For Aristotle, excellence is not an act but a habit, and Hume regards habit as ‘the great guide of life’. However, for Proust habit is problematic: ‘if habit is a second nature, it prevents us from knowing our first.’ What is habit? Do habits turn us into machines or free us to do more creative things? Should religious faith be habitual? Does habit help or hinder the practice of philosophy? Why do Luther, Spinoza, Kant, Kierkegaard and Bergson all criticise habit? (...) If habit is both a blessing and a curse, how can we live well in our habits? In this thought-provoking book Clare Carlisle examines habit from a philosophical standpoint. Beginning with a lucid appraisal of habit’s philosophical history she suggests that both receptivity and resistance to change are basic principles of habit-formation. Carlisle shows how the philosophy of habit not only anticipates the discoveries of recent neuroscience but illuminates their ethical significance. She asks whether habit is a reliable form of knowledge by examining the contrasting interpretations of habitual thinking offered by Spinoza and Hume. She then turns to the role of habit in the good life, tracing Aristotle’s legacy through the ideas of Joseph Butler, Hegel, and Félix Ravaisson, and assessing the ambivalent attitudes to habit expressed by Nietzsche and Proust. She argues that a distinction between habit and practice helps to clarify this ambivalence, particularly in the context of habit and religion, where she examines both the theology of habit and the repetitions of religious life. She concludes by considering how philosophy itself is a practice of learning to live well with habit. (shrink)
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)
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.
'Empty are the words of that philosopher who offers therapy for no human suffering. For just as there is no use in medical expertise if it does not give therapy for bodily diseases, so too there is no use in philosophy if it does not expel the suffering of the soul.' The philosopher Epicurus gave famous voice to a conception of philosophy as a cure or remedy for the maladies of the human soul. What has not until now received attention (...) is just how prominent an idea this has been across a whole spectrum of philosophical tradition. Philosophy as Therapeia presents a collection of papers by leading scholars, providing a new reading of the history of philosophy, one which perhaps contradicts those who have wanted to maintain that philosophy is a peculiarly European cultural product, and instead affirms its identity as a global intellectual practice. (shrink)
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)
in part iv of the Ethics, Spinoza writes that "self-esteem [acquiescentia in se ipso] is really the highest thing we can hope for."1 He opposes this affect to both humility and repentance, which are integral to Christian virtue; he describes pride—for Augustine, the root of sin—as a kind of acquiescentia in se ipso. Of course, Spinoza's distinctive views about God were enough to draw the charge of atheism from many of his contemporaries. But one of these critics, Pierre Poiret, took (...) the suggestion that we should aspire above all to "self-esteem" as a clear sign that Spinoza's philosophy was immoral and unchristian. For Poiret, acquiescentia in se ipso is "a vice, head and root of all [vices], and true atheism."2... (shrink)
This article argues that Spinoza’s account of the eternity of the mind in Part V of the Ethics offers a re-interpretation of the Christian doctrine of eternal life. While Spinoza rejects the orthodox Christian teaching belief in personal immortality and the resurrection of the body, he presents an alternative account of human eternity that retains certain key characteristics of the Johannine doctrine of eternal life, especially as this is articulated in the First Letter of John. The article shows how Spinoza’s (...) account of human eternity reflects two key principles of his philosophy: the ideal of union with God, and the possibility of the human being’s ontological transformation through this union. (shrink)
This chapter examines the relationship between Soren Kierkegaard and Martin Heidegger. It explains that Heidegger mentioned Kierkegaard in much of his work from the early 1920s until his latest writings, but did not clarify the relationship between his own thought and Kierkegaard's. The chapter analyses Kierkegaard's distinctive contribution to philosophy and evaluates how this was taken up by Heidegger in his writings, particularly in Being and Time. It also evaluates the extent to which contemporary interpretation of Kierkegaard was influenced by (...) Heidegger's philosophy. (shrink)
As a ‘poet of the religious’, Søren Kierkegaard sets before his reader a constellation of spiritual ideals, exquisitely painted with words and images that evoke their luminous beauty. Among these poetic icons are ideals of purity of heart; love of the neighbour; radiant self-transparency; truthfulness to oneself, to another person, or to God. Such ideals are what the ‘restless heart’ desires, and in invoking them Kierkegaard refuses to compromise on their purity – while insisting also that they are impossible to (...) attain. It is the human condition which makes them impossible, and he is willing to describe this in dogmatic terms as original sin – sin being the refusal and loss of God, and thus also the loss of a self that has its ontological ground in its relationship to God – but he is more concerned to explore it in psychological terms. The human condition is for Kierkegaard characterised not merely by ignorance, but by wilful self-deception. (shrink)