in ordinary psychological and cognitive inferential contexts. But because it is over-determined and because it occurs in opaque intentional contexts, its attribution remains highly fallible.
Bringing together a group of outstanding new essays on Aristotle's De Anima, this book covers topics such as the relation between soul and body, sense-perception, imagination, memory, desire, and thought, which present the philosophical substance of Aristotle's views to the modern reader. The contributors write with philosophical subtlety and wide-ranging scholarship, locating their interpretations firmly within the context of Aristotle's thought as a whole.u.
The challenge of explaining the emotions has engaged the attention of the best minds in philosophy and science throughout history. Part of the fascination has been that the emotions resist classification. As adequate account therefore requires receptivity to knowledge from a variety of sources. The philosopher must inform himself of the relevant empirical investigation to arrive at a definition, and the scientist cannot afford to be naive about the assumptions built into his conceptual apparatus. The contributors to this volume have (...) approached the problem of characterizing and classifying emotions from the perspectives of neurophysiology, psychology, and social psychology as well as that of philosophical psychology. They discuss the difficulties that arise in classifying the emotions, assessing their appropriateness and rationality, and determining their function in motivating moral action. (shrink)
The essays in this volume form a commentary on Descartes' _Meditations_. Following the sequence of the meditational stages, the authors analyze the function of each stage in transforming the reader, to realize his essential nature as a rational inquirer, capable of scientific, demonstrable knowledge of the world. There are essays on the genre of meditational writing, on the implications of the opening cathartic section of the book on Descartes' theory of perception and his use of skeptical arguments; essays on the (...) theory of ideas and their role of Descartes' reconstructive analytic method; essays on the proofs for the existence of God, on the role of the will in the formation and malformation of judgments; and the essays on the foundations of the science of extension and on Descartes' account of the union of mind and body. (shrink)
A person has performed an action akratically when he intentionally, voluntarily acts contrary to what he thinks, all things considered, is best to do. This is very misleadingly called weakness of the will; less misleadingly, akrasia of action. I should like to show that there is intellectual as well as practical akrasia. This might, equally misleadingly, be called weakness of belief; less misleadingly, akrasia of belief.
Since many varieties of self-deception are ineradicable and useful, it would be wise to be ambivalent about at least some of its forms.1 It is open-eyed ambivalence that acknowledges its own dualities rather than ordinary shifty vacillation that we need. To be sure, self-deception remains dangerous: sensible ambivalence should not relax vigilance against pretence and falsity, combating irrationality and obfuscation wherever they occur.
Near the outset of Faust, Goethe sets his protagonist to translating the beginning of the Book of John. Dissatisfied with translating logos as Word, Faust tries "In the beginning was Mind" (Sinn), but he quickly retreats: "Can it be Mind what makes and shapes all things? Surely it should be 'In the beginning was Power (Kraft).'" Yet reflecting that Power might be merely latent, merely potential, he perseveres until finally Spirit (Geist) prompts Faust to settle on, "In the beginning was (...) the Deed (That)!"1With the restless ambition of Faust, Jean-Paul Sartre tries to find the origins of self-consciousness in a move from Word to Deed, inspired by an account of Jean Genet's foster-mother branding the .. (shrink)
Philosophers on Education offers us the most comprehensive available history of philosopher's views and impacts on the directions of education. As Amelie Rorty explains, in describing a history of education, we are essentially describing and gaining the clearest understanding of the issues that presently concern and divide us. The essays in this stellar collection are written by some of the finest comtemporary philosophers. Those interested in history of philosophy, epistemology, moral psychology and education, and political theory will find Philosophers on (...) Education to be both an engaging and fascinating read. (shrink)
review of Rorty's collection on evil. Generally admring, but complaining about the disparate phenomena included under the heading. And remarking on the peculiarities of the Enlish word 'evil' not found in other European languages.
