College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Philosophy Colloquium--No One Freely Causes Harm

Date: February 15, 2013
Time: 3:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Location: B-LL-110 MAK

Friday February 15 at 3:00pm in Mackinac Hall BLL-110 (Basement)

No One Freely Causes Harm

Debra Nails
(Michigan State University)


Abstract: The metaphysical assumption supporting erôs in Plato, conatus in Spinoza, and libido in Freud is that humans are dynamic natural entities that seek to maximize their own advantage. Thus it has sometimes been thought paradoxical that all three say no one freely causes harm. Plato develops two influential models of the human psyche—but the two are incompatible with one another in that they have different implications for how we ought to live. Freud, citing Plato as the source for his initial account of the psyche, veers off into modifications similar to Plato’s and, ultimately, invokes a second psychic principle that his own metapsychology cannot support. Spinoza’s conatus, I argue, adequately accounts for the phenomena that trouble the other two philosophers and offers the added advantage of a neurobiological basis for my title.

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