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Integrity and Fragmentation

JOHN COTTINGHAM
Journal of Applied Philosophy
Vol. 27, No. 1 (2010), pp. 2-14
Published by: Wiley
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/24355963
Page Count: 13
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Integrity and Fragmentation
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Abstract

The virtue of integrity does not appear explicitly in either the Aristotelian or the Judaeo-Christian list of virtues, but elements of both ethical systems implicitly acknowledge the importance of a unified and integrated life. This paper argues that integrity is indispensible for a good human life; the fragmented or compartmentalized life is always subject to instability, in so far as unresolved psychological conflicts and tensions may threaten to derail our ethical plans and projects. Achieving a stable and integrated life requires self-awareness; and (drawing on insights from the psychoanalytic tradition) it is suggested that self-awareness is not a simple matter, but requires a complex process of self-discovery. The paper's final section argues that although vitally necessary for the good life, integrity cannot be sufficient. Against the view of influential writers such as Bernard Williams and Harry Frankfurt, our commitment to our chosen projects, however authentic and integrated, cannot in itself give our lives meaning and value. The good and meaningful life cannot be a matter of authenticity alone, but requires us, whether we like it or not, to bring our projects into line with enduring objective values that we did not create, and which we cannot alter.

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