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Voorkant Tiberius 'The reflective life - Living wisely with our limits' Valerie TIBERIUS
The reflective life - Living wisely with our limits
Oxford etc.: Oxford University Press, 2008, 222 blzn.; ISBN-13: 978 01 9920 2867

[Valerie Tiberius is als hoogleraar ethiek en moraalpsychologie verbonden aan de University of Minnesota in de VS. Ze verdedigt in dit boek het Reflective Wisdom Account, een naturalistische ethische theorie gebaseerd op het Humeaanse gedachtengoed. Daarbij is ze op een kritische manier in gesprek met allerlei andere ethici en hun opvattingen. In die zin is het een waardevol boek voor academici. Ik zie alleen niet wat ik er concreet mee moet: Tiberius is in dit boek in discussie met collega's, maar is hier niet in discussie met de wereld. Ik wil dat laatste, het eerste interesseert me maar beperkt. Ik heb het boek uiteindelijk vooral gescand en het niet de aandacht gegeven die het vanuit een ander perspectief ongetwijfeld verdient.]

(vii) Preface

Eerste een mooie relativering bij de titel:

"I think that when we really take account of what we are like — when we recognize our psychological limits — we will see that too much thinking, rationalizing, and reflecting is bad for us. Instead, I think we need to think and reflect better.(...) A crucial part of wisdom is knowing when to stop reflecting and to get lost in experience."(vii)

Maar natuurlijk kun je als filosoof met de vraag hoe we zouden moeten leven niet anders dan reflecteren. En dat gebeurt hier dan ook. Daarnaast wordt er als subdoel stilgestaan bij de methode om dat te doen:

"This is also a book about the more abstract topic of how to philosophize about how to live. A recent trend in moral philosophy has been toward what some are calling empirically informed ethics. This trend began with those interested in moral cognition, and it has spread to meta-ethics, philosophy of action, and moral psychology generally. The empirically informed methodology has not yet caught on in normative ethics (the branch of ethics that aims to answer questions like 'How should I live?' and 'What is the right thing to do?'). There are good reasons for this. The main one is the worry that we cannot conclude anything about what ought to be the case from the facts about what is. While I certainly agree that this leap should be avoided, I also think that empirical psychology can inform our philosophical theories in interesting ways. Showing how this is so is a subsidiary aim of this book."(vii)

(1) Part I - The reflective life and reflective values

(3) Introduction

Je zou een theorie kunnen opzetten over hoe mensen zouden moeten leven, die daarvoor doelen beschrijft en zo verder. Maar het is moeilijk om consensus te krijgen over die doelen. Er bestaan zeer uiteenlopende ideeën over.

"A different approach is to ask how to live our lives given that we don’t know just what the target is, and without assuming that we would agree about the matter. This is the approach I take in this book: I defend a first-personal, process-based account of how to live, as opposed to an impersonal, goal-based theory of the good life. To put it another way, we begin with the question 'How should I live?' instead of questions like 'What is a happy life?' or 'What is a good life for a human being?'"(3)

Maar wat is daarbij de beste insteek? De rationele of de emotionele?

"First, we might think that the relevant point of view is a reflective or rational point of view. On this hypothesis, you live your life well by living in accordance with the plans you arrive at through reasoning and deliberation, or by using reason to keep your desires and passions in check. Alternatively, we might think that the relevant point of view is an emotional, appetitive, unreflective point of view. On this hypothesis, you live your life well by doing what you want or by letting your feelings be your guide; a good life for you is one in which you feel good, get what you desire, or enjoy your experiences."(4)

Het platonisme verdedigt bijvoorbeeld het eerste. Maar er is wel wat af te dingen op hoe rationeel en sturend dat 'rationele zelf' is of kan zijn.

"As psychologist John Haidt describes it, Plato’s metaphor of the chariot and the charioteer ought to be replaced by the metaphor of the elephant and the rider: the non-reflective self is like a great big, determined elephant, and the reflective self is the little rider sitting on top, with rather limited control. Our reflective selves are neither as smart nor as powerful as is required by the ideal of rational control.
Perhaps, then, we should abandon the reflective self and identify with the elephant. But this won’t work either, for two reasons. First, our non-reflective, emotional selves are not the best leaders either. The most obvious problem here is that we can have passions that lead us in opposite directions, leading to a lot of frustration. Even without conflict, momentary passions can lead us in directions that frustrate our long-term interests.
Second, it is as reflective creatures that we want to know how we ought to live our lives. People who ask questions like 'What is the best life for me?' or 'How should I live?' are already engaged in some reflection about their lives, and so these questions need an answer that will satisfy us insofar as we are being reflective. When we ask these kinds of questions, we presuppose that we have some kind of control over our lives, and that there are reasons for doing things one way rather than another. In other words, these questions are normative questions that require normative, action-guiding, or reason-giving answers. To abandon the reflective self in our account of how to live would be to ignore the real source of our questions about how to live and, hence, to risk not really answering the questions we have.
A benefit of the traditional picture according to which we are identified with our rational capacities, and living well is living rationally, is that it seems to provide an obvious and satisfying answer to our normative concerns."(5)

