The Worlds We Shape through Habit: On Ethical Self-Cultivation in Merleau-Ponty, Aristotle, and the Tibetan Buddhist Lojong Tradition Open Access

Locke, Jessica Elizabeth (2016)

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This dissertation is a cross-cultural philosophical work that examines the role of habit in shaping our experience of the world and, based on that, how we respond ethically to it. Further, my dissertation inquires into the prospects that we have for re-habituating ourselves in ever more ethically felicitous ways. The main resources that shape my approach to these questions are Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology, Aristotle's virtue ethics, and the Tibetan Buddhist Lojong (‘Mind-Training') tradition. I read these perspectives on habit alongside one another, addressing the puzzle of what it means to re-habituate ourselves. In the works of Merleau-Ponty and Aristotle, I find detailed accounts of how habit shapes our lived experience and defines us as ethical agents. In Lojong I find a set of practices that claims to effect a moral-phenomenological shift in its practitioners, revising the habitual structures that underwrite both ethical action and conscious experience. While each of these articulations of habit speaks in its own voice about the obstacles and opportunities that lay before the person who wishes to re-habituate herself, I argue that together these three philosophies of habit indicate the ever-unfolding futurity of our ethical subjectivity. Habit shows us not only how our ethical subjectivity takes shape historically and culturally; it also invites self-cultivation in the interest of ethical growth.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

I. Making Experience an Ethical Project

II. Habit as a Site for Ethical Self-Cultivation

III. Methodology of Cross-Cultural Philosophy and Outline of Chapters

Chapter One 11

Acquiring a World through Habit

I. Introduction

II. Origins of the Life-World

III. Perceptual Habit and the Formation of Our World

IV. Habit and the Ethics of the Gaze

Chapter Two 43

"All the Difference" that Habit Makes: A Problem in Aristotelian Moral Psychology

I. Introduction

II. What Is the "Difference" that Habit Makes?

III. How Character Directs Our Actions

a. Practical wisdom (phronēsis)

b. Imagination

c. Upbringing, Affect and Perception of the World: Are we Prisoners of Our Character?

IV. Can We Be Authors of Our Own Character?

V. Conclusion

Chapter Three 73

Ethical Re-Habituation in the Lojong Tradition

I. Introduction

II. What Do We Do When We Do Buddhist Ethics?

a. Two Western Approaches to Buddhist Ethics

b. Buddhist Ethics as Moral Phenomenology

c. Bodhicitta and Moral Phenomenology

III. Lojong: Bringing Bodhicitta within Reach

IV. Lojong Pedagogy in Two Seminal Texts: The Seven-Point Mind Training and the Wheel-Weapon

a. The Seven-Point Mind Training

i. The Phenomenological Significance of Contemplation of Aphorisms

ii. The Phenomenological Significance of Tonglen Practice

b. The Wheel-Weapon

i. The Ethical Productivity of Suffering

ii. Conceptual Construction as the Source of Suffering

iii. Habituation as Familiarization

V. Conclusion

Chapter Four 109

The Coming-About of Moral Subjectivity: Prospects for Re-Habituation

I. Introduction

II. The Available Trajectories

a. On Merleau-Ponty

b. On Aristotle

c. On Lojong

III. Re-Habituation and the Total Choice of Our World

IV. Conclusion

Conclusion 137

The Future of Re-Habituation

Works Cited 143

Non-Textual Works Cited 147

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