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The Deep and the Shallow

  • Gavin Lawrence
Chapter
Part of the Philosophers in Depth book series (PID)

Abstract

Wisdom is to have correct views of the goods and bads of human life, and of their relative worth and standing: to understand how to navigate one’s way through these, in the situations in which one finds oneself, so as always to end in a correct (or forgivably mistaken) judgment of how best to act—successfully, wisely. Lacking it, one is in danger of living a life in some way bad or defective. It may be a really corrupt, wicked life. Or it may be simply a wasted one, where the agent squanders talents and time, without doing anything so terribly bad, certainly not to others. Admittedly, we can perhaps speak of the wicked as in a certain way shallow, although that would need elaboration (one’s immediate reaction to extreme cruelty not being “shallow, shallow!”); less contentiously, we can speak of the unjust life of an unjust person as one wasted (though that too is not the first thing we are likely to say). Our talk of waste, etc., is typically more particular– where the issues are rather with idleness, triviality, and superficiality, with failures to appreciate, pursue, or be moved by, things of real human worth: it points to a more specific range of defects and misjudgements of worth, etc. This paper explores the notions of depth and shallowness as they figure in Foot’s reflections on the good, and then considers the implications of these notions for our understanding of what it is to live well or badly and what it is to have lived happily or unhappily.

Notes

Acknowledgements

This draws from a larger project. Earlier versions were given at memorial sessions in honor of Professor Foot at Somerville, Oxford in 2011, and at the Western APA in Seattle in 2012. More recently, I should like to acknowledge debts, and thanks, to the editor John Hacker-Wright, and to my colleagues, Barbara Herman, John Carriero, and Andrew Flynn. Philippa was the principal philosophical interlocutor in my life for thirty years. I am delighted to dedicate this piece to her—and, at random, to the memory of a particular evening when she outpaced Michael Thompson and myself around Blenheim Palace, at sunset, past a field of strangely innumerable hares up by the Column of Victory, and then on into the gathering dusk of ambulant companionship.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gavin Lawrence
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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