Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. On Desire

 

shutterstock_298189988Let’s talk for a moment about life, the universe and everything. I don’t know any question about life, the universe, and everything to which the answer is definitely Forty-Two (see Douglas Adams), but I can tell you what some of the best questions are: Why aren’t we as happy as we want to be? How can we become happy?

So what about the answers? Well, these questions motivated millenia of philosophy, and a good bit of religion, too. A lot of interesting answers have been given, at least as far back as Buddha and as recently as C. S. Lewis. A lot of the big philosophers (Buddhists, Stoics, Epicureans, Platonists, Christians medievals, Descartes, Bacon, Lewis) have agreed on the problem: Our desires don’t fit the world. We desire more than this world has to offer. We desire what we can’t have — or what we can have but can’t keep — and we end up losing what we love, or fearing its loss.

There are two general strategies available to fix that problem: 1) We change what we want, so that we want what we can have; or 2) We change the world, so that we can have what we want.

It’s pretty obvious that both approaches are correct in their own spheres. (And there may be a third option to accompany the first two. See this comment and this comment, below.) The first strategy has been used successfully by everyone who has stopped being a baby who wants his food, wants it NOW, and is miserable because he doesn’t get exactly what he wants.

Medical science is a useful component of the second strategy, and I thank both God and Descartes (who advocated medical science as a component of the second strategy) that we now have the ability to prevent polio.

But what are the proper spheres of these two strategies? Which should be more emphasized? How should we modify the world or modify our desires properly? These are all issues that make big differences between all these thinkers and traditions. Give a thorough answer to all this, and you have a nice little philosophy of desire, or theology of desire, going.

Boethius
Philosophy tells Boethius how to be happy.

Generalizing somewhat, the earlier philosophers take the first (i.e., change our desires to better match the world), and the early modern Western philosophers take the second approach (i.e., change the world to better match our desires).

There are actually two ways of carrying out the first strategy: either we can cut desire down to the size of whatever is attainable in this world, or we can redirect our desires to something beyond this world. Ancient Buddhists, Stoics, and Epicureans have employed the former of these. The latter is the approach of Sufi mystics, the Bhagavad Gita, the Platonists, the Christian medievals, and C. S. Lewis.

Now it’s time to recommend some books! On the subject of the Platonist, Stoic, and Epicurean philosophers of desire I recommend Martha Nussbaum’s The Therapy of Desire and Pierre Hadot’s What Is Ancient Philosophy?

And on St. Augustine’s philosophy/theology of desire compared and contrasted with Platonism, I recommend — if I may — my own book on Augustine’s Cassiciacum Dialogues. In it, I explain how Augustine mingles the Platonist with the Christian approaches. In one sentence: I explain how Augustine’s theology of desire is a Christian one which takes some insights from the Platonic philosophers. (A bit more detail on where this thesis fits in the context of Augustine scholarship will come up in the next post, and a post after that will summarize the major points of the Cassiciacum dialogues.)

And on the consequences of the modern scientific approach (if you let the worst kind of modern philosophers tell you how to think about right and wrong), I recommend The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis.

And to learn how science fiction film illustrates Lewis, I recommend the upcoming Science Fiction and the Abolition of Man: Finding C. S. Lewis in Sci-Fi Film and Television. The book was my idea, and I’m editing it. More on that another time.

There are 134 comments.

  1. EThompson Inactive

    There are two general strategies available to fix that problem: We can change what we want so that we want what we can have, or we can change the world so that we can have what we want.

    Yuck, A!

    Option #1 sounds like an excerpt from the Communist Manifesto.

    Option #2 sounds like Steve Jobs who I respect more than life itself but we don’t all share that kind of maniacal vision.

    How about option #3?

    We can want what we don’t have and figure out how to get it which is pretty much referenced as the American Dream.

    :)

    • #1
    • October 23, 2015, at 8:17 PM PDT
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  2. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    EThompson:

    There are two general strategies available to fix that problem: We can change what we want so that we want what we can have, or we can change the world so that we can have what we want.

    Yuck, A!

    Option #1 sounds like an excerpt from the Communist Manifesto.

    Marx is actually one of the paradigmatic cases of Option 2: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.”

    Option #2 sounds like Steve Jobs who I respect more than life itself but we don’t all share that kind of maniacal vision.

    How about option #3?

    We can want what we don’t have and figure out how to get it which is pretty much referenced as the American Dream.

    That’s Option 2 at it’s best!

    • #2
    • October 23, 2015, at 8:20 PM PDT
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  3. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    Augustine:

    EThompson:

    How about option #3?

    We can want what we don’t have and figure out how to get it which is pretty much referenced as the American Dream.

    That’s Option 2 at it’s best!

    In The Poverty of Nations, economist Barry Asmus and big-time evangelical theologian Wayne Grudem argue that insatiable human desire is not only ok, but is God-given and good for the economy.

    Like you’d expect from an evangelical theologian, they carefully avoid a fundamentally materialistic ethic. God is to be honored above all. The meaning of life is not material acquisition.

    It’s good stuff. I don’t see any necessary conflict between the best of Option 1 and the best of Option 2. Neither do they.

    • #3
    • October 23, 2015, at 8:38 PM PDT
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  4. EThompson Inactive

    Augustine:

    Augustine:

    EThompson:

    How about option #3?

    We can want what we don’t have and figure out how to get it which is pretty much referenced as the American Dream.

    That’s Option 2 at it’s best!

    In The Poverty of Nations, economist Barry Asmus and big-time evangelical theologian Wayne Grudem argue that insatiable human desire is not only ok, but is God-given and good for the economy.

    Like you’d expect from an evangelical theologian, they carefully avoid a fundamentally materialistic ethic. God is to be honored above all. The meaning of life is not material acquisition.

    It’s good stuff. I don’t see any necessary conflict between the best of Option 1 and the best of Option 2. Neither do they.

    What can I say? I’m with Max Weber and Martin Luther, but I’m still a bit leery about option #1.

    BTW, let the site know when your book is available on Amazon. :)

    • #4
    • October 23, 2015, at 9:00 PM PDT
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  5. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    EThompson:What can I say? I’m with Max Weber and Martin Luther, but I’m still a bit leery about option #1.

    I know little of Luther and less of Weber, but I suspect that Luther at least has a very healthy does of Option 1. Anyone who read much Augustine would pretty much have to.

    A lot of getting it right is knowing just where to apply which option–like (Option 1) knowing not to desire money, power, or fame as if it were the meaning of life while (Option 2) wanting everyone who works to not have to starve.

    • #5
    • October 23, 2015, at 9:21 PM PDT
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  6. J Climacus Member

    Augustine:

    There are two general strategies available to fix that problem:We can change what we want so that we want what we can have, or we can change the world so that we can have what we want.

    BoethiusPhilosophy tells Boethius how to be happy….Generalizing somewhat, the early modern western philosophers take the second approach, and all the earlier philosophers take the first.

    There are actually two ways of carrying out the first strategy: We can cut desire down to the size of whatever is attainable in this world, or we can redirect our desires to something beyond this world.

    You surprised me by saying that early Western philosophers are examples of the second approach, when I thought you would point out that they are examples of the first approach.

    Isn’t the education of desire at the heart of the Western philosophical tradition? And that education is not a “cutting desire down to size” but rather a redirection of desire from what is only apparently good for us to what is truly good for us. And this is not only a purely intellectual education (as Plato would have it), but a training in character as well (as Aristotle would have it.) I think you and I both argued in an earlier conversation that part of being a virtuous man is learning to find virtue pleasant, i.e. something we come to naturally desire by second nature. Thus my surprise.

    • #6
    • October 24, 2015, at 3:40 AM PDT
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  7. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    J Climacus:You surprised me by saying that early Western philosophers are examples of the second approach, when I thought you would point out that they are examples of the first approach.

    This is confusing. I’m not sure we’re really disagreeing. Can I give some names to these things?

    Option 1: Change desire.

    Option 1A: Reduce desire.

    Option 1B: Redirect desire.

    Option 2: Change the world to fit our desires.

    I’m saying that Option 1 is the approach of the ancient and medieval traditions: Sextus Empiricus’ Skepticism, Epicureanism, Stoicism, Platonism, and medieval Christianity.

    Some of these ancients opt for Option 1A. But others opt for Option 1B.

    Isn’t the education of desire at the heart of the Western philosophical tradition? And that education is not a “cutting desire down to size” but rather a redirection of desire from what is only apparently good for us to what is truly good for us.

    A wonderful description of Option 1B.

    And this is not only a purely intellectual education (as Plato would have it), but a training in character as well (as Aristotle would have it.)

