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On Settling

On Settling

Robert E. Goodin
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 144
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  • Book Info
    On Settling
    Book Description:

    In a culture that worships ceaseless striving, "settling" seems like giving up. But is it?On Settlingdefends the positive value of settling, explaining why this disdained practice is not only more realistic but more useful than an excessive ideal of striving. In fact, the book makes the case that we'd all be lost without settling--and that even to strive, one must first settle.

    We may admire strivers and love the ideal of striving, but who of us could get through a day without settling? Real people, confronted with a complex problem, simply make do, settling for some resolution that, while almost certainly not the best that one could find by devoting limitless time and attention to the problem, is nonetheless good enough. Robert Goodin explores the dynamics of this process. These involve taking as fixed, for now, things that we reserve the right to reopen later (nothing is fixed for good, although events might always overtake us). We settle on some things in order to concentrate better on others. At the same time we realize we may need to come back later and reconsider those decisions. From settling on and settling for, to settling down and settling in,On Settlingexplains why settling is useful for planning, creating trust, and strengthening the social fabric--and why settling is different from compromise and resignation.

    So, the next time you're faced with a thorny problem, just settle. It's no failure.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4531-6
    Subjects: Philosophy, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    Thomas Hobbes famously posits, as “a general inclination of all mankind . . . , a perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that ceaseth only in death.”¹ The parts of that passage that stick in the schoolboy’s mind are “power” and “death.” Here I want to shift attention to a less-remarked part of that passage, and to use that as a springboard for exploring a contrasting concept.

    The Hobbesian trope that I shall take as my foil is the “perpetual and restless desire” that he posits as part and parcel of that “general inclination of all mankind.” Call...

  5. one Modes of Settling
    (pp. 5-29)

    Let us begin descriptively, by familiarizing ourselves with some of the many and varied facets of settling. In the end, what I am interested in is the practices represented rather than the words that are employed to describe them. But perhaps the best way to approach that task is by surveying the various different contexts in which that term is employed.¹

    Philosophically, of course, it would be wrong to presuppose that anything very much can necessarily be read off the quirks of language alone. The fact that the same word happens to pop up in all these different connections does...

  6. two The Value of Settling
    (pp. 30-50)

    As announced at the outset of chapter 1, and illustrated through the extended discussion of the many different modes of settling, “fixity” of one sort or another (“settling on”) seems to be central to the notion of “settling.” So far that has remained merely an observation about the way the term is used, and about the wide range of social practices associated with that term. The aim of this chapter is to go on to vest that observation with normative significance. The argument of this chapter will be that that “fixity” is what makes settling a normatively defensible practice that...

  7. three What Settling Is Not
    (pp. 51-62)

    In the course of my analysis of what settling is and why we value it, I have already had occasion to mention a few things that it is not. It is not merely “satisficing” of the ordinary sort. True, when settling for something, we make do for now with something that is “good enough.” But when genuinely settling on that, we do so with the intention and expectation of sticking with it more firmly and sometimes for different reasons than we would if we had chosen it for satisficing-style reasons alone.

    Nor is settling merely a matter of ending uncertainty...

  8. four Settling in Aid of Striving
    (pp. 63-73)

    To end as I began, let me return to Thomas Hobbes’s idea of striving, his “perpetual and restless desire” that he takes (he with regret, Goethe and Tennyson with celebration) to be “a general inclination of all mankind.” We all know people like that. Most of us probably lived some portion of our own lives like that, to some extent. But as I hope to have shown, there is also a well-established social practice of “settling” that constitutes a sharp counterpoint to such “striving.”

    What is the most appropriate mix of striving and settling, within any one life, or indeed...

  9. Conclusions
    (pp. 74-74)

    We need, then, a judicious mixture of settling and striving in our lives. We strive because of what sorts of agents we are and want to be: purposeful agents with temporally extended projects, identities, and commitments that we want to cohere well enough both simultaneously and over time to form a tolerably coherent whole. We settle on those things and stick to them over protracted periods for that reason. And we settle for less than might be ideal in other dimensions of our lives in order that we might do that more effectively. The “striving” side of life is where...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 75-92)
  11. References
    (pp. 93-106)
  12. Index
    (pp. 107-114)