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smokydevil
Smokydevil  (Level: 163.0 - Posts: 5381)
Thu, 27th Nov '08 11:25 PM

THE GOOD LIFE

I'm really interested in Aristotles views on the good life, as his views seem to match the kind of views I'm experimenting with. What are your views on "The Good Life"?

Here's a VERY brief summary of his views, for those who are curious, though I find defining virtue much more difficult I think than he seems to give it credit for...."Thus, human beings should aim at a life in full conformity with their rational natures; for this, the satisfaction of desires and the acquisition of material goods are less important than the achievement of virtue. A happy person will exhibit a personality appropriately balanced between reasons and desires, with moderation characterizing all. In this sense, at least, "virtue is its own reward." True happiness can therefore be attained only through the cultivation of the virtues that make a human life complete."

Or another summary: He came up with three different types of “life” a man might live. The first has to do with sensual pleasure. The second comes from living an “honorable” life, which I guess would get you the respect of the community. The third he calls the “contemplative” life, which is the true source of happiness. I seem to fall into the third kind of thinking.

Quite frankly my views on the good life are strictly at odds with my culture right now, and I'm very shy about them. Contrast, if you have time, the view that the summit of happiness in this culture might be career achievement (type 2), which might lead to living a life full of sensual pleasures (type 1).


gfawkes
Gfawkes  (Level: 36.2 - Posts: 30)
Thu, 27th Nov '08 11:36 PM

I had posted on another thread about tri-partite critical realism. The Aristotlean Good Life described in the threadstarter seems to lean heavily toward the third type -- incorporeal ideals outside the individual. Implicit is some Libertarian approach to not interfere with others seeking their own Good Life that did not impinge on oneself. Still this seems a bit ascetic and not entirely social.

smokydevil
Smokydevil  (Level: 163.0 - Posts: 5381)
Fri, 28th Nov '08 2:27 AM

Well, if you look at the other thread on the tripartite critical realism, I'm having trouble accessing the podcast, but I'll get it worked out eventually. I'm actually not particularly surprised that I would fall into that category, as the Wikipedia entry lists John Polkinghorne as one of its proponents, and I've both owned his books and have been influenced by him in my thinking somewhat. Guess we might have that in common....however as to the final statements, a bit ascetic and not entirely social, I would agree that such a perspective would require some ascetism, a program of which I am preparing for but have yet to begin, but would wholeheartedly disagree on whether it was "social". I enjoy constructive criticism, and am eager to hear your views on why ascetism, or perhaps that differing view of happiness, not sure which you were referring to, might be "not entirely social". I'll give you an example as to what I would be looking for here:

"Celibacy, fasting, penance, mortification, self-denial, humility, silence, solitude, and the whole train of monkish virtues: -for what reason are they everywhere rejected everywhere by men of sense, but because they serve to no manner of purpose; neither advance a man's fortune in the world, nor render him a more valuable member of society; neither qualify him for the entertainment of company, nor increase his power of self enjoyment? We observe, on the contrary, that they cross all these desirable ends; stupefy the understanding and harden the heart, obscure the fancy and sour the temper....A gloomy, hair-brained enthusiast, after his death, may have a place in the Calendar; but will scarcely ever be admitted, when alive, into intimacy and society, except by those who are as delirious and dismal as himself." -David Hume

The above example is the kind of reply I would be looking for, an explication of your views on the subject, whether referring to ascetism itself or the differing view of the good life that I have. Either would be helpful, I have a response to whether ascetism is social, but not entirely sure what your argument might be on my "views" on the good life themselves being social, so don't know how I would respond quite yet.

As far as the libertarian views, I do seem to agree with those views....but do not vote libertarian, and its not because those candidates probably would not win. I kind of hold libertarian views to an extent as "ideals", but because I think that too many of us (certainly not all of us) would use the freedom improperly, I generally vote for a different party. If I thought enough people would handle the freedom well, I would vote libertarian regardless of who was likely to win. I generally vote democratic, however. But I'm still developing my views on everything, it has changed in the past and may change again in the future...such is life.

smokydevil
Smokydevil  (Level: 163.0 - Posts: 5381)
Fri, 28th Nov '08 2:48 AM

Just to clarify for future posts however, I generally use the term "self-discipline" rather than ascetism, because I personally think that in this culture it is a word more generally recognized with similar connotations. I think self-discipline (and I could be wrong) generally is an activity taken as a means to an end, whereas with the term "ascetism", sometimes the ascetic practices themselves are ends, and in my terminology this would be the main distinction. I won't practice ascetism as defined above, but would practice self-discipline, "possibly" encompassing some activities traditionally recognized as ascetic. However, I don't quite have my regimen worked out just yet....

gfawkes
Gfawkes  (Level: 36.2 - Posts: 30)
Fri, 28th Nov '08 4:21 PM

I took your self-discipline posting as an end in itself. Since the post derided sensualism and materialism, I understood the restraint as an attempt to shun the immediate world and focus on the "good" which would be the third category -- nonmaterial objects outside of ourselves. That exclusion of the immediate outside world would seem to me to be indifferent to society.

luvnmexsun
Luvnmexsun  (Level: 147.4 - Posts: 711)
Fri, 28th Nov '08 5:26 PM

The Aristotle concept of moderation, nothing in excess, necessitates rational thought, or metacognitive processes. I believe happiness only can be achieved in a conscious and continuous balance of mental, physical, and intellectual pursuits. It makes more sense to me than aestheticism...

I understand many believe that spirituality can only be achieved by the denial of the physical world, but I believe the opposite.



smokydevil
Smokydevil  (Level: 163.0 - Posts: 5381)
Fri, 28th Nov '08 6:27 PM

Ah, I understand Alan, I think I'm taking a different approach though if I understand what you are saying correctly. I'll give an example of one self-discipline in the context of my thinking just to clarify my "current" position a bit. BTW, thanks for joining in. I do not equate either sensualism itself, as I think you are using that phrase, or materialism as something inherently bad. What matters to me is not whether I'm enjoying sensual pleasures or material goods or not, but my attitude towards the events or objects. I'll focus on material goods just to clarify further.

One self-discipline a person might engage in of course looking at history is giving something away, as in giving away objects or money. Gandhi's voluntary poverty might be an example of this. I personally would NEVER choose a life of permanent poverty probably for any reason, I might however give away possessions as I see fit if I felt it would change my attitude towards possessions in general. I'll use the example of inherited Ferrari. Some people own Ferrari's and it affects their attitudes towards themselves or towards others. If I inherited a Ferrari and felt that I know viewed myself as a certain kind of person, one who is better than others, I might just give or sell the Ferrari away in order to combat that particular attitude. However, if I learned to live in more humble circumstances for awhile and felt that I had cultivated an "indifference" towards owning the Ferrari, that I learned how to live in those circumstances happily without coveting said possession, I might then just buy the Ferrari back knowing then that it would not affect my attitude towards myself or others. The "goal" was never to eschewm the material world, but the giving away was merely a means to an end, namely the reform of my character. Once that is done I can own it again.

If I could "possess" the Ferrari without it changing my attitude towards myself or others, I think its fine to own a Ferrari if there is some good reason to have one, and there might be. It's not the possession itself that I would view as "bad" but the attitude in me that creeps up and makes me treat myself or others differently than they should be treated. I hope I'm not being too vague here. The goal would be "indifference" to ownership. The same would hold true for sensual pleasures. Certainly there is nothing wrong with them per se, but if I can't learn to live without them, cultivate a certain "indifference" towards pleasure, then I do not think I can enjoy it responsibly. This is all hypothetical, I don't know what I would actually do if I inherited a Ferrari or whether it would "change" me or not. I think that an "indifferent" person can enjoy sensual pleasures, the only difference is when they are gone THEY are not thinking about them all the time, or over-engaging in them at the expense of some other possibly higher "good". It's just my theory anyways.

Of course the reverse would be true as well. I think it is possible to live a life of "voluntary poverty" for example, and become "attached" to that poverty, as if it were a status symbol of how spiritual you really are. It may look spiritual, but in my mind it would be the anti-thesis of spirituality. This could for example, lead to said person treating others "as if" they were beneath them because they didn't live similarly, and I think we see this all the time with certain religious people, at least I think I've encountered it.

smokydevil
Smokydevil  (Level: 163.0 - Posts: 5381)
Fri, 28th Nov '08 6:54 PM

Oh, and btw all of this does not mean I am a saint or that I intend to be. For one I think you have to believe in God to be a saint, and I don't. Sensual pleasures and material objects are all good things, its only when they get in the way of "higher" goods, or what Aristotle might have called virtue that I then think there is something so called "wrong" with them. Though the wrong would not actually be in them but in me.

smokydevil
Smokydevil  (Level: 163.0 - Posts: 5381)
Sat, 29th Nov '08 12:24 PM

I think I killed this discussion, lol.

oogie54
Oogie54  (Level: 201.2 - Posts: 1120)
Sat, 29th Nov '08 3:02 PM

I think the points you make are very relevant in this society, status and possessions are very much a marker of success in our culture. The need to belong drives the marketing campaigns of every major manufacturer, basically they tell everyone what new purchases should be made in order to be "in". Accumulation of wealth stands as the single most defining factor for those who want to be considered as part of the upper echelons of society, status quo. The media devotes inordinate amounts of air time covering crap-shows which focus on those "ideals". I believe that makes it very difficult for young people growing up in our culture to find self-worth and inner strength beyond such definitions of "Americanism".

smokydevil
Smokydevil  (Level: 163.0 - Posts: 5381)
Sat, 29th Nov '08 4:57 PM

Interesting that you should mention the connection between advertising and being "in". I vaguely remembered somebody's comment about the desire to be in the "inner circle" of people as one of the "great mainsprings of human action". I remembered they remarked that C.S. Lewis gave a speech about it, contrasting it with Freuds view concerning our sex drive as the great mainspring of human behavrior. Thanks to your comment I actually finally got around to reading that today, interesting. I hadn't thought about it that much, but it does seem relevant. I read it while the music was on, so plan to get around to reading it more carefully when I have more time. Here's a link to the speech if anyone else is interested. I won't get my feelings hurt if no one else is interested.... http://www.geocities.com/bigcslewisfan/

luvnmexsun
Luvnmexsun  (Level: 147.4 - Posts: 711)
Sat, 29th Nov '08 8:12 PM

I read the Lewis speech Jeremy. He totally supports Maslow's Theory, which puts belonging right after physical and safety needs are met (physical being food, shelter and warmth, not sex).

I think the media has overtly and covertly been teaching our last two generations what being "in" means, as Danny stated. The ramifications are deeper than most realize. From sex and consumerism to consent of our manufactured culture, our morality is now steered by our media environment...not simply TV, but all media, including video and print. It's all pervasive and everywhere...more our influential cultural values now than anything. Ever read Noam Chomsky's Manufactured Consent?

I wonder what Lewis would say now in our media saturated culture and the ability of our young to "belong" in cyberspace without ever leaving the privacy of their own room? Anyone can "belong" now in any guise they wish.

smokydevil
Smokydevil  (Level: 163.0 - Posts: 5381)
Sun, 30th Nov '08 2:54 AM

I haven't read manufactured consent, maybe that would be a good choice for a future book club selection. I seem to remember, and this is off the topic a bit, that my organizational psychology textbook was saying Maslow's theory hasn't held up well in light of scientific testing. Does anyone know if this is the case? I was too worried about getting my homework in to pay too much attention to it.....

luvnmexsun
Luvnmexsun  (Level: 147.4 - Posts: 711)
Sun, 30th Nov '08 2:09 PM

"Manufactured Consent" may be too big of an undertaking. Chomsky had a one hour video that would be a good springboard and overview for discussion, then if interest was high, the book could follow. I'll see if I can access it.

oogie54
Oogie54  (Level: 201.2 - Posts: 1120)
Sun, 30th Nov '08 2:14 PM

Maslow's critics say that there is no clinical evidence for linear progression or digression according to his charted priorities, that there will not always be an equal and opposite reaction. I think that is just common sense, because no two people live under the same set of circumstances, or succumb to the same human frailties at any given time, but in essence his theories do make perfect sense. Every facet of our life is dependent on the well being of the individual as a whole, affect one and you upset the balance.

luvnmexsun
Luvnmexsun  (Level: 147.4 - Posts: 711)
Sun, 30th Nov '08 2:34 PM

Well said Oogie...it is common sense. Maslow's formal theory is full of holes, but it is evident that is man is struggling to survive, morality is not generally a priority.

Belonging, a sense of community, is high on the list of human needs. Morality, through organized religion, has become the "glue" for many societies to meet this need. Unfortunately, a significant result of this has been the separation from and exclusion of others that have a different religious community and worse, war.

I would propose in a general sense in the history of mankind, religious differences is the major cause of war, or used by the "conquerors" toward their end.


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