    I think Plato agrees with Aristotle on this, in fact! Otherwise, no objection.

    I think you and I both argued in an earlier conversation that part of being a virtuous man is learning to find virtue pleasant, i.e. something we come to naturally desire by second nature.

    Indeed! In the best of the ancient and medieval traditions this is Option 1B.

    • #7
    • October 24, 2015, at 3:54 AM PDT
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  8. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    J Climacus:

    Augustine:

    There are two general strategies available to fix that problem:We can change what we want so that we want what we can have, or we can change the world so that we can have what we want.

    Generalizing somewhat, the early modern western philosophers take the second approach, and all the earlier philosophers take the first.

    There are actually two ways of carrying out the first strategy: We can cut desire down to the size of whatever is attainable in this world, or we can redirect our desires to something beyond this world.

    You surprised me by saying that early Western philosophers are examples of the second approach, when I thought you would point out that they are examples of the first approach.

    Oh, wait. Maybe what’s going on here is that you missed the word “modern” the first time in a key sentence. I’ll see if I can go back into the opening post and italicize–just in case it’s easy to miss that word.

    • #8
    • October 24, 2015, at 4:08 AM PDT
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  9. J Climacus Member

    Yes, I did miss the word “modern” in there, my bad. That’s why I was surprised because, given earlier conversations, I figured we would be on the same page on this topic.

    • #9
    • October 24, 2015, at 5:24 AM PDT
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  10. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    J Climacus:Yes, I did miss the word “modern” in there, my bad. That’s why I was surprised because, given earlier conversations, I figured we would be on the same page on this topic.

    Indeed. From a fellow using one of Kierkegaard’s pseudonyms as his own, who responds to a metaphysical question with the right metaphysical answer–I’d be a bit surprised as well.

    (We do seem to differ a bit in Plato interpretation.)

    • #10
    • October 24, 2015, at 8:09 AM PDT
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  11. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    J Climacus: Isn’t the education of desire at the heart of the Western philosophical tradition? And that education is not a “cutting desire down to size” but rather a redirection of desire from what is only apparently good for us to what is truly good for us[?]

    Well, arguably. But anyone who had anything resembling a well-disciplined childhood knows that our knowledge of what is “truly good” for us is distant and imprecise enough that, in practice, we’re mostly cutting “bad” desires down to size:

    “But I don’t wanna eat bananas and string beans. They make me itch.”
    “Itching is immaterial. You will eat these foods because They Are Good For you.”
    “But I fidget because I’m uncomfortable.”
    “Comfort is immaterial. You will sit still and not fidget, because That’s What Young Ladies and Gentlemen do.”

    Now you could argue these aren’t “cutting the bad desires down to size”, but redirecting aversion to itchy foods into love of itchy foods, and an aversion to sitting still into a love of sitting still. Well, yeah… same difference… not really….

    The whole point, anyhow, of trying to create a desire for sitting still is simply to override the desire to fidget – to cut the bad desire down to size. We wouldn’t bother trying to instill a strong love of sitting still into a child who wasn’t naturally fidgety in the first place.

    • #11
    • October 24, 2015, at 9:53 AM PDT
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  12. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Moreover, discerning which are our “truly good” desires is innately more challenging than discouraging the “innately bad” desires. For, aside from basic virtue, “true happiness” and “true goodness” comes from finding out own niche in the world – and there are so many niches to fill!

    Well-meaning parents often discourage their children from pursuing what are thought of as “risky” careers – say, careers in the arts, academia, or athletics. For that matter, well-meaning parents may insist that children be “well rounded” rather than allowing the child to focus on where his true interests (and perhaps genuine talents) lie. And obviously, well-meaning parents are not always wrong in doing so!

    But despite all the children who have been successfully talked out of their desires to be artists, academics, athletes, etc, by well-meaning parents, the fact is there are some successful artists, academics, and athletes in the world. Disastrous as such ambitions might be for the “average” person, almost no one is perfectly average!

    If my “true good” in life were to become, say, the best fashion designer I could be – if that’s where I’d find the most happiness, success, and the least temptation to vice – there’d be no way to know that ahead of time. That good would have to be discovered, discerned as my idiosyncratic talents and interests developed. It could not be educated into me by my elders and betters, because no one, not even them, could know of that good in advance.

