Book

The Retreat of Reason

Ingmar Persson

Published in print November 2005 | ISBN: 9780199276905
Published online February 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780191603198 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199276900.001.0001
The Retreat of Reason

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In ancient Greece, philosophy was mainly concerned with guidance on how to live our lives, a philosophy of life. It was then typically assumed that a life in accordance with reason, a rational life, would also be the happiest or most fulfilling life. This book resumes this project, which has been largely neglected in contemporary philosophy. It tries to show, however, that the aim of leading a rational life is at odds not only with the aim of leading the most fulfilling life, but also with the moral aims of leading the life which best promotes the maximization of fulfilment of all or the maximization of fulfilment justly distributed. It does this by exploring the extent to which attitudes to time, identity and responsibility are irrational. It also argues that neither the aim of living rationally nor any of the fulfilment aims can be rejected as less rational than any other. Thus, we face a dilemma of either having to enter a retreat of reason, insulated from everyday attitudes, or making reason retreat from its aspiration to be the sole controller of our attitudes. The book explores three areas in which there is a conflict between the rational life and a life dedicated to fulfilment-maximization. It argues that living rationally requires us to give up, first, our temporal biases, secondly, our bias towards ourselves and, thirdly, our responsibility to the extent that it involves the notion of desert and desert-entailing emotions. But giving up these attitudes is so overwhelmingly hard that the effort to do so not only makes our own lives less fulfilling, but also obstructs our efficient pursuit of the moral aim of promoting of a maximum of fulfilment justly distributed.

Keywords: desert; fulfilment-maximization; just distribution; personal identity; philosophy of life; rationality; rational life; reason; responsibility; temporal biases

Book.  502 pages. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION in The Retreat of Reason

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PAIN AS A SENSORY QUALITY in The Retreat of Reason

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PLEASURE AS A SENSORY QUALITY in The Retreat of Reason

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BEYOND HEDONISM in The Retreat of Reason

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AN ANALYSIS OF DESIRE in The Retreat of Reason

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THE CONCEPT OF EMOTION in The Retreat of Reason

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A TYPOLOGY OF EMOTION in The Retreat of Reason

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AN OBJECTIVE REQUIREMENT? in The Retreat of Reason

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