Personal Ideals as Metaphors

Journal of the American Philosophical Association 3 (3):265-283 (2017)
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What is it to have and act on a personal ideal? Someone who aspires to be a philosopher might imaginatively think “I am a philosopher” by way of motivating herself to think hard about a philosophical question. But doing so seems to require her to act on an inaccurate self-description, given that she isn’t yet what she regards herself as being. J. David Velleman develops the thought that action-by-ideal involves a kind of fictional self-conception. My aim is to expand our thinking about personal ideals by developing another way of understanding them. On this view action-by-ideal involves a kind of metaphorical self-conception. I investigate some salient differences between these views with the aim of understanding the different perspectives they take on the rationality of action-by-ideal. Where the fiction view runs into problems of literary coherence, the metaphor view exploits the richness of poetic invention. But action-by-ideal is a complex phenomenon about which there may be no tidy story to be told. This paper is an attempt to clarify and understand more of this messy terrain.

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Nick Riggle
University of San Diego


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