Desire, the Self, and the Good

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Date(s) - 12/05/2016
5:15 pm - 6:45 pm

St Mary's University, Twickenham


The next Royal Institute of Philosophy lecture at St Mary’s will also be the last for this series.

Desire, the Self, and the Good

Dr. Amber Carpenter
Associate Professor of Humanities (Philosophy), Yale-NUS College
Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, University of York

Amber Carpenter is Associate Professor at Yale-NUS College, where she integrates teaching in Indian, Chinese and European philosophy; and Senior Lecturer at the University of York. Her published work concerns the ethical role of reason and knowledge in our lives, and the effect on our characters of holding – or debating – different metaphysical pictures of reality and ourselves. With Dr. Rachael Wiseman (Durham) she is co-founder of the Integrity Project (<>), which creates space to consider the value of integrity, and the cost of doing without it.

Taking their cue from the discourses of the Buddha, Indian Buddhist philosophers offered a trenchant critique of desires as essentially requiring a commitment to self which is contrary to reality and to our own happiness. Eliminating this mistaken and harmful sense of self should release us from the suffering caused by desires. We will first consider how it is that metaphysical pictures of the self might be thought to have this pernicious effect; on the basis of this we can consider whether there are any desires that can and should survive this critique. This talk will consider Plato’s well-known taxonomy of desires in the Republic, in order to test whether these all imply a ‘self’, and if so whether they do so in a way that is necessarily harmful. Can a sense of ‘desire’ independent of harmful attachment to self suffice to ground the practical action required to engage in politics, in ethical relationships, and in the project of making the world around us better?

Venue: Senior Common Room, St Mary’s University, Waldegrave Road, Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, TW1 4SX

Date and time: 5:15pm on Thursday 21st of April. Talks last ninety minutes including questions, followed by a wine reception.

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