Courage is dangerous. If it is defined in traditional ways, as a set of dispositions to overcome fear, to oppose obstacles, to perform difficult or dangerous actions, its claim to be a virtue is questionable. Unlike the virtue of justice, or a sense of proportion, traditional courage does not itself determine what is to be done, let alone assure that it is worth doing. If we retain the traditional conception of courage and its military connotations–overcoming and combat–we should be suspicious (...) of it. Instead of automatically classifying it as a virtue, attempting to develop and exercise it, we should become alert to its dangers. And yet and yet. There is an aspect of traditional courage that serves us: we require the capacities and traits that enable us to persist in acting well under stress, to endure hardships when following our judgments about what is best is difficult or dangerous. If courage is checked, redefined as the virtue that enables virtue–the various sets of dispositions, whatever they may be, that make us resolute in worthy, difficult action–then we need not fear the dangers of courage. We need rather to reform it by diversifying it, as a heterogeneous variety of traits that enable us to act well under stress, against the natural movements of self-protection. (shrink)
During the period from Descartes to Rousseau, the mind changed. Its domain was redefined; its activities were redescribed; and its various powers were redistributed. Once a part of cosmic Nous, its various functions delimited by its embodied condition, the individual mind now becomes a field of forces with desires impinging on one another, their forces resolved according to their strengths and directions. Of course since there is no such thing as The Mind Itself, it was not the mind that changed. (...) Conceptions of the mind changed. Yet even to say this is misleading, because it suggests that somewhere out there in nowhere there is Nous, Psyche, Soul or Mind, the true but opaque object of all these conceptions. But of course there is no Mind in the realm of things in themselves, waiting for us to see it truly, like a China of the noumenal world, amused that our various conceptions reveal as much about ourselves as about it. (shrink)
Both morality and theories of morality play many distinctive—and sometimes apparently conflicting—functions: they identify and prohibit wrongful aggression; they chart and analyze basic duties; they present ideals for emulation; they set the terms or justice, rights and entitlements; they characterize the norms of basic decency and neighborliness. Since many of these can, in practice, come into conflict with one another, morality provides guidance for integrating priorities. Claims to morality can, however, be misused as well as used: sanctimonious self-righteousness, self-centered moral (...) narcisism and deflecting, misleading justification all present an abusive mask of morality. In this paper, I analyze both the use and abuse of morality and offer an account of its appropriate use, as presenting multiple heuristic questions for reflection. (shrink)
Aristotle’s phronimos is a model of the virtues: he fuses sound practical reasoning with well formed desires. Among the skills of practical reasoning are those of finding the right words and arguments in the process of deliberation. As Aristotle puts it, virtue involves doing the right thing at the right time and for the right reason. Speaking well, saying the right thing in the right way is not limited to public oratory: it pervades practical life. Aristotle’s phronimos must acquire the (...) habits that are engaged in rhetorical persuasion. (shrink)
The Two Faces of Stoicism: Rousseau and Freud AMI~LIE OKSENBERG RORTY Nor do the Stoics mean that the soul of their wisest man resists the first visions and sudden fantasies that surprise [him]: but [he] rather consents that, as it were to a natural subjection, he yields .... So likewise in other passions, always provided his opinions remain safe and whole, and.., his reason admit no tainting or alteration, and he in no whit consents to his fright and sufferance. Montaigne, (...) Essays, I. 1 THE STOICS ARE A WEIGHTY EMBARRASSMENT to their friends who, like myself, want to defend them from the charges that their views are at best vague or ludicrous, perhaps offensive or inconsistent. There is no doubt that some of their pronouncements seem material for Aristophanic comedy, others callous and yet others incoherent. And there is also no doubt that they openly defy common sense and deliberately change the terminology they inherit, introduc- ing neologisms ad hoc. And yet, and yet -- it is no accident that they continue, rightly continue, to have a powerful hold on ordinary belief and acute philo- sophical reflection. Here -- in what is itself a parody -- are some of the commonplaces famil- iarly attributed to the Stoics.' First, the notorious matter of Stoic apatheia. Diogenes Laertius reports that I believe, but cannot here argue, that despite the signficant differences between early, middle and late Stoics, the classical Stoics shared a common agenda. It is.. (shrink)
As Elster suggests in his chapter 'Contradictions of the Mind', in Logic and Society, akrasia and self-deception represent the most common psychological functions for a person in conflict and contradiction. This article develops the theme of akrasia and conflict. Section I says what akrasia is not. Section II describes the character of the akrates, analyzing the sorts of conflicts to which he is subject and describing the sources of his debilities. A brief account is then given of the attractions of (...) the akratic alternative: its power to focus or dominate the agent's attention; its being strongly habitual; its having the pull of social streaming: following the charismatic leader, the mechanisms of sympathetic or antipathetic infection, the models of role casting. Following these strategies is by no means pathological: these are relatively automatic (though still voluntary) psychological functions. That is precisely their power and attraction: they provide the conflicted akrates with an action solution, though not one that accords with his preferred judgment. (shrink)
In Part I, I consider the normal contexts of assertions of belief and declarations of intentions, arguing that many action-guiding beliefs are accepted uncritically and even pre-consciously. I analyze the function of avowals as expressions of attempts at self-transformation. It is because assertions of beliefs are used to perform a wide range of speech acts besides that of speaking the truth, and because there is a large area of indeterminacy in such assertions, that self-deception is possible. In Part II, I (...) analyze the conditions of self-deception, and discuss the grounds on which it is regarded as irrational, even when particular instances may be beneficial. I consider some of the classical analyses of the motives for self-deception, and attempt to give an account of the occasions in which it is likely to occur. In the final section, I discuss the complex organization of the self that is presupposed by the phenomena of self-deception. (shrink)
Many have said, and I think some have shown, that it is irrational to fear death. The extinction of what is essential to the self—whether it be biological death or the permanent cessation of consciousness—cannot by definition be experienced by oneself as a loss or as a harm.
