Review of 'Valerie Tiberius - The Reflective Life: Living Wisely with Our Limits'
Woollard (Fiona)
Source: The Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 59, No. 236 (Jul., 2009), pp. 570-573
Paper - Abstract

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  1. Tiberius answers the question 'How should I live?' with what she calls the 'reflective wisdom account'. According to this, to live well we should
    1. 'develop the qualities that allow us both to be appropriately reflective and to have experiences that are not interrupted by reflection', and
    2. 'live our lives in accordance with the ends, goals, or values that stand up to appropriate reflection' (p. 8).
    The advantageous qualities described in (i) are the reflective virtues, components of reflective wisdom.
  2. Tiberius picks out four reflective virtues.
    1. Attentional flexibility is the capacity to shift between practical perspectives appropriately, knowing when to adopt the reflective perspective and when to experience life without reflecting.
    2. The virtue of perspective is the ability to bring one's actions and emotions into line with one's values, avoiding disproportionate responses.
    3. Self-awareness is the virtue pertaining to an appropriate amount of self-knowledge, allowing a realistic understanding of one's needs and abilities without destroying certain beneficial illusions.
    4. Realistic optimism is a hopeful view about human nature, the disposition to seek evidence for the good in humanity without ignoring contrary evidence.
  3. This list of virtues is characterized by an underlying theme: humans are not best served by relentless enquiry. Unceasing reflection prevents us from experiencing life; too much self-knowledge destroys illusions that can help us to achieve our goals; dwelling on the evidence of humanity's faults can shut us off from the values of relationships and moral ideals, and ultimately, by leading to contempt for our own ends, damage our ability to find things valuable and act on those values.


Review of "Tiberius (Valerie) - The Reflective Life: Living Wisely with Our Limits".

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