Integration, Ambivalence, and Mental Conflict
Supervised by Dr Edward Harcourt
Examined by Prof. Michael Brady and Prof. Stephen Mulhall
Funded by the AHRC
My argument is aimed at a philosophical ideal of mental organization: that our minds ought to be integrated, that is, lack conflicts or ambivalence between mental states, because disintegration is argued to impair our agency and undermine our well-being. My argument is tripartite. In part one, I describe Plato’s maximalist version of the ideal where, if ideally organized, our psyches lack conflicts because our rational faculty, aware of what is valuable, organizes our motivational and affective states. I also argue that any dispute about integration is orthogonal to the dispute between value monists and value pluralists. In part two, I reject the integration ideal by criticizing three manifestations of it in contemporary philosophy. I focus on the organization of desire, and on deliberative and affective ambivalence. My arguments have a similar structure. First, I challenge the link between the integrated mind and the purported benefits of unimpaired agency and well-being. This apparent connection is largely contingent. When conflicts or ambivalence are harmful, other social or psychological factors are relevant. Secondly, I argue that there are contexts where integration incurs costs of mental rigidity or harmful impoverishment. Thirdly, I argue that being disintegrated seems morally good in some contexts where we manifest morally fitting states of mind, particularly emotions. In part three, I ask whether integration can be reinterpreted to salvage an alternative ideal. After rejecting a promising candidate found in Kleinian psychoanalytic theory, I offer my own account of integration as a two-part capacity to tolerate difficult mental states (not necessarily bad mental states, excitement can be hard to tolerate), and to avoid being passive as our mental organization changes. This capacity has rational and non-rational elements. Finally, I consider how this reinterpreted capacity relates to the practice of virtue. I conclude that integration is not a virtue, and may be compatible with some viciousness, but it enables one to be virtuous in situations where there are pressures towards insensitive singlemindedness.
Role-Relatedness: Thought, Feeling, and Ethical Demands
Supervised by Prof. MM. McCabe
Examined by Prof. Alan Thomas and Dr. Raphael Woolf
Funded by the AHRC
This thesis examines our relatedness to roles. Section one presents aspects of Christine Korsgaard’s recent work as a loose theory of roles. To summarise: Roles are normatively structured forms that we have to identify with to render them part of ourselves. Identification doesn’t require reflection about roles. We think about them if we are tempted to violate their norms. Finally, the fact that we have many roles generates an ethical demand to integrate them. The rest of section one argues that Korsgaard’s conception of identification is not sufficient to account for the complexities of our relatedness to roles. Section two develops a richer account of role-relatedness by considering Erving Goffman’s notion of “attachment” to a role. I argue that attachment is normative; that how we comport ourselves to a role is open to critique. Then I argue that this normativity is itself a constituent part of the role in question. It is internal to a role, and not accounted for by a general interpretation of a generic form of relatedness that might hold between a person and many roles. I also consider whether attachment has cognitive and affective aspects, and defend my view against alternatives. Section three considers reflective role-attachment. I argue, contra Korsgaard, that we think about roles in many contexts and, significantly, such thought can be problematic. Firstly, reflection can be self-defeating if it is a normative aspect of the role in question that one refrains from reflecting about it. Secondly, reflection on a role might reify it. Various kinds of reification are considered. They are ethically problematic because reification can precipitate alienation which, I argue, impedes on a flourishing life. The final section draws upon earlier conclusions to argue that Korsgaard is wrong to suggest we need to integrate our roles. Integration might generate alienation.