_Essays on Aristotle's_ Rhetoric offers a fresh and comprehensive assessment of a classic work. Aristotle's influence on the practice and theory of rhetoric, as it affects political and legal argumentation, has been continuous and far-reaching. This anthology presents Aristotle's _Rhetoric_ in its original context, providing examples of the kind of oratory whose success Aristotle explains and analyzes. The contributors—eminent philosophers, classicists, and critics—assess the role and the techniques of rhetorical persuasion in philosophic discourse and in the public sphere. They connect (...) Aristotle's _Rhetoric_ to his other work on ethics and politics, as well as to his ideas on logic, psychology, and philosophy of language. The collection as a whole invites us to reassess the place of rhetoric in intellectual and political life. (shrink)
It would be pretty to think that Descartes’ Meditations is itself a structured transformation of the meditational mode, starting with the dominance of an intellectual, ascensional mode, moving through the penitential form, and ending with the analytic-architectonic mode. Unfortunately the text does not sustain such an easy resolution to our problems. Instead, we see that different modes seem dominant at different stages; their subterranean connections and relations remain unclear.We could try to construct a nesting of mask, face, and skeleton in (...) Descartes’ use of these distinct traditions. He might have unselfconsciously inherited a Stoic skeletal structure, fleshed it with the weight of his analytic-architectonic meditation, and masked it with a penitential meditation for the sake of safety in orthodoxy. But the penitential mode provides essential structural support—it cannot be unmasked. And, as we have seen, the analytic-architectonic flesh does not always conform to the Stoic skeletal structure.The problem is that the various readings subtly undermine one another. It is as if the Meditations were composed like a Francis Bacon painting. There are plenty of good solid clues for how to read the composition of the work—in fact there are too many. The work we see when using some of those clues is quite different from the work we see when following others.Did Descartes do this deliberately? An extremely chartable reading would turn him into a new sort of Socrates, constructing puzzles to force us to examine the truth of his arguments dialectically. But whatever Descartes may be, he is not Socrates, any more than he is Hume. He is defensive as well as devious, proud as well as prickly; and he is not funny. (shrink)
While we primarily love individual persons, we also love our work, our homes, our activities and causes. To love is to be engaged in an active concern for the objective well-being—the thriving—of whom and what we love. True love mandates discovering in what that well-being consists and to be engaged in the details of promoting it. Since our loves are diverse, we are often conflicted about the priorities among the obligations they bring. Loving requires constant contextual improvisatory adjustment of priorities (...) among our commitments. Besides delighting in—and being enhanced by—the presence and existence of another person, love requires extended reflection and work. (shrink)
Not a day passes but we find ourselves indignant about something or other. When is our indignation justified, and when does it count as moral indignation rather than a legitimate but non-moral gripe? You might think that we should turn to moral theories – to the varieties of utilitarian, Kantian, virtue theories, etc – to answer this question. I shall try to convince you that this is a mistake, that moral theory – as it is ordinarily presently conceived and studied (...) – does not have a specific subject matter, a specific aim, scope or boundaries. You might think that the difference between echt moral indignation and other forms of disapproval is their relative strength or the importance of their target; but moral indignation can be quite faint, directed to a relatively minor transgression and a strongly felt gripe may be directed to a serious but presumptively non-moral infraction. I shall try to persuade you that morality does not constitute an important and distinctive domain with a distinctive set of over-riding norms or a privileged mode of reasoning: morality is everywhere or nowhere in particular. Radical as this claim may sound, I am not a complete Luddite about the matter. Traditional moral theories nevertheless have important functions. But rather than being competing ‘winner takes all’ explanatory and normative theories, OldSpeak moral systems function heuristically. They offer a heterogeneous set of reminders, questions, advice, ideals, warnings, considerations for deliberation. While we try to integrate and systematize them, there is no single overarching organizational plan. (shrink)
To be rational is to be engaged in collaborative, corrigible, historically informed inquiry and deliberation. Critical intelligence is merely the beginning of rationality. Substantive rationality also requires reflective and imaginative inquiry. Its active exercise presupposes trust and mandates a commitment to the common good, to responsible attempts to create the political institutions and social conditions on which intellectual and political trust can flourish. Without these, formal and calculative intelligence are – however brilliant – mere cleverness; and without these, rationality can (...) undo itself. (shrink)
Akrasia is not always --or only-- a solitary failure to act on a person's judgment of what is, all things considered, best. Nor is it always a species of moral or ethical failure prompted by a form of irrationality. It is often prompted by social support and sustained by structuring political institutions.