    • #12
    • October 24, 2015, at 10:24 AM PDT
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  13. EThompson Inactive

    But despite all the children who have been successfully talked out of their desires to be artists, academics, athletes, etc, by well-meaning parents, the fact is there are some successful artists, academics, and athletes in the world. Disastrous as such ambitions might be for the “average” person, almost no one is perfectly average!

    Well said. I lived through this drama with my little brother who dropped out of Michigan business school (as a second generation legacy no less) to attend USC film school. Needless to say, my father was wildly hostile to the idea but my brother was persistent and convinced him to pony up for the tuition.

    The good news is he has enjoyed impressive success as both a writer and producer on TV and no one is prouder of him than the originally squeamish parental. :)

    • #13
    • October 24, 2015, at 10:50 AM PDT
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  14. Barkha Herman Member

    How about both?

    31525_20130926_181652_strength01

    I tend to opt for the latter more often than not, but the answer is a balanced approach.

    • #14
    • October 24, 2015, at 2:36 PM PDT
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  15. Barkha Herman Member

    Often, desire is clouded and motivated by things that may not be true. When a person is clear on their desire, they tend to go to extraordinary lengths to achieve it. Clarity is hard to come by.

    E.g. I have a friend in his 50s who claimed he wanted to have 6% body fat. After spending a lot of time with him and asking a lot of questions, the story emerged. He had a younger friend who had 6% body fat. He also had a father who had a heart attack when he was 55. My friend, approaching his fathers age, was concerned about his health. His desire, then, deep down was to get healthy, not to have 6% body fat. The “goal” of having 6% body fat came more from wanting to look good, and sound resolute, and hanging out with his younger buddy etc. etc.

    The reality is that he never was going to have and time motivation to reach his goal of 6% body fat; however, he is healthy now, because he is eating right and working out. This, btw, is also the reason many people who diet fail. They lack clarity on what their “real” desire is. A little self examination goes a long way.

    We can all say “of course I desire a million dollars”, how many of us are willing to work for it? So, do we really desire the million or do we desire the comfort we choose over it?

    • #15
    • October 24, 2015, at 2:48 PM PDT
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  16. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Barkha Herman:How about both?

    31525_20130926_181652_strength01

    I tend to opt for the latter more often than not, but the answer is a balanced approach.

    Constrained optimization!

    • #16
    • October 24, 2015, at 3:20 PM PDT
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  17. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Augustine: Why aren’t we as happy as we want to be?

    I reject the premise.

    People don’t want to be happy.

    Which is why people find new quasi-religious obsessions to occupy their time, even to kill time. These obsessions are seemingly rational, but if one scratches the surface, they are little different from the ancient methods of bribing the gods. Recycling is one famous example: almost all recycling is a waste of time and resources, but its advocates don’t care. Recycling is considered a moral good, whether or not it actually achieves anything beneficial. And so people are guilt-tripped or legally compelled to use valuable time sorting their garbage to appease Mother Earth. And there are countless examples of similar obsessions: macrobiotic diets, hybrid cars, organic foods, etc. The followers don’t care whether or not their obsession makes sense; it makes sense to them on a subconscious level, because it introduces a degree of suffering and guilt – and a means of appeasing Science or Nature – in an otherwise too-easy world.

    • #17
    • October 24, 2015, at 4:54 PM PDT
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  18. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    Barkha Herman:How about both?

    31525_20130926_181652_strength01

    I tend to opt for the latter more often than not, but the answer is a balanced approach.

    Indeed!

    • #18
    • October 24, 2015, at 7:22 PM PDT
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  19. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    iWe:

    Augustine: Why aren’t we as happy as we want to be?

    I reject the premise.

    People don’t want to be happy.

    Which is why people find new quasi-religious obsessions to occupy their time, even to kill time. . . .

    Excellent remark! (I like the mice in the Disney version of Hitchhiker’s Guide: “We don’t want to be happy. We want to be famous!”)

    Fortunately for me, my little book project involves explaining Augustine, who thinks we all want to be happy–not defending him.

    Still, I wonder if it’s possible to integrate the insight that we often act like we don’t want to be happy with the theory (first paragraph of Aristotle’s Ethics) that we want to be happy.

    I’m not sure if I can figure that one out, but I do know where I’d start: Lewis. In Great Divorce we have a number of characters who reject happiness. But Lewis is deeply rooted in the ancient and medieval traditions of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Boethius, etc. Maybe if I could figure out what he’d say about this I’d find the solution.

