The Philosophy of Devotion: Nihilism, Fanaticism, and the Longing for Invulnerable Ideals

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This book explores the moral psychology of devotion. In the first part of the book, I provide I analysis of devotion; an examination of its motivational role; and an explanation of its connection to a distinctive form of valuing, in which certain values are seen as inviolable and are rendered invulnerable to the typical effects of justificatory reflection. In the second part of the book, I assess the ethical significance of devotion, arguing that certain forms of ethically praiseworthy relationships require devotion. In the third part, I examine how devotion can easily devolve into pathological forms. I focus on fanaticism, arguing that devotion can arise from a particular form of psychological fragility that is linked to group violence. I further argue that this form of fragility can be stoked by group resentment, and that certain social groups can thus be fanatical in the sense that they encourage the emergence of individual fanatics. In the final part of the book, I ask whether there are ways of preserving some of the beneficial features of devotion while avoiding their pathologies. I investigate whether we can be devoted through irony; through affirmation; and through what I call the "Deepening Move." Each of these stances preserves a degree of flexibility and openness in the object of devotion; each one tries to preserve a form of wholehearted devotion despite this openness. (The attached file contains the introductory chapter. Email me if you'd like a draft of the entire book.)
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Archival date: 2021-04-07
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