Ideals, reasons, and the second person
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The aim of this thesis is to shed light on important aspects of the role ideals play in practical reasoning. In the first chapter an account of ideals as conceptions of admirable ways of being (a true friend, a great athlete, a perfect dandy) is provided, distinguishing proper ideals from bad and incomplete ones. In the second chapter, it is shown what it takes for a person to have an ideal. The phenomenon of ideal possession reveals a complex dispositional structure at the centre of which lies a kind of affective desire, a feeling of a calling to be the way conceptualised by the ideal. Admiration for ideal ways of being observed in real and imaginative others can, under certain conditions, trigger such a desire. In the third chapter, the normative implications of ideal possession are examined. To have an ideal comes with a standing vocational reason to pursue one’s ideal. This standing reason, in turn, gives rise to a steady supply of case-dependent vocational reasons to act and to feel in certain ways; reasons that ultimately guide one’s attempts at living up to one’s ideal. Finally, the fourth chapter investigates the contribution of a pursuit of ideals to the quality of one’s life. The main focus is on the kind of recognition that successful idealists are likely to receive from actual admirers. It is argued that second-personal expressions of admiration can endow the idealist with petitionary reasons to maintain or develop her admirable properties. The result is the doubling of reasons: The interplay of both ideal-based vocational reasons and admiration-based petitionary reasons pulling in the same direction, helping the idealist to live a life in which her individual and social natures are better reconciled with each other – a life which is not necessarily happier, but likely more meaningful.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Electronic copy restricted until 11th June 2024