Will as Commitment and Resolve: An Existential Account of Creativity, Love, Virtue, and Happiness

Will as Commitment and Resolve: An Existential Account of Creativity, Love, Virtue, and Happiness

Will as Commitment and Resolve: An Existential Account of Creativity, Love, Virtue, and Happiness

Will as Commitment and Resolve: An Existential Account of Creativity, Love, Virtue, and Happiness

Synopsis

In contemporary philosophy, the will is often regarded as a sheer philosophical fiction. In Will as Commitment and Resolve, Davenport argues not only that the will is the central power of human agency that makes decisions and forms intentions but also that it includes the capacity to generate new motivation different in structure from prepurposive desires. The concept of projective motivationis the central innovation in Davenport's existential account of the everyday notion of striving will. Beginning with the contrast between easternand westernattitudes toward assertive willing, Davenport traces the lineage of the idea of projective motivation from NeoPlatonic and Christian conceptions of divine motivation to Scotus, Kant, Marx, Arendt, and Levinas. Rich with historical detail, this book includes an extended examination of Platonic and Aristotelian eudaimonist theories of human motivation. Drawing on contemporary critiques of egoism, Davenport argues that happiness is primarily a byproduct of activities and pursuits aimed at other agent-transcending goods for their own sake. In particular, the motives in virtues and in the practices as defined by Alasdair MacIntyre are projective rather than eudaimonist. This theory is supported by analyses of radical evil, accounts of intrinsic motivation in existential psychology, and contemporary theories of identity-forming commitment in analytic moral psychology. Following Viktor Frankl, Joseph Raz, and others, Davenport argues that Harry Frankfurt's conception of caring requires objective values worth caring about, which serve as rational grounds for projecting new final ends. The argument concludes with a taxonomy of values or goods, devotion to which can make life meaningful for us.

Excerpt

Although it remains popular among educated readers of the general public, enthusiasm for the existentialist approach to personhood has been declining in academic philosophical literature since the late 1970s. in analytic philosophy, metaphysical writings on personal identity over time have dismissed existentialist contributions on the complex temporality of selfhood as obfuscation. Likewise, mainstream metaphysical authors have a new semantics for possibility, necessity, and essential properties; as a result, they have difficulty in making sense of the existentialist claim that for persons, “existence precedes essence,” unless this is read just as a rather confusing way of saying that we enjoy some sort of libertarian freedom. Few grasp that the existentialist objection to “personal essences” is a rejection of theories such as Molinism, Leibnizian monads, Kantian noumenal character, and Aristotelian teleology, all of which the existentialist views as inaccurate forms of determinism about human choice and motivation.

Moreover, since the development of contemporary modal logic, debates about the metaphysics of free will have been rewritten in a language relative to which older existentialist writings on freedom may seem outdated. Debates on whether moral responsibility for particular actions and omissions requires any sort of libertarian freedom, as existentialists commonly held, have also become much more complex since Harry Frankfurt’s 1969 presentation of putative counterexamples to the Principle of Alternate Possibilities. Yet these debates hardly ever touch on the crucial question for existentialists: namely, what kind of freedom is required for responsibility for our own personality, character, and overall direction in life? This crucial question is addressed today only indirectly, as part of the theory of autonomy. Among neo-Kantians, compatibilist theories of autonomy have gained . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.