"This book does not presuppose that there are rational principles with inescapable action-guiding authority. Instead, my approach, in the tradition of Hume, is to look to our experience as the only source of answers to our normative questions. An account of how to live, on my view, must be genuinely normative in a way that gives satisfying answers to the questions we have in a reflective frame of mind; but it must also be compatible with a naturalistic picture of the world, one that contains neither imperatives from God nor principles or values that exist independently of our commitments to them.
If we can’t abandon the reflective self, but can’t trust our reflective capacities either, how should we proceed? One obvious thought is that we should try to improve our reflection."(6)

We zouden bijvoorbeeld een ideale vorm van rationaliteit kunnen beschrijven, zonder de zwakheden die er normaalgesproken aan kleven. Maar vanuit een ik-perspectief is dat lastig, omdat niemand volmaakt is.

"A different strategy is to think about how to train the rational and reflective capacities we actually have so that they can function together with our emotions, moods, and desires to get us somewhere we’d like to be. This strategy is the one I favor. It involves being more humble about the powers of reflection and acknowledging the importance of our non-reflective experience. (...) I propose to do this by thinking of the improvement of reflection in terms of developing certain virtues, qualities of mind, or habits of thought, that are useful for us, given our needs and limitations."(7)

Vier deugden zullen worden uitgewerkt: het hebben van perspectief, flexibele aandacht, zelfbewustzijn en optimisme.

"There are, then, three important features of a first-personal, process-based account of how to live well. First, it must aim at reflective success; that is, it must give us guidance that will be satisfying from a person’s actual reflective point of view. Second, it must include norms of improvement for our reflection that are not derived from an unachievable ideal. And, third, it must recognize the importance of our passions and experiences both as a source of information and as a motivational force. In this book I develop an account of how to live that meets these three criteria, the Reflective Wisdom Account. According to this account, to live well, we should develop the qualities that allow us both to be appropriately reflective and to have experiences that are not interrupted by reflection, and we should live our lives in accordance with the ends, goals, or values that stand up to appropriate reflection. I call these beneficial qualities reflective virtues, and I take them to be components of wisdom. To live well, then, is to live wisely, and the wise person knows how to live with her limits."(8)

Verdere uitwerking van het bovenstaande. Tiberius kiest niet voor de Informed Desire Account (Railton - 1986, Rawls - 1971, Griffin - 1986, Brandt - 1979) of de Authentic Happiness Account (Sumner - 1996) of de Object List Theories (Kraut - 1997) omdat die benaderingen ('accounts of well-being' genoemd) geen specifieke aanbevelingen doen voor hoe je zou moeten leven en zich meer op gestelde doelen dan op het proces richten.

[Het is wel duidelijk dat ik helemaal niet thuis ben in de huidige wereld van de ethiek: het zijn voor mij allemaal nieuwe termen. Ik ben hoe dan ook niet thuis in de academische filosofie natuurlijk. Letterlijk en figuurlijk.]

"A person who doesn’t care about her own reflective judgment on the way her life is going is a person who has, in an important sense, abandoned the project of directing her own life.(...)
One might worry that not everyone asks these questions, and that the kind of reflectiveness I am presupposing is the peculiar interest of professional philosophers. But I think that this pronouncement either is arrogant or misunderstands the kind of reflection I mean.(...) There is perhaps a distinctive way in which academics and intellectuals engage in reflection about their lives, but nothing in my account of reflection requires this particular way of thinking. (In fact, one might think that academics are at least equally susceptible to certain barriers to good reflection on how to live, such as the capacity for rationalization, a tendency toward self-deception and self-aggrandizement, and a lack of sensitivity to others.)"(10-11)

[Mijn idee ... ]

Veel mensen hebben niet de behoefte om stil te staan bij hoe ze zouden moeten leven, omdat ze bijvoorbeeld leven in overeenstemming met de regels van hun religie, of gemeenschap of sociale rol. Of anders wel omdat ze leven onder drukkende omstandigheden als armoede, waarbij nadenken over je leven een luxeprobleem is.

