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Re: existential purpose

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  • hermanbtriplegood
    Aija: Kant himself was known to have adhered, very much, to a protocol, while entertaining guests for dinner, that would begin with narrative, the telling of a
    Message 1 of 9 , May 28, 2006
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      Aija:

      Kant himself was known to have adhered, very much, to a protocol,
      while entertaining guests for dinner, that would begin with
      narrative, the telling of a story, then conversation and gossip, and
      finally joking and ribaldry, none of which was to be taken too
      seriously. What was said at the dinner table was not to be brought up
      later and held against the speaker. This all has a very pagan flavor
      to it, and I myself have experienced these kinds of ritualistic pagan
      feasting events. Kant, as it happens, was also fascinated with
      Swedenborg, although, to be sure, he dismissed Swedenborg's mystical
      claims as not being reasonable. So, you see, there is a mixture of
      that straight-laced Lutheran attitude and the general cultural
      context that also had its roots in paganism. Kant's early work,
      Observations of the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime, shows a
      different side that is not so stuffy and intellectual. We really
      hardly know the man, and I rather suspect that in real life he was
      probably more human than we give him credit for based upon the
      strictness of his moral philosophy and the complexity of his system
      of reason.

      One does not want to dismiss any philosopher as being merely the
      product of his times. It is, however, enlightening to know Kant in
      his relation to his culture and his upbringing.

      Hb3g

      --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, Aija Veldre Beldavs <beldavsa@...>
      wrote:
      >
      >
      > > Aija:
      > > Interesting. Yesterday, having finished the third Critique, and
      taking
      > > some time to reflect upon Kant's moral philosophy, I got to
      thinking
      > > about what it is, in part, that seems so dissatisfying with his
      > > characterization of man's purpose as a pursuit of the highest
      good.
      > > Kant, of course, sees the highest good as a conjunction of virtue
      and
      > > happiness. And, since we cannot empirically attain either,
      although, to
      > > be sure, there is something apodictic in the call to duty of
      which Kant
      > > speaks, nevertheless, the highest good could not possibly be
      attained
      > > without both a divine assistance and an infinite life span.
      >
      > > This is an extreme simplification of the problem, as Kant sees
      it, and,
      > > reading now into his theological works, it is clear to me that
      Kant is
      > > deeply instructed by Luther on all of this, therefore, one has to
      go
      > > back to Luther and Calvin to gain complete insight into the
      complexity
      > > of Kant's theory of morals and action.
      >
      > > But, notwithstanding this, it has seemed to me that when it comes
      to a
      > > definition of man's purpose, if such a thing were even possible,
      Kant's
      > > formulation is somewhat prosaic, and it really comes across to me
      as a
      > > field of battle, in man's soul, between hedonism and moralism. Is
      a
      > > characterization of man's purpose, strictly in terms of a pursuit
      of
      > > the highest good, a pursuit of happiness, in other words, pleasure
      > > tempered by ethics, even remotely adequate to the question of
      man's
      > > purpose? The thought came to me that the purpose of life really
      comes
      > > down to these three things (perhaps even more than this):
      >
      > > 1. Be happy,
      > > 2. Be yourself, and,
      > > 3. Make a difference.
      >
      > > The second idea addresses the existentialist's concern with the
      idea of
      > > authenticity. We are here to self-assert, but, of course, in an
      ethical
      > > as well as autonomous manner.
      >
      > > The third idea dovetails nicely with what you say about Joan
      Baez. We
      > > want to make a difference. Indeed, that is part of our purpose for
      > > being here. Sometimes we make that difference by bringing
      children into
      > > the world, or we become teachers, or we become a rock to which a
      friend
      > > in need can cling, or we help the needy by donating our money or
      our
      > > time. It goes without saying, of course, that making a difference
      by
      > > obtaining notoreity as a serial killer is not in accordance with
      man's
      > > true purpose because it violates the notion of a highest good. We
      > > commonly sense, and know, what is a good difference and what is
      an evil
      > > difference.
      >
      > > Hence, the moral dimension is still there in all three of these
      aspects
      > > of our purpose.
      >
      > > Kant's treatment, although it is more nuanced than he is given
      credit
      > > for, still pretty much operates within the bifurcation of hedonism
      > > versus moralism. That is Kant's Lutheran, Pietist upbringing
      coming
      > > into the foreground there. The issue of good and evil, whether
      original
      > > sin is a hereditary sin or a fundamental evilness in human
      nature, are
      > > lively issues for Kant, given his religious upbringing.
      >
      > > Humanistic and existentialist perspectives on the question of
      man's
      > > purpose seem to be helping me with lifting Kant's puritanism out
      of its
      > > bifurcated stricture, and I do call into question the simplistic
      > > assessment of man's purpose as nothing more than a pursuit of
      > > happiness, in accordance, of course, with right conduct. The
      > > amplification of this question, to include the existential and
      > > individualistic dimensions of, so to speak, finding oneself in the
      > > world, and making a difference in that world, are a breath of
      fresh air
      > > that can add life to a moral philosophy.
      >
      > > I daresay that the negative reaction to Kant's moralism is, in
      large
      > > part, a reaction against Kant's own unconscious and dogmatic
      acceptance
      > > of a bifurcated view of human existence as a battle field where we
      > > struggle against good and evil, pleasure and duty, happiness and
      > > virtue. Clearly, life just ain't that simple.
      >
      > Hb3g,
      >
      > looking at Kant in terms of struggle and reconciliation with his
      > background, upbringing, and cultural surroundings resonates with
      me. in
      > fact, it seems similar to my approach when i discovered a number of
      the
      > social philosophers with whom i found resonance happened to be
      secular
      > Jews, i stuck a few test toes into Jewish belief system waters to
      see if i
      > could sense the commonalities and differences without a fuller-
      scale
      > immersion (kinda demanding).:) similarly have stuck my toes into
      tibetan
      > shinto and a number of indigenous peoples waters (esp. of course
      native
      > american), hoping to find time to know much more.
      >
      > the Baltic is more Protestant than Catholic, except for Lithuania
      and
      > Latgalian Latvia. it is interesting when common Baltic idenity is
      > stronger than religious & other differences.
      >
      > but, then, the Baltic was also the last "pagan" (=local indigenous
      belief
      > system variants as dominant) refuge of Europe, which might be
      considered
      > relevant in the happiness/ pleasure vs. duty equation as well as to
      > differences of Protestantism in different regions.
      >
      > i'd guess, for instance, the concept of honor as deeper (more long-
      term
      > than short-term) satisfaction is an indigenous concept there,
      played out
      > in different variants. that's not really suppressing gratification
      so
      > much as being able to channel it for "the greater pleasure"
      = "greater
      > good." this is an amplification of one's more short-term immediate
      > gratification (with a probability of a very unpleasant aftertaste)
      to
      > something more lasting and growing in satisfaction. sharing
      extends
      > oneself, especially if one isn't really sure of happy rewarded
      afterlives
      > (as the pagans of the north were not sure).
      >
      > there's a cool offbeat Lithuanian movie, "Elze's Life" (not readily
      > available), which is not about the Catholic but Protestant
      Lithuania
      > Minor, specifically Courish spit. it shows a darkly tragi-comic
      conflict
      > of indigenous Balt fisherpeople