Complacency and Motivational Vice
Doan, Michael D.
MetadataShow full item record
What does it mean to be complacent with respect to especially complex ecological and social problems such as global climate change? Although those who are engaged on such problems tend to recognize complacency as a serious worry, we will not find much assistance from philosophers in understanding this concept. Thus, in this dissertation I set myself the task of developing an account of complacency that is adequate to contexts of deeply entrenched social and environmental injustice. My aims are to understand better what it means to be complacent, and to figure out what is involved in remedying this form of “motivational inertia.” In Chapter 2, I situate my proposed account in the context of an ongoing methodological debate among political philosophers. I explain why the methodological prioritization of “ideal theory” is a dangerously misguided approach to theorizing about matters of justice, and argue for the promise of a naturalized approach to nonideal theory. In Chapter 3, I develop an account of the epistemic dimensions of complacency by considering what it means for white people to be complacent with respect to the mass incarceration of people of color in such countries as the United States. I draw upon critical character theory to support my contention that complacency is a multidimensional form of character damage. In Chapter 4, I discuss further what it means to be complacent, this time in the broader context of global climate change. Having argued that complacency is a multidimensional form of character damage, in this chapter I proceed to examine how such damage is embodied intrapsychically in the form of settled expectations of self-sufficiency. Finally, in Chapter 5, I consider what is involved in remedying complacency. I discuss the relationships between repairing character damage and working for broader structural change, exploring some of the ways in which personal transformation is bound up with building culture and community for sustainable, long-term engagement.