"This point about the relevance of culture to what counts as wisdom highlights a limitation that any account grounded in experience must acknowledge: namely, that it cannot claim to be truly universal. Rather, an empirically grounded account must start with people who have certain commitments and concerns as a matter of contingent fact.
Ultimately, the scope of my account depends on how universal are the various facts about human psychology on which I rely."(12)

"According to the Reflective Wisdom Account, then, a well-lived life is a life we endorse or approve of upon reflection."(12)

"What kind of point of view is ideal enough to make sense of the normative notion of ‘the good life’ and is also something to which ordinary people can aspire? I suggest that it is the point of view of a person with reflective wisdom. Reflective wisdom is the right kind of ideal because, as we will see, it grounds criticism of our actual standards and values, and it is an ideal easily recognizable as an improvement to our current point of view.(...)
How wise must we be to count as living well? The first thing to point out is that, on my view, wisdom and appropriate reflection are not unachievable ideals. Given how I will characterize appropriate reflection, it is a state that is within our grasp; it does not include full information, perfect rationality, or full moral virtue."(13)

"Wise judgment is thought to be analogous to a perceptual capacity, so that a wise person sees the right thing to do without applying a code of rules or general principles. While I accept the idea that having practical wisdom is not a matter of having the right code or decision procedure that one mechanically applies, I also think that the analogy to perception leaves the nature of wisdom mysterious and opaque. By breaking down wisdom into a set of skills, I hope to illuminate its nature without having to rely on rules or decision procedures."(15)

"Philosophical discussions of the virtues have been under attack recently by those who think that broad and stable traits of character have been shown by social psychologists not to be widely instantiated in creatures like us (Doris 2002; Harman 1998–9, 2000). Virtue ethicists have responded in various ways (Annas 2005; Kamtekar 2004; Sreenivasan 2002). The best response for my purposes is that the kinds of virtues at work in the Reflective Wisdom Account are not the kinds of virtues that have recently been under attack. The virtues I discuss, as we shall see, are more like habits and problem-solving strategies than like the robust character traits familiar to Aristotelian virtue ethics. When we think of virtues this way, we can rely on some of the work done by positive psychologists (who share this view of virtues) that makes a good case for the possibility of cultivating reliable habits and developing skills. Furthermore, when it comes to what we can do to live well, the recommendations of the Reflective Wisdom Account do not preclude attending to the role of situational factors in determining how we see things, what considerations we are likely to be moved by, and what we value. These factors may be very important in the project of character development."(18)

Dit hier is ethische theorievorming op naturalistische basis met Humeaanse ideeën als uitgangspunt.

"I do not intend to argue for this Humean view against the alternatives. I do think that it is the obvious view for naturalists to have, and I want to consider it because I think that the Reflective Wisdom Account helps make the Humean picture more attractive and clears the way for a fruitful avenue for ethical theorizing. In particular, the main concern about naturalistic explanations of normativity such as the Humean one is that our own commitments cannot provide us with any real normative force, because they are ultimately arbitrary. As I will argue in Chapter 8, however, the commitments that the Reflective Wisdom Account relies on are not arbitrary in any troubling sense."(20-21)

"One contribution I hope this book will make is to demonstrate by example one respectable way in which Humean naturalists can proceed in normative ethics. Philosophers committed to naturalism of this kind have largely turned away from normative philosophy and have focused their attention on meta-ethical analysis of the questions being asked and the status of the possible answers to them. If I am right, then there is another role for Humean ethicists: by drawing out the implications of our commitments in light of our ideals and aspirations about how to live, we can derive normative conclusions about the reasons we have to choose to live one way rather than another. If my defense is persuasive, we should conclude that naturalists of this sort can defend first-order, normative theories. Such normative theories will (naturally) be dependent on people turning out to be a certain way or being committed to certain norms and ideals. But this is not a problem if our assumptions about what people are like are well informed and justified. Pursuing this methodology requires philosophers to leave their armchairs, of course, but it should not surprise us that a commitment to fitting ethics into the natural world requires us to investigate what that world is like."(21)

[Waarom is dit zo belangrijk? Dit is alleen voor academici interessant. Natúúrlijk wil je een normatieve benadering, wanneer je gewoon vanuit de praktijk redeneert.]

"The scope of the answer developed here is not universal, and its recommendations are not rationally inescapable. If there are people who do not have these concerns, who do not care about what reasons they have to live one way rather than another, I have no argument to compel them to care."(22)

(23) 2 - Reflective values

Voor 'value commitments' zijn nodig: motivatie (je moet iets willen, je er in herkennen, er enthousiast over zijn, het gevoelsmatig dus belangrijk vinden), stabiliteit (je moet consistent zijn in wat je belangrijk vindt, maar niet rigide), rechtvaardiging.

