FAH/DPHIL Lecture Series – “The Case for Commitment” by Prof. Sarah Paul, NYU Abu Dhabi
2023-12-01 @ 1:30 pm ~ 3:00 pm
Theories of structural, instrumental rationality generally do not make reference to anything we might call ‘commitment’, beyond the sense in which all intentions are a kind of settled commitment. Some views do allow for things like commitment, resolutions, or faith to affect how we ought to reason, but these tend to be characterized as all-or-nothing notions whose role is to preserve inertia by preventing reconsideration and/or desensitizing us to new evidence. I conjecture that we’re led to this overly narrow conception of commitment by thinking of temptation as the primary cause of giving up on an end prematurely, and overlooking the importance of obstacles like procrastination and despair. In my talk, I will try to articulate a puzzle about acting in the face of uncertainty, concerning how we should navigate the tensions involved in trying hard to achieve a goal, while at the same time planning for the possibility of failure and remaining open to giving up. Such decisions are not only difficult to make, but also to live with over time. I argue that our understanding of these dynamics is deepened by bringing in a degreed notion of commitment that involves far more than merely blocking the effects of temptation.
Sarah Paul is Professor of Philosophy at NYU Abu Dhabi and a Global Network Professor of Philosophy at NYU. Before joining NYU in 2019, she was a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for nine years. She is the author of Philosophy of Action: A Contemporary Introduction (Routledge Press 2021), as well as articles that have appeared in Ethics, Philosophers’ Imprint, the Australasian Journal of Philosophy, and Philosophical Studies. She is currently working on a book titled Striving with Jennifer Morton, under contract with OUP.