Aspiration: The Agency of Becoming

01 Oct 2022 10:22 - 17 Jun 2023 08:29
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    • This is a really excellent book of a type I don't like (analytic philosophy). That is, I really loathe most philosophy of this type, because it deals with questions of great interest to me, but in way which is not even wrong and thus muddies the waters I would like to clarify (see antiphilosophy ). But this one does a credible job within the constraints of the genre.
      • The main underlying flaw of this and similar works: it assumes something like a rational, unicentric Self, then looks for all the reasons that doesn't really work. From that standpoint, an everyday phenomenon like akrasia becomes an inexplicable yet profound paradox. But it only arises if you start with the (obviously false) presupposition that humans are rational and act rationally by default.
      • There's something almost autistic
        Callard is in fact autistic, it turns out.
        about this book in particular, it reads like an earnest but naive robot trying to understand how humans work. To its credit, it doesn't shirk from dealing with the complexity of human goals, but it attempt to ground them in some kind of more powerful logic seems misguided.
      • So I didn't actually read much of this, sorry. It is obviously Relevant to My Interests. For takes more to my liking see You Must Change Your Life and maybe some A Case for Irony (Korsgaard talks a lot about self-construction, which is sort of a less-autistic version of the same idea, I think).
    • Callard has identified another phenom like that, which she labels aspiration, which sounds a bit vague but is quite precisely defined: it is a kind of meta-desire, a desire for values that one does not currently have. For instance, one might aspire to be an appreciator of classical music, despite a current ignorance.
    • Introduction

      • We can all think back to a time when we were substantially different people, value-wise, from the people we are now.
        • Hm, that ugly language ("different people, value-wise") in the very first sentence of the book might be a giveaway. I recall Chapman saying recently we don't really have values and maybe he has a point.
      • Agency, as distinguished from mere behavior, is marked by practical rationality. Insofar as becoming is something someone does, and not merely something that happens to her, she must have access to reasons for becoming the kind of person she will be.
      • Yeah, I think I don't give that much weight to rationality that I'm going to like this book.
      • The name I give to the rational process by which we work to care about (or love, or value, or desire...) something new is "aspiration". Aspiration, as I understand it, is the distinctive form of agency directed at the acquistion of values.
      • I'm not sure "aspiration" is the best name for this, because to me it connotes a kind of social climbing. There is aspiration to higher things (verticality, like anthropotechnics) and to higher status. Often confused, and perhaps in fact so intertwined that they are aspects of the same thing.
        • Huh, Sloterdijk is not mentioned in the book...I guess analytic and continental philosophy really are different worlds and only weird amateurs like me try and connect the two. But it really sounds like they are attacking the same problem from two wildly different perspectives.
    • 1 Decision Theory and Transformative Choice

      • She cites s paper by Ullmann-Margalit on Big Decisions, one example is the early Zionists, who had to radically transform themselves and adopt a new set of goals.
    • 2 Proleptic Reasons

      • Cites Anscombe's Intention as the standard model of rational agency. Should read it I guess.
      • "proleptic engagement" is intteracting with someone (say a child) as if they were an adult, in order to train them in adulthood skills. This recalls some Apprenticeship in Thinking ideas.
      • Proleptic reasons are...the reasons that rationalize large-scale transformative pursuits. A proleptic reason is an acknowledgedly immature variant of a standard reason.
      • There's a great deal of carful parsing over what this means and what kind of reasons and mechanisms qualify. I have to confess I didn't grasp most of this. People will adopt a variety of strategies to mold their values (eg pretense, competition).