"This leads us to the third important difference between value commitments and mere pro-attitudes, which is that our value commitments have a certain kind of authority for us. (In other words, as suggested at the beginning of this chapter, they are normative for us.) We think it makes sense to plan around these commitments; we endorse them as important to our lives. For my purposes, I will say that a commitment has authority for us when we take ourselves to be justified in pursuing it or feeling as we do about it, which in turn means that we have something to say in answer to the question 'Why go for that?' A justification in this context is a set of considerations or a story that fosters confidence, prevents undermining doubt, and contributes to stability."(27)

"Paradigm value commitments, then, consist in positive affective states that have diachronic stability, as well as the conviction that one is justified in having these stable attitudes. Commitments such as these are ones that allow us to judge that our lives are going well."(33)

"We can now see how there is room for improvement of our value commitments, and hence room between our current values and our reflective values. Our actual value commitments can be closer to or farther from the ideal of a reflective value, because they can be more or less stable, justified, and compatible with our affective orientation. The notion of a reflective value provides a regulative ideal for reflection on our values, even without specifying the precise degree of stability or support. Further, the notion of a reflective value provides the kind of standard that will satisfy the reflective self, the part of us that is concerned with genuine normative guidance."(33)

"First, I want to make a case for three rather mundane claims about our reflective values: (1) that these values are plural, (2) that they include friendship or other close personal relationships, and (3) that they include moral ends and making some contribution to these ends. For my purposes, 'moral end' is a technical term defined as a value that has to do with benefit to others."(38)

Daarbij kijkt Tiberius ook naar allerlei psychologische onderzoeken naar wat mensen als waarden hebben.

"Before I say more about the case of the individual deliberator, I want to make one final remark about the bottom-up method I have articulated. This method suggests the possibility of an interdisciplinary research program for establishing a normative system of human values. Psychologists who study human values discover what we value, while philosophers who propose theories of the good life defend normative claims about the values we ideally ought to have. The method I have used puts these two projects together in order to discover what values people would have if they were somewhat more reflective, though otherwise more or less as they are."(54)

[Ik zou nu eigenlijk laaiend enthousiast moeten zijn, maar in plaats daarvan ben ik het boek al aan het scannen en niet meer echt aan het lezen. Waarom? In de eerste plaats bevat het te veel gedelibereer over onbelangrijke details die alleen voor academici interessant zijn. In de tweede plaats weet ik nog niet zo of het belangrijk is stil te staan bij wat individuele mensen in psychologische onderzoeken zeggen dat ze belangrijk vinden. Waar is de maatschappelijke dimensie? De invloed van de media op wat mensen zeggen belangrijk te vinden bijvoorbeeld?]

In de conclusies bij dit hoofdstuk staat:

"The human community in contemporary industrialized democracies has some particular features that make it difficult to pursue our values in a way that will lead to living a good life."(59)

[Waarom komt ze daar nu pas mee? De conclusies zijn dus geen conclusies, hier volgt een heel nieuw thema dat al het voorgaande in een heel ander daglicht kan stellen. Ik citeer uitvoerig:]

"Modern life is demanding in at least four different ways. First, our attention and energy are pulled in many directions. More options are presented to us than people have ever had before; we have (or at least perceive) more choice about who to be, what to do, and what to buy. The media present these options in ways that make some of them seem absolutely imperative, even though they may not in fact be conducive to our happiness or satisfaction. Further, some conflicts between values are exacerbated in a fast-paced, competitive, capitalist society. For example, think of the pull of family and work, each listed as 'very important' by more people than any other item in the World Values Survey. The way our society is currently organized, these two features of life pull strongly in opposite directions, each demanding more of our increasingly limited time. The tension between work and family is a notoriously difficult issue for working women, but women are by no means the only ones who experience it.
Second, our culture emphasizes self-direction and the importance of being ourselves and making our own choices, but does not make this easy. We do not receive training in developing our autonomy; nor is being ourselves always rewarded or even tolerated by our culture. Moreover, given the pressures of culture filtered through the media, it is sometimes difficult to hear one’s own voice in the din. This effect is made worse by clever marketing strategies that use the ideal of authenticity to sell products so that we think we are expressing ourselves by buying the same products that everyone else is buying.
Third, while autonomy and consumer choice are highlighted, community ties that used to provide meaning and satisfaction in life are being eroded by such factors as job mobility and suburban living. This trend increases our isolation and alienation from our fellow citizens and neighbors.
Finally, those of us who live in relative affluence live in a world in which the moral demands on us are tremendous and apparent to anyone who is minimally informed. Given this era of globalization, we know more about distant people and their problems than we ever have before, and our actions (and especially the actions of our governments) have more effect on those distant others than they ever have before.
These facts of life in modern societies make life difficult in a variety of ways. The options presented to us make it difficult to figure out what we want and what would make us happy. When we do think that we know what we want, we are often confronted by social pressures to do otherwise. Impartial moral demands conflict with our partial attachments to our friends or our personal projects in ways that can make us feel powerless, guilty, or overburdened. While these sources of conflict are relatively new, they do not seem likely to disappear in the near future. We are not likely to return to more isolated societies in which we fill roles that are determined and supported by our social group. These facts of life may be contingent and modern, but they are well entrenched and serious, all the same. How we ought to develop our character in the world as we now experience it ought to reflect these facts of life. The aim of Part II is to explain and defend four virtues that are vital to our living reflective lives given our values, the fallibility of our powers of rational control, and this modern context."(59-61)

