Title: Taking Ourselves Seriously & Getting It Right.
Author: Harry G. Frankfurt.
Genre: Non-fiction, philosophy, lecture.
Publication Date: April 14–16, 2004 (book format 2006).
Summary: Two lectures from The Tanner Lectures in Moral Philosophy. The author maintains that taking ourselves seriously presupposes an inward-directed, reflexive oversight that enables us to focus our attention directly upon ourselves, and it means that we are not prepared to accept ourselves just as we come. The essays delineate two features that have a critical role to play in this: our rationality, and our ability to love. Frankfurt incisively explores the roles of reason and of love in our active lives, and considers the relation between these two motivating forces of our actions. The argument is that the authority of practical reason is less fundamental than the authority of love.
My rating: 6.5/10.
♥ When we begin attending to our own feelings and desires, to our attitudes and motives, and to our dispositions to behave in certain ways, what we confront is an array of - so to speak - psychic raw material. If we are to amount to more than just biologically qualified members of a certain animal species, we cannot remain passively indifferent to these materials. Developing higher-order attitudes and responses to oneself is fundamental to achieving the status of a responsible person.
♥ The widespread conviction among thoughtful people that there is a radical opposition between free will and determinism is, on this account, a red herring. The possibility that everything is necessitated by antecedent causes does not threaten our freedom. What it threatens is our power. Insofar as we are governed by causal forces, we are not omnipotent. That has no bearing, however, upon whether we can be free.
♥ Perhaps because it resolves the deepest problem. In our transition beyond naive animality, we separate from ourselves and disrupt our original unreflective spontaneity. This puts us at risk to varieties of inner fragmentation, dissonance, and disorder. Accepting ourselves reestablishes the wholeness that was undermined by our elementary constitutive maneuvers of division and distancing. When we are acquiescent to ourselves, or willing freely, there is no conflict within the structure of our motivations and desires.l We have successfully negotiated our distinctively human complexity. The unity of our self has been restored.
♥ The normative authority of reason, however, cannot be what accounts for the normative authority of morality. There must be some other explanation of why we should be moral. For one thing, our response to immoral conduct is very different from our response to errors in reasoning. Contradicting oneself or reasoning fallaciously is not, as such, a moral lapse. People who behave immorally incur a distinctive kind of opprobrium, which is quite unlike the normal attitude toward those who reason poorly. Our response to sinners is not the same as our response to fools.
♥ As I understand the nature of love, the lover does not depend for his loving upon reasons of any kind. Love is not a conclusion. It is not an outcome of reasoning, or a consequence of reasons. It creates reasons. What it means to love is, in part, to take the fact that a certain action would serve the good of the beloved as an especially compelling reason for performing that action.
♥ What ordinarily moves us to go on living, and also to accept our desire to continue living as a legitimate reason for acting, is not that we think we have reasons of any kind for wanting to survive. Our desire to live, and our readiness to invoke this desire as generating reasons for performing actions that contribute to that end, are not themselves based on reasons. They are based on love. They derive from and express the fact that, presumably as an outcome of natural selection, we love life. That is, we love living.
This does not mean that we especially enjoy it. frequently we do not. Many people willingly put up with a great deal of suffering simply in order to stay alive. It is true, of course, that some people are so very miserable that they do really want to die. But this hardly shows that they do not love life. It only shows that they hate misery. What they would certainly prefer, if only they could arrange it, is not to end their lives but just to end the misery.
The desire to go on living is not only universal. It is irreducible. It is only if our prerational urge to preserve our lives has somehow become drastically attentuated that we demand reasons at all. Our interest in self-preservation is a lavishly fecund source of reasons for choice and for action. However, it is not itself grounded in reasons. It is grounded in love.
♥ The lover does not passively submit to the grip of love. He is fully identified with and responsible for its necessities. There is no difference or discrepancy between what a lover is constrained to will and what he cannot help wanting to will. The necessities are imposed upon him, then, by himself. It is by his own will that he does what they require. That is why love is not coercive. The lover may be unable to resist the power it exerts, but it is his own power.