    • #19
    • October 24, 2015, at 7:27 PM PDT
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  20. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    The whole point, anyhow, of trying to create a desire for sitting still is simply to override the desire to fidget – to cut the bad desire down to size. We wouldn’t bother trying to instill a strong love of sitting still into a child who wasn’t naturally fidgety in the first place.

    I’m not sure. Which is really the end, which is the means? Or couldn’t both be the ends–the extermination of a bad desire and the cultivation of a better? I think if it’s me and my kids I’m interested in both.

    In seeking health we would like to build up a desire for healthy portions even as we exterminate a desire to overeat. Wouldn’t we?

    • #20
    • October 24, 2015, at 7:33 PM PDT
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  21. J Climacus Member

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    If my “true good” in life were to become, say, the best fashion designer I could be – if that’s where I’d find the most happiness, success, and the least temptation to vice – there’d be no way to know that ahead of time. That good would have to be discovered, discerned as my idiosyncratic talents and interests developed. It could not be educated into me by my elders and betters, because no one, not even them, could know of that good in advance.

    This takes as given the self-centered modern view that the point of life is self-fulfillment. That the good is discovered within myself as I develop myself, e.g. that the good I discover is myself becoming a fashion designer. The alternative is the more ancient view that the virtues are good for us because they open us up to that which is greater and better than ourselves – like truth, justice and God – in which the self loses itself and is happy to do so. The virtuous man has learned that it is far more important for him to live according to truth, justice, and the will of God, whatever he is doing, than attempt to discover some particular path, like that of fashion designer, that he was allegedly destined for. The failure to understand this difference accounts for a lot of misery today.

    • #21
    • October 24, 2015, at 7:38 PM PDT
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  22. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Moreover, discerning which are our “truly good” desires is innately more challenging than discouraging the “innately bad” desires. For, aside from basic virtue, “true happiness” and “true goodness” comes from finding out own niche in the world – and there are so many niches to fill!

    An attempt at an Augustinian answer: I think I can dig this. But “basic virtue” is a big deal, and it’s hard, and it takes your whole life to get there–for most of us anyway.

    In Confessions, Monica put forth a lot of effort to help Augustine find the right niche (the right education, the right job, the right wife). And even more effort to help him get virtue. And the most effort to help him follow Christ.

    Monica’s first project was a dismal failure, a distraction from the things that would help her complete the second and third projects. She didn’t really know what sort of niche he was supposed to fill. But her second and third projects were, generalizing a bit, the purposes of her life–her own niche.

    • #22
    • October 24, 2015, at 7:38 PM PDT
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  23. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    Barkha Herman:Often, desire is clouded and motivated by things that may not be true. When a person is clear on their desire, they tend to go to extraordinary lengths to achieve it. Clarity is hard to come by.

    . . . The lack clarity on what their “real” desire is. I little self examination goes a long way.

    We can all say “of course I desire a million dollars”, how many of us are willing to work for it? So, do we really desire the million or do we desire the comfort we choose over it?

    I dig. (And I’m sure some of this is in Augustine or the Stoics, though I can’t think of where at the moment.)

    • #23
    • October 24, 2015, at 7:42 PM PDT
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  24. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    J Climacus:

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    If my “true good” in life were to become, say, the best fashion designer I could be . . . .

    This takes as given the self-centered modern view that the point of life is self-fulfillment. That the good is discovered within myself as I develop myself, e.g. that the good I discover is myself becoming a fashion designer. The alternative is the more ancient view that the virtues are good for us because they open us up to that which is greater and better than ourselves – like truth, justice and God – in which the self loses itself and is happy to do so. The virtuous man has learned that it is far more important for him to live according to truth, justice, and the will of God, whatever he is doing, than attempt to discover some particular path, like that of fashion designer, that he was allegedly destined for. The failure to understand this difference accounts for a lot of misery today.

    A great description of the ancients/medievals versus today’s value system.

    I think I agree on the objection to Midge–if we make so little of Midge’s nod toward “basic virtue” (which my comment # 22 addresses).

    • #24
    • October 24, 2015, at 7:46 PM PDT
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  25. MJBubba Inactive

    I feel that I have neither the right point of view nor the vocabulary to contribute to this discussion on the grounds of philosophy or the history of philosophy.

    Here is what I can contribute: read Proverbs.

