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University of Illinois professor to speak at philosophy colloquium, March 20

Shelley Weinberg, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will talk about Locke on the Motivating Power of Concern, from 4 to 5 p.m. on Friday, March 20, in Stevenson Hall, room 401A as part of the Illinois State University Philosophy Department colloquium.

Abstract: English philosopher John Locke ties moral agency to our ability to suspend desire in order to rationally assess the happiness to be gained from any particular action. But the act of suspension requires motivation. Many are satisfied with finding this motivation in a “constantly operative” and “unceasing” general desire for happiness. But we don’t always suspend, so there must be more to Locke’s motivational story.

Weinberg argues that analogous to natural interruption by the pain of what we need for short-term preservation, we are naturally interrupted by the pain of what we need for our long-term preservation, including in an afterlife. Insofar as we’re beings capable of pleasure and pain, we have a constant and abiding natural inclination toward pleasure and away from pain: We have a general desire for happiness. Insofar as we’re beings capable of rational deliberation we have an additional concern to make sure that the pleasures and pains we pursue and avoid contribute to our true (long-term) happiness. Such motivation leads to the perfection of a rational nature.