[Read and listen to the full essay in our Project Journal here]
When integrity demands saintliness, it makes sinners of us all. Either we have all already sold out, or else we are in the indomitable grip of an idée fixe – infatuated with our own virtue, or drunk on lofty ideals. Yet a lesser notion of integrity, one which would balance it prudently against other goods, simply misses the point. In fact, there are many ways of simply missing the point of this most elusive quality. This is due not to our universal ineptitude, but to the peculiar nature of integrity itself. It is this same distinctive nature, I shall argue, that makes the person of integrity so often appear to the world as mad, bad, or sad. But where exactly does the madness lie?
Amber Carpenter is a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at the University of York. She received her B.A. in Philosophy from Yale University in 1996 and her Ph.D. from King’s College London in 2001. 2003 to 2005 she was Assistant Professor at the Franklin & Marshall College, 2005 to 2007 teaching fellow at the University of St. Andrews; in 2007 she was Einstein fellow at the Einstein Forum. She works in Ancient Greek philosophy and in Indian philosophy. Her general interest is in ethics, ancient and modern, and specifically in the place of reason in a well-lived life—what might reason be that it could be ethically relevant, or even required? Her publications include a number of articles on Greek and Indian philosophy and, most recently, a monograph entitled Indian Buddhist Philosophy (2013).