Akrasia: Plato and the limits of Education?
Citation:SHANAHAN, COLM, Akrasia: Plato and the limits of Education?, Trinity College Dublin.School of Social Sciences & Philosophy.PHILOSOPHY, 2018
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In this dissertation I shall argue for the following main claim: (1a) the motivational neutrality of reason. I will show that this concept reveals that, for Plato, (1b) reason is itself a necessary condition of the possibility of akrasia, and a central explanatory element in the account of akrasia. In presenting the soul with the capacity to take account of the whole soul, the motivational neutrality of reason seems to be the precondition of moving from having such a capacity, in a speculative manner, to generating desires and actions based upon such considerations. If this were not so, then how could the rational part of the soul, for example, put its good to one side, where such is required, to achieve the good of the whole soul? This distancing from the good associated with the rational part of the soul is precisely the grounding upon which the rational part of the soul generates the space to assess the goods of the other soul parts. In this way, the rational part of the soul must bring this motivational neutrality to the soul. It is by such that a desire for food, for example, can be assented to in the presence of the greater good of learning; that is, where the former desire represents the greater good of the soul. In this case, even if the desire for food is pursued on the basis of generating more optimum conditions for the greater good of learning, it nevertheless remains that that the soul can act for the greater good of the soul, and this can be achieved by forgoing the greater good of learning. This is an instance in which there is a positive outcome to the motivational neutrality of reason. However, since this motivational neutrality facilitates the selection of the lesser good at the cost of the greater good, this positive outcome is not the only possible outcome. Since the motivational quality of the greater good is present ? but in a way that removes its motivational aspect ? it does not necessarily have to exert force over the soul. This opens the floodgates for taking motivation from the lesser good, even when such is not concomitant with the good of the whole soul. In this way, the motivational neutrality of the rational part of the soul brings with it the capacity to assess the goods of each soul part as goods. It is by such that the greater good of the whole soul can be determined by assessing these goods? values in relation to each other, and this is what is weighted against the good of the whole soul. This ascribes a necessary role to the rational part of the soul in generating akrasia. This necessary role is a functional one, in which the rational part of the soul facilitates the very antithesis of the good of the whole soul ? the lesser good, or the bad of the soul. As such, any explication of akrasia requires taking account of the rational part of the soul in generating the conditions by which the lesser good can be opted for. Hence, I attribute a central explanatory element to the rational part of the soul in accounting for akrasia. To outline this thesis, I will be relying, in the first instance, on the Protagoras and Meno, and, thereafter, the Symposium, Republic, and Phaedrus. I will refer to the Protagoras and Meno to generate a sense of the view that the motivational neutrality of reason shall be contrasted with. In the case of the Symposium, Republic, and Phaedrus, I will show how the concept of motivational neutrality is utilised by Plato. By holding 1a, I will engage with the debate in the literature about the relationship between reason and the non-rational parts of the soul, particularly: (i) whether the non-rational parts are good-directed, and, (ii) whether they have a conception of their own good, independent of reason. In this debate, there are two polarised views: on the one side, the appetitive part?s desires are brute and do not take a good as their object. On the other side, these same desires, are good directed and with a proper conception of their own good. I shall argue for a middle position which holds that: while these desires are good-directed, only reason has a proper conception of the good of the non-rational parts. I also argue that the non-rational parts have, nevertheless, a primitive conception of their own good, such that they can recognize when they are opposed by something outside of themselves.
Trinity College Dublin (TCD)
Trinity College Dublin (TCD)
Author: SHANAHAN, COLM
Publisher:Trinity College Dublin. School of Social Sciences & Philosophy. Discipline of Philosophy
Type of material:Thesis
Availability:Full text available