[Op het punt van de invloed van de media en marketing is ze vreselijk voorzichtig in haar oordeel. Hoe bewust is 'consumer choice', zijn mensen nog wel in staat aan te geven wat ze 'echt zelf' belangrijk vinden? Hier zou je als schrijver heel voorzichtig moeten worden met het gebruik van het woordje 'we': misschien dat jij er in slaagt je autonomie te bewaren omdat je in je leven alles mee had, maar voor de meeste mensen geldt dat niet, de meeste mensen herhalen wat de media ze influisteren, en zo verder, dus hoe zinnig is het nog te verzamelen wat ze aan meningen hebben over wat ze belangrijk vinden voor zichzelf? Toch heeft Tiberius daar zojuist vele pagina's aan gewijd om een aantal 'reflective values' op een rij te krijgen waarin de meeste mensen zich kunnen herkennen. Maar die zijn weer zo algemeen - je familie, je werk, tevreden kunnen zijn en zo verder - dat ze gemakkelijk als universeel zouden kunnen gelden. Je zegt alleen niets over het concrete handelen dat er bij hoort.]

(63) Part II - Wisdom and perspective

(65) 3 - Wisdom and Flexibility

"The need for our own reflective approval of how our lives are going requires a conception of a good life for its satisfaction. Without such a conception we would have no sense of how our various commitments function together as an evaluative standard and no reason for confidence in the justification of the individual commitments we have."(65)

Dat idee dat we hebben voor wat voor ons een goed leven is heeft een zekere structuur, sommige waarden zijn bijvoorbeeld belangrijker dan andere, maar die structuur kan niet rigide zijn omdat we voortdurend leren van wat we elke dag meemaken en het idee daarop aanpassen.

Verder kunnen we niet voortdurend reflecteren op wat we een goed leven vinden.

"But when is it appropriate to be reflective? And how do we know when we should shift away from our reflective point of view? Here we find that if we look to traditional philosophical accounts of practical rationality for answers, we will find that they are not very helpful. Philosophers have tended to recommend that in a reflective moment we think about our conception of the good, make a life plan, deliberate, or decide which ends to endorse, and then we put this plan, these decisions or choices, into action. The direction of rational authority is top down: the plans, choices, and judgments we make when we are reflective determine the rationality of the choices, actions, and feelings we have in practice. Of course, top-down accounts of practical rationality acknowledge the distinction between reflection and practice. But these accounts aim to characterize rationality and the reflective point of view by articulating the principles or standards that govern our practical reasoning. They do not take movement between reflection and unreflective experience, or certainly movement between different ways of being unreflective, to be part of the province of a theory of practical reason.
In the remainder of this chapter I argue that the top-down picture of practical rationality is incomplete, and that this matters for how we characterize the virtue of wisdom and the reflective agent."(67-68)

[Merkwaardig beperkte visie op rationaliteit en praktijk. Rationeel handelen is precies wat ze bedoelt, zal voortdurend gebruik maken van alledaagse ervaring om het praktische handelen bij te stellen. Kijk naar Habermas. Maar ze heeft het daar niet eens over. In plaats daarvan volgt een lang verhaal over de wisselende perspectieven die we in het alledaagse leven kunnen meemaken en over het opgaan in bepaalde activiteiten waarbij reflectie juist storend zou zijn. Ik vind dat zo'n open deur. Natuurlijk kom je vooral tot reflectie wanneer wanneer je aan het peinzen slaat door indrukwekkende en/of vervelende gebeurtenissen in je leven. Maar wat ik dan weer niet lees is dat je vaak ook op een dieper niveau blijkt te reflecteren bij simpele handelingen waarbij je niet hoeft na te denken, het doen van de afwas en andere huishoudelijke activiteiten bijvoorbeeld. Je doet die dingen en erna blijk je ineens inzichten te hebben waarnaar je daarvoor vruchteloos zocht. Reflectie hoeft dus niet zo bewust te zijn.]