    Learn from Proverbs to celebrate the gifts G-d gave you. Learn, train, and improve yourself, while being mindful to be good. Being good means being a good father, good son, good husband, good neighbor, good employer, good employee, good taxpayer; all the roles and vocations that come to you are to be executed as best you can in fairness and with good humor. Train yourself to be content with what you have, but never quit striving to improve, to gain, to give more, to teach, and to model good behavior for all around you.

    That is a tough load. Keep striving, and you will find that somehow along the way you became happy.

    • #25
    • October 24, 2015, at 8:00 PM PDT
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  26. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    J Climacus:

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    If my “true good” in life were to become, say, the best fashion designer I could be – if that’s where I’d find the most happiness, success, and the least temptation to vice – there’d be no way to know that ahead of time. That good would have to be discovered, discerned as my idiosyncratic talents and interests developed. It could not be educated into me by my elders and betters, because no one, not even them, could know of that good in advance.

    This takes as given the self-centered modern view that the point of life is self-fulfillment.

    No it does not!!!

    It takes as given that the point of life is a productive life that serves others. That this life of production and service be fulfilling is irrelevant, except insofar as unfulfilled people tend to be less productive, and that lack of fulfillment just might be a sign that you’re pursuing something you’re not very good at, and you’d serve others better by pursuing something else instead.

    • #26
    • October 24, 2015, at 8:03 PM PDT
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  27. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    MJBubba:I feel that I have neither the right point of view nor the vocabulary to contribute to this discussion on the grounds of philosophy or the history of philosophy.

    Here is what I can contribute: read Proverbs.

    Learn from Proverbs to celebrate the gifts G-d gave you. Learn, train, and improve yourself, while being mindful to be good. Being good means being a good father, good son, good husband, good neighbor, good employer, good employee, good taxpayer; all the roles and vocations that come to you are to be executed as best you can in fairness and with good humor. Train yourself to be content with what you have, but never quit striving to improve, to gain, to give more, to teach, and to model good behavior for all around you.

    That is a tough load. Keep striving, and you will find that somehow along the way you became happy.

    Amen.

    • #27
    • October 24, 2015, at 8:05 PM PDT
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  28. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Augustine:I think I agree on the objection to Midge–if we make so little of Midge’s nod toward “basic virtue” (which my comment # 22 addresses).

    Please, please do not make so little of my nod toward “basic virtue”, which is in there for a reason.

    I take it as given that being virtuous is necessary for a productive life that serves others. For a vicious life tends to be either unproductive, or one that actively harms others, or both!

    No, what I’m saying is that leading a good life goes far beyond mastery of the basic virtues applicable to every man. It is also about creating things of value, too, which means it is even more morally demanding.

    • #28
    • October 24, 2015, at 8:07 PM PDT
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  29. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    J Climacus:

    This takes as given the self-centered modern view that the point of life is self-fulfillment.

    No it does not!!!

    It takes as given that the point of life is a productive life that serves others. That this life of production and service be fulfilling is irrelevant, except insofar as unfulfilled people tend to be less productive, and that lack of fulfillment just might be a sign that you’re pursuing something you’re not very good at, and you’d serve others better by pursuing something else instead.

    Oh, good. So it’s not just the “basic virtue” mention. You also think the niche is one of service.

    So you’d agree–or almost agree–with J Climacus that “it is far more important for him to live according to truth, justice, and the will of God, whatever he is doing, than attempt to discover some particular path . . . .” But you say that virtue and all those things he talked about include a path of service which is a particular path.

    • #29
    • October 24, 2015, at 8:10 PM PDT
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  30. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Augustine:I think I agree on the objection to Midge–if we make so little of Midge’s nod toward “basic virtue” (which my comment # 22 addresses).

    Please, please do not make so little of my nod toward “basic virtue”, which is in there for a reason.

    Jolly good. Comment 22 was written to take the “basic virtue” remark seriously.

    No, what I’m saying is that leading a good life goes far beyond mastery of the basic virtues applicable to every man. It is also about creating things of value, too, which means it is even more morally demanding.

    Now we may have some (minor) disagreement here. On the ancient-medieval tradition (Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Boethius, Aquinas, Lewis), “basic virtues applicable to every man” are at least as morally demanding as creating things of value and finding a good niche of service. Probably more demanding.

    • #30
    • October 24, 2015, at 8:13 PM PDT
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