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International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Volume 30, Issue 2, Fall 2016

Shannon B. Proctor
Pages 251-266

The Temporal Structure of Habits and the Possibility of Transformation

Habits and habitudes are peculiar in that they are both a condition of human agency, as well as one of its most significant hurdles. They open up the world by providing us with ways of being within it (e.g., how we perceive, move about, and generally orient ourselves in space). However, they also confine our worldly behavior given their repetitive and often predictable nature. This tension between spontaneity and repetition arises out of the two-fold temporal structure of habits—i.e., the habitual body simultaneously directs us toward the future and the past. An understanding of this tension is generally important for thinking about how individuals can do things differently. More urgently, this work has applications in the treatment of addictions and other compulsive behaviors where the difficulties of disrupting habitual repetition are much more pronounced.