Saturday, December 21, 2013

Nomy Arpaly and Timothy Schroeder's "In Praise of Desire"

Nomy Arpaly received her Ph.D. from Stanford University and is now Associate Professor of Philosophy at Brown University. She is the author of Unprincipled Virtue as well as Merit, Meaning, and Human Bondage and various articles. Timothy Schroeder grew up on the Canadian prairies, an environment that afforded him plenty of time for philosophical speculation. He received his B.A. from the University of Lethbridge and his Ph.D. from Stanford University, and is now Associate Professor of Philosophy at Ohio State University.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, In Praise of Desire, and reported the following:
In Praise of Desire is a work of professional philosophy, aimed at people who want to think again about debates as old as Plato and Aristotle. Why do we do the morally good and bad things we do? What are virtue and vice? What are appetites and aversions? And so on. The discussion has been going on inside philosophy for over two thousand years, and by now it’s rather dryly technical. So it’s a little bit of a surprise to find that page 99 starts:
(We gleefully borrow all the clichés of the romance novel for this example.)
It’s not a completely out-of-character moment in the book, however: we like concrete examples. In the case of page 99, the topic is the nature of love and its relationship to wanting what’s best for the person you love. We wanted an example that would illustrate a point: you can want what’s best for a person, want it very much, without ulterior motives, and yet not feel any motivation to act on this desire. How is this possible? Well, imagine that Julian is a rogue and that he has come to love Veronica, who is madly in love with him. And imagine that Julian knows he will surely break Veronica’s heart, given enough time. Then Julian might decide to move away to a distant country in order to spare Veronica the pain that surely awaits her if they become more involved. (You see what we meant about clichés?) And once he has moved to a distant country, Julian will still very much want what’s best for Veronica (he’ll be distressed if he hears her family has lost its fortune, and so on), but never feel motivated to act on this desire.

Our book isn’t all examples by any means, but this sort of argument is definitely characteristic of our work.
Learn more about In Praise of Desire at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue