There’s something puzzling about intentionally acquiring a new value: if we don’t already have the value, what motivates us to acquire it? This is best understood through an example: a young student takes a music appreciation class in order to learn to appreciate the value of classical music. She doesn’t already appreciate the value of classical music—if she did, she wouldn’t need the class. But if she doesn’t appreciate its value, why take the class? The class is hard work, after all: she must spend hours listening to music that she doesn’t yet appreciate!
Philosopher Agnes Callard calls this kind of intentional value acquisition ‘aspiration’. In this interview, we discuss a number of issues surrounding aspiration: how it is possible, how it begins, why one cannot aspire to be a gangster, and perhaps most surprisingly, how aspiration accounts for how we can author of our own lives. Along the way, we discuss the nature of motivation, future-to-past normative grounding, and the immortality of the soul. We end with a quick discussion of the value of public philosophy.
0:02 – Intro to Agnes Callard
3:50 – What is aspiration?
5:13 – What aspiration is not
17:27 – Moral skepticism and aspiration
24:04 – Proleptic reasons and motivation
45:13 – Starting to aspire and the direction of self-creation
55:40 – Future to past normative grounding, ontological commitment, and motion
1:11:52 – The value of aspiration, the good life, and the immortality of the soul
1:28:42 – The value of public philosophy