Moral Philosophy Seminar (Monday - Week 2, TT23)
The passage of time seems to make our agential accomplishments and achievements meaningless. Even when our pursuits are successful, the passage of time makes them empty and futile. At issue is not just the finitude of our existence but also the seeming absurdity of the self-destructive character of our temporal engagement with value. As Kieran Setiya has recently argued, the achievement of our goals extinguishes their power to guide us, “your days are devoted to ending, one by one, the very activities that give them meaning.” Setiya suggests that this absurdity can be avoided by changing the basic orientation of our agency from telic pursuits to atelic activities—activities that are fulfilled in the moment of action itself and that have no point of conclusion or limit. In this paper, I argue that giving primacy to the atelic fails to acknowledge the distinctive temporality of our agency, which combines telic and atelic elements in what I call ‘temporal unity.’ Temporal unity might help us overcome some threats to a meaningful temporal existence but it still leaves us with some inescapable ambivalence toward the significance of our temporal condition.
Moral Philosophy Seminar Convenor: Jeremy Fix