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55263Re: Self / Other

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  • Jim
    Apr 3, 2011
      Hi Herman,

      Your view comes across as been very similar to Arthur Schopenhauer's as expressed in "The World as Will and Representation". As I have recently read Volume One of this work, I feel I have considered the sort of view you are putting forward.

      Let me respond to the various sections of your post 55258.

      Herman: I think that the intention of changing the world always already includes a prior and unspoken belief that the world was already a bad place, in need of change. Any action is thus already a negative judgment on the world, a world which is essentially free of value and meaning in the absence judgment. What I am saying, therefore, is that action determines the world to be bad.

      Response: I sort of agree with this, but with a slight amendment. Any action is a negative judgement on part of the world, i.e. an action determines that part of the world is bad.

      In my view, the world is a mixture of good and bad – some parts are good, some parts are bad. If I were to make a judgement about the world as a whole, I would say it was less than perfect. So I am disagreeing with Leibniz (Dr Plangloss) who thinks we live in the best of all possible worlds.

      I also think the world has meaning and value irrespective of any of my judgements. I understanding that you think the world lacks value and meaning, but I don't think this disagreement between us is necessarily relevant to our disagreement over whether all action involves suffering – the central disagreement between us.

      Herman: The Good Samaritan, through his actions, judged the world to be a bad place, and suffered that. That's all. There is no right or wrong in judging and then suffering the consequences of judging, it is necessarily so that it happens, that's all.

      Response: I think our judgements can be true or false and our actions can be right or wrong. However I accept my ethical realism is unpopular with Existentialists.

      Herman: People do what they do, principles and rationalisations are offered up after the fact.

      Response: Again I disagree, but again I accept my view that a human being can act on the basis of ethical principle is unpopular with existentialists.

      Herman: If you envisage a world in need, then you must suffer that. No-one can help
      alleviate that. But for the afflicted ones, how is it that the world is different to just how it should be?

      Response: My guess is that those who are hungry are quite pleased when they are offered food. Those who have been beaten up are quite pleased when a Good Samaritan rings for the ambulance and sees they are properly cared for. Etc., etc. Certainly if I were hungry or injured I would appreciate food and care. But I can't speak for anyone else.

      Herman: And whenever I act, I do suffer.

      Response: I think this is the crucial point where you and Schopenhauer are mistaken.

      Schopenhauer wrote:

      "We have already seen in nature-without-knowledge her inner being as a constant striving without aim and without rest, and this stands out much more distinctly when we consider the animal or man. Willing and striving are its whole essence, and can be fully compared to an unquenchable thirst. The basis of all willing, however, is need, lack and hence pain, and by its very nature and origin it is therefore destined to pain." ("The World as Will and Representation", Volume 1, Dover, pp. 311-2)

      I think Schopenhauer goes wrong here by suggesting that all striving to achieve goals is a case of "need, lack and hence pain". You suggest that the person who acts necessarily suffers.

      Certainly when an individual is striving to achieve a goal, or complete a project, there is a sense in which something is incomplete, and hence involves some kind of "lack", however I think you and Schopenhauer are wrong to suggest that this must involve pain or suffering.

      Sometimes the journey is rewarding in itself, and happiness is not restricted to the few minutes when the destination is reached. For example I can strive to read a philosophy book, but this is not painful to me; rather I am enjoying reading the book.

      Similarly we often take up short-term or long-term projects in our lives, where the struggle to achieve the end result is not painful but rewarding in itself. For example, struggling to bring up children, whilst often involving painful times, is more often an enjoyable striving, the best of times, often.

      Similarly when an author strives to complete his book, the creative writing itself can be a source of happiness. Learning a skill, doing a good job of work, climbing a mountain, cultivating a garden, caring for animals, can all involve striving towards an end, but the striving itself is fulfilling, and not the continual pain and suffering that Schopenhauer and you suggest it is.

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