"The person with practical wisdom should have a conception of a good life that guides her in reflective moments. But this conception of a good life is also shaped by the person’s engagement with the world, the experience and practice that come from having different practical perspectives. An important part of wisdom, then, is the capacity to use what we learn from experience and to judge when our being engaged in a particular way manifests a problem with our character or with our ability to pursue other values. Such judgments are, in turn, informed by a reflective conception of how to live, but the wise person makes these judgments without directly appealing to her ideal.
In this chapter I have emphasized the importance of learning from experience and not thinking too much. In part, these are important aspects of wisdom, because it is by way of unreflective experience that we learn what our values should be. Of course, having the right values is not sufficient for living well, or for wisdom. The wise must also be guided by these values."(87-88)

(89) 4 - Perspective

"Even when our reflective values are an excellent fit with important emotional predispositions, other aspects of our personalities (short-term desires, competing emotional responses, emotionally insensitive reasoning, and rationalization) may lead us in different directions.
To solve this problem, we need the ability to bring our thoughts, feelings, and actions in line with our values. I call this aspect of reflective wisdom the virtue of perspective. In this chapter I first provide two examples of perspective in order to give an intuitive sense of the nature of the virtue. Sections 4.2 and 4.3 contain an account of perspective as a virtue. I discuss the ways in which perspective as characterized contributes to living well in section 4.4."(89)

[In het Nederlands kunnen we 'to get some perspective' vertalen met 'relativeren'. Allerlei andere emoties etc. kunnen je een tijdje afleiden van je werkelijke waarden over wat het leiden van een goed leven betekent. Ze breken als het ware even in op je normale gevoelsleven en gedragingen. Maar ze zijn niet zo belangrijk als ze op dat moment even lijken en de kunst is om ze te relativeren en de balans weer terug te vinden. Tja, ik vind het echt een open deur. 'Relativeren' is trouwens echt een goede term: het zet de waarde van het ene meteen af tegenover die van het andere, het zegt: vind dit even minder belangrijk dan dat. Bij 'perspectief hebben' is dat niet meteen helder.]

"Part of the wisdom is that there are things not worth worrying about, and that to expend time and energy worrying about these things leads only to unhappiness. The person who is emotionally devastated by something that is not actually all that important lacks perspective. For her to gain perspective, it seems, would be for her to develop a better sense of what is worth worrying about and an ability to bring her thoughts, feelings, and actions into accordance with this better sense."(90)

"What we seem to be recommending when we advise someone to 'get perspective' is to bring her thoughts and feelings in line with what really is important. In Chapter 3 we saw that the ability to shift between various appropriate perspectives is an important part of wisdom. Now we are considering the aspect of wisdom that contends with attentional patterns that are not appropriate. This aspect of wisdom I will call right perspective, or the virtue of perspective."(92-93)

(109) 5 - Self-Awareness

Gebrek aan zelfbewustzijn / zelfkennis heeft een negatief effect op het vermogen tot reflectie en het leiden van een goed leven.

[Wat volgt is voor een groot deel ontleend aan de psychologie. Mensen houden er illusies over zichzelf op na, rationaliseren, introspectie is voor veel mensen niet hun sterkste kant, en wat niet, en dat heeft soms ook een positieve functie. Maar hoe kunnen we dan onszelf leren kennen? Ik zie niet echt een antwoord op die kwestie, behalve dan de spiegel die anderen ons voor houden. Dat vind ik raar, omdat die zelfkennis en zelfkritiek en eerlijkheid tegenover jezelf juist nodig zijn om te leren van je ervaringen en om open te reflecteren over het goede leven dat je wilt leiden. Wanneer je bedenkt hoe slecht het gesteld is met zelfkennis etc, en hoe zeldzaam het is dat mensen op dat punt veranderen, en zo verder, hoe slechts is het dan niet gesteld met die morele reflectie en die wijsheid? Wanneer je de samenleving erbij haalt - wat Tiberius overigens vrijwel nooit doet, het is allemaal psychologie - wordt dat beeld alleen maar schrijnender en is er helemaal weinig hoop.]

"Moderate self-awareness is a virtue that helps us to live self-directed lives that we can endorse from a reflective point of view. It consists in the capacity for self-criticism, an openness to various sources of information about oneself, and humility about what one can find out. Tempered by wisdom, self- awareness comprises a set of skills that operate within certain boundaries and are particularly relevant to the context of decision making. Having the virtue of self-awareness requires some success in applying these capacities and actually achieving some knowledge of facts about oneself that are important to one’s practical life. Those with the virtue of self-awareness are likely to make choices that better reflect their values and fit their own interests and talents; in particular, they are better suited to having valuable friendships and being good friends. They are also better constituted to live self-directed lives, because self-awareness is essential to constructing a self-conception that represents the important aspects of the self."(136)

(137) 6 - Optimism

"Might there also be a reason to tolerate some deviation from the facts about the world, as there is reason to tolerate positive self-illusions? One reason comes from research in positive psychology: there is mounting evidence that positive future-directed attitudes such as hope and optimism (conceived so as to include more than positive illusions about oneself) are correlated with, and sometimes a cause of, various components and indicators of well-being. Hope and optimism predict achievement in many domains, freedom from anxiety and depression, good social relationships, and physical health. Given the emphasis in the Reflective Wisdom Account on social relationships, enjoyment, and accomplishment, the empirical data suggest that optimism or hopefulness might be important for living a life that one can reflectively endorse."(137)

"The aim of this chapter is to characterize cynicism and optimism, and to argue that cynicism (properly understood) is a vice, and optimism (properly understood) is a virtue. An important part of the argument for establishing cynicism as a vice will be to distinguish cynicism from what we might call 'being realistic', which is often beneficial. The argument for considering optimism to be a virtue requires locating the appropriate mean between cynicism and a kind of foolish optimism, or being a Pangloss, which is often harmful. We will see how cynicism hinders both the cognitive and the affective components of our capacity for endorsement by influencing our views about what is worthwhile and by dampening (or precluding entirely) our positive attitudes toward others."(138)

[Een beetje zus een beetje zo, niet te veel dit en niet te weinig dat, voor de hand liggende beschrijvingen en uitwerkingen, zo gaat het de hele tijd in dit verhaal. Ik vind het echt slaapverwekkend. Ook weer heel veel psychologie hier.]

"The pessimistic judgments about human nature and human motivations that are a component of cynicism affect our endorsement of moral ends, ideals, values, or principles by influencing our beliefs about the effectiveness of our actions in furthering these moral commitments and the ultimate point in maintaining them. Consider a person who is committed to the ideal of better treatment of animals who believes that human nature is hopelessly selfish, mean, and unsympathetic. Although she believes, for example, that there are excellent reasons for discontinuing the practice of factory farming, she has little hope that people will ever be persuaded by these reasons because she thinks that people’s interests in profitable farming and in eating meat will determine their outlook on this practice. She is also doubtful that non-rational means of persuasion, which attempt to engage people’s sympathies directly, will have any effect on their outlook. She believes that no matter what she does to discourage factory farming or to change people’s minds, nothing is likely to change. While such an attitude may not change the judgment she makes about animal treatment, this attitude is likely to prevent her from achieving the motivational stance that is part of endorsing an end. It is hard to be motivated by a commitment to something that you believe is doomed from the outset. There are empirical findings that lend support to the claim that responses to moral commitments are inhibited by pessimism about human nature."(143)

"A related point is that pessimism may undermine a person’s effectiveness in promoting her moral ends. As we learned in the previous chapter, positive illusions make us better able to pursue our ends in a variety of ways. Pessimists have no positive illusions—in fact, they have negative illusions—and, therefore, even if they are motivated, they may not be very good at doing what they are motivated to do. We can see how this too is a reinforcing mechanism. Unsuccessful efforts to pursue an end will reinforce the idea that the end is unattainable, which in turn lends support to beliefs about the cause of this lack of success: namely, for the pessimist and cynic, bad human nature."(144)

[Pessimisme en cynisme zijn niet hetzelfde. Pessimisme kan je net zo goed motiveren om het goede te doen, al weet je dat wat je doet niet zo heel veel effect zal sorteren. Ik denk niet dat pessimisme met net zo veel illusies gepaard gaat als optimisme. Hoe kun je om je heen kijken en niet pessimistisch worden? Ik vind optimisme een groter probleem, omdat optimistische mensen dat vaak alleen maar zijn omdat ze de feiten niet onder ogen willen zien. Tiberius bekritiseert de pessimist en de 'foolish optimist' en verdedigt 'realistic optimism'. Maar hoe optimistisch kun je nog zijn wanneer je ook realistisch bent?]

"To some, optimism—even the realistic optimism defended here—will still seem naive or woefully out of touch with the harsh realities of life. In response to this concern, there are two points that should be emphasized. First, realistic optimism is not incompatible with believing that a number of particular people are very bad indeed, or with believing that improvements will be very slow and arduous. These may be very realistic judgments, and if they are, then the virtuous optimist will accept them. Second, the argument for realistic optimism as a virtue depends on the claim that the facts that we have underdetermine judgments about human potential. In the absence of conclusive evidence, what is the best strategy? The argument here is that if you choose the optimistic strategy, you will be more likely to be satisfied with your life upon reflection. That said, we cannot rule out in principle the possibility of conclusive evidence against the assumptions that optimism requires. Such evidence, if truly overwhelming, would even make hope impossible. If, ultimately, we find that we are in a world in which the belief in human potential for good is overwhelmingly contradicted by the facts, and hope is indeed impossible to maintain, then we would no longer have reasons to be optimistic. Of course, in such a world we would also lose many of our reasons for endorsing and pursuing the moral ideals to which we are currently committed, and life would be quite grim."(153)

"We can now see that the optimist is well suited to endorse various commitments. First, when it comes to commitments to moral or political ideals, the optimist is not likely to see these values as doomed by human weakness from the outset. She is, therefore, more likely than the cynic to see her own contributions to these ideals as having purpose, to judge that these ideals are valuable in virtue of their practical role in her life, and to find it possible to sustain her motivation to pursue them. While her realism might incline her to believe that her moral ideals will not be realized in her lifetime, the optimist differs from the cynic in holding out hope that human beings will continue to make progress toward them. Further, the optimist will not tend to think that human beings are simply incapable of following moral principles or being motivated by moral values in such a way that her own commitment to these principles and values looks either self-deceptive or foolish. The optimist’s disposition to seek evidence for the goodness of human nature and her positive attitude toward it leave her better off than the conservative realist, whose commitment to seeking the truth does not provide any particular support for the value or likely success of her ends.
Second, the optimist is, where the cynic is not, inclined to judge that others are deserving of association, attention, and interest. She is more likely to find deep and satisfying friendships and to endorse relationships with other people as valuable. If the endorsement of valuable ends is required for living well, then an optimistic disposition is valuable, because it facilitates our ability to value important ends such as moral ideals and friendships. We therefore have prima facie reasons to develop the virtue of optimism. Whether any of us has an all-things-considered reason will depend on our particular tendencies and the current state of our character.(...)
Finally, we should consider the empirical evidence for the benefits of optimism. Psychologists have shown that optimists have all sorts of advantages in terms of health, happiness, and success in their chosen pursuits."(154-155)

[Blijven lachen, dus, ook al is er geen enkele reden voor? Of is dat te cynisch?]

"One of the conclusions we can draw from this chapter is that optimism not only helps us to live lives that are better from our own point of view, but that it also helps us live lives that are better from a moral point of view. This raises a question about the relationship between being a wise person (in the sense we have just explored in this part of the book) and being a moral person. This question is the subject of the next chapter, which begins Part III."(157)

(159) Part III - Beyond the first-person point of view

(161) 7 - Morality and the reflective life

"In this third and final part of the book I turn to consider the bearing that this account of how to live wisely has on traditional philosophical questions about morality and normativity.(161)"()

"People who have reflective wisdom are probably more likely to have moral commitments that are sufficiently strong to have a role in their decision making, but the Reflective Wisdom Account does not guarantee this coincidence.(164)"()

"Despite the happy connections between living morally and living well from one’s own point of view, we cannot eliminate the possibility of conflicts between one’s moral commitments and one’s other value commitments. What does the Reflective Wisdom Account have to say about such conflicts? (168)"()

(182) 8 - Normativity and ethical theory

"As I said in the Introduction, the only reasonable strategy for living a good life is to try to lead a life that lives up to the standards that you think are the right ones. You might take your judgments about the right standards to track something with an objective foundation, but your own commitments are where you must start. On this way of seeing it, the Reflective Wisdom Account is meta-ethically neutral.(...)
While it is true that the Reflective Wisdom Account can be neutral about the ultimate source of normativity, it is also true that it fits particularly well with a naturalistic, Humean meta-ethical theory according to which the ultimate foundation for norms is our commitments and passions."(183)

"The Reflective Wisdom Account relies on generalizations about human nature that may or may not be true of particular individuals; it does not defend universal principles or find reasons that are reasons for anyone. Aside from the worries about the normative authority of such contingent reasons, values, and principles, some might be concerned that there is no legitimate role for philosophical argument or theory in the context of a substantive engagement with these normative claims.
We can put the problem this way: if there are no universal principles to articulate and defend, then all we are doing in normative theory is exhorting people to virtue—and exhortation is not philosophy.(...)
Philosophers can describe human nature, analyze language and concepts, and point out the implications of commitments that people already have. But exhortation and persuasion, one might think, are best left to preachers and advice columnists."(193-194)

(198) 9 - Conclusion

Samenvatting van de belangrijkste thema's van het boek.

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