The Amherst Lecture In Philosophy.

Lecture 13, 2018

“Other to Self: The Path to Moral Agency”
Barbara Herman
UCLA



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Abstract
Other to Self begins as a response to two related views: a philosophical tradition that takes love as the ideal of human relationship and Bernard Williams’ criticisms of morality as objectionably presumptuous in assuming authority over what we may do for love. Using data from “attachment theory”, a philosophically resonant branch of psychoanalytic theory, the paper argues for an understanding of mature love as an emergent ability that depends on elements of a co-evolving moral personality. We are not primitive egoists for whom morality is an uncertain bridge to the other; we begin in primitive attachment, endowed with the psychological task of becoming an independent self. It’s a dynamic process that works through such proto-moral mechanisms as anger, guilt, and repair, mechanisms that depend for their success on the love relation they aim to supersede. What we come to see is that the practice of morality and the trajectory of mature love are not in essential conflict, but depend on each other. Some interesting implications are sketched for norms of moral responsibility and action in conditions of moral uncertainty.

Preferred citation
Herman, Barbara. “Other to Self: Finding Love on the Path to Moral Agency.” The Amherst Lecture in Philosophy 13 (2018): 1–21. <http://www.amherstlecture.org/herman2018/>.