Integrity, Speech and Action

Rachael Wiseman

Addison Wheeler Fellowship Research Project

Institute for Advanced Studies, Durham University

July 2014 – September 2017

Project home page »

There is a close connection between integrity, action, and speech. People who pretend, lie, or bullshit are usually thought to lack integrity; those who speak their mind and act in accordance with their conscience, even when this is in conflict with their own interests, are identified as people of integrity. That being said, circumstances are often such that pretence and untruthfulness are more likely to promote our ends than honesty and openness. When the demands of conscience conflict with those of prudence, what should I do?

This project addresses three sets of questions:

  1. What is the connection between action, speech and integrity? What kinds of inaction or pretence undermine an agent’s integrity? How does hypocrisy relate to pretence or untruthfulness? What is the relationship between having integrated ends, an integrated self, and integrity?
  2. What interpersonal contexts and circumstances, or institutional, social, and political structures, encourage or inhibit sincerity and truthfulness in action and speech? What role does moral luck play in our ability to act and speak with integrity?
  3. What is at stake when prudence conflicts with conscience? What kinds of harms are done to individuals, communities, and institutions when sincerity, truthfulness, and personal integrity are inhibited.

‘Integrity, Action, and Speech’ will use Anscombe’s work on intentional action to develop a new account of pretence, hypocrisy, and untruthfulness in the tradition of ‘Analytic Aristotelianism’. This growing research strand in the philosophy of action strives to reconnect philosophy of action with the Aristotelian idea of human life well lived, and recognises the extent to which our actions are the actions that they are only in the context of shared human practice.

If you’d like to know more about the research for this project drop me an email. rachael.wiseman@durham.ac.uk

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