Philosophy of Devotion: The Longing for Invulnerable Ideals
Oxford University Press, 2022
Why do people persist in commitments that threaten their happiness, security, and comfort? Why do some of our most central, identity-defining commitments resist the effects of reasoning and critical reflection? Drawing on real-life examples, empirical psychology, and philosophical reflection, this book argues that these commitments involve an ethical stance called devotion, which plays a pervasive—but often hidden—role in human life. Devotion typically involves sacralizing certain values, goals, or relationships. To sacralize a value is to treat it as inviolable (trade-offs with ordinary values are forbidden), incontestable (even contemplating such trade-offs is prohibited), and dialectically invulnerable (no rational considerations can disrupt the agent’s commitment to the value). Philosophy of Devotion offers a detailed philosophical account and defense of these features. Devotion and the sacralization of values can be reasonable; indeed, a life involving meaningful, sustained commitment depends on these stances. Without devotion, we risk an existential condition called normative dissipation, in which all of our commitments become etiolated. Yet devotion can easily go wrong, deforming into the individual and group fanaticism that have become pervasive features of modern social life. The book provides an alternative to fanaticism, investigating the way in which we can express non-pathological forms of devotion. We can be devoted through affirmation and through the deepening move, which treats the agent’s central commitments as systematically inchoate. Each stance enables a wholehearted form of devotion that nevertheless preserves flexibility and openness, avoiding the dangers of fanaticism on the one hand and normative dissipation on the other.
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The Nietzschean Self: Moral Psychology, Agency, and the Unconscious
Oxford University Press, 2016
Nietzsche's works are replete with discussions of moral psychology, but to date there has been no systematic analysis of his account. How does Nietzsche understand human motivation, deliberation, agency, and selfhood? How does his account of the unconscious inform these topics? What is Nietzsche's conception of freedom, and how do we become free? Should freedom be a goal for all of us? How does--and how should--the individual relate to his social context? The Nietzschean Self offers a clear, comprehensive analysis of these central topics in Nietzsche's moral psychology. It analyzes his distinction between conscious and unconscious mental events, explains the nature of a type of motivational state that Nietzsche calls the 'drive', and examines the connection between drives, desires, affects, and values. It explores Nietzsche's account of willing unity of the self, freedom, and the relation of the self to its social and historical context. The Nietzschean Self argues that Nietzsche's account enjoys a number of advantages over the currently dominant models of moral psychology--especially those indebted to the work of Aristotle, Hume, and Kant--and considers the ways in which Nietzsche's arguments can reconfigure and improve upon debates in the contemporary literature on moral psychology and philosophy of action.
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Agency and the Foundations of Ethics: Nietzschean Constitutivism
Oxford University Press, 2013
Constitutivism is the view that we can derive substantive normative conclusions from an account of the nature of action. Agency and the Foundations of Ethics explains the constitutivist strategy and argues that the attractions of this view are considerable: constitutivism promises to resolve longstanding philosophical puzzles about the metaphysics, epistemology, and practical grip of normative claims. Yet constitutivism faces a challenge: it must employ a conception of action that is minimal enough to be independently plausible, but substantial enough to yield robust normative results. The current versions of constitutivism fall short on this score. However, we can generate a successful version by employing a more nuanced theory of action. Drawing on recent empirical work on human motivation as well as a model of agency indebted to the work of Nietzsche, the book argues that every episode of action aims jointly at agential activity and power. An agent manifests agential activity if she approves of her action, and further knowledge of the motives figuring in the etiology of her action would not undermine this approval. An agent aims at power if she aims at encountering and overcoming obstacles or resistances in the course of pursuing other, more determinate ends. These structural features of agency both constitute events as actions and generate standards of assessment for action. Using these results, the book shows that we can extract substantive normative claims from facts about the nature of agency.
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Fanaticism and the History of Philosophy
Routledge Press, 2023
This edited volume contains 20 original essays on the history and philosophy of fanaticism.
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The Nietzschean Mind
Routledge Press, 2018
This edited volume contains 28 original essays on the following topics: Nietzsche's major works; philosophical psychology and agency; the self; value; culture, society, and politics; metaphysics and epistemology; and the affirmation of life.
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