Ambivalence, Valuational Inconsistency, and the Divided Self
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 83, pp. 41-71, 2011
47 Pages Posted: 3 Dec 2011
Date Written: March 6, 2009
Is there anything irrational, or self-undermining, about having 'inconsistent' attitudes of caring or valuing? In this paper, I argue that, contra suggestions of Harry Frankfurt and Charles Taylor, the answer is 'No.' Here I focus on 'valuations,' which are endorsed desires or attitudes. The proper characterization of what I call 'valuational inconsistency' I claim, involves not logical form (valuing A and not-A), but rather the co-possibility of what is valued; valuations are inconsistent when there is no possible world in which what is valued can co-exist. Essentially conflicting valuations, I show, are no worse for an agent than contingently conflicting ones, which are common and no threat to rationality or well-being. Partly based on reflections about a conflicted mother, who values staying at home and also having a career, I argue that valuational inconsistency does not render a person unable to act, does not make a person's actions ineffective because of vacillation, does not undermine a person's autonomy, and need not make a person dissatisfied with himself. I defend my characterization of inconsistency as an apt one; I offer some reasons to value inconsistency itself; and I draw out some implications for coherence thinking in moral philosophy.
Keywords: ambivalence, divided self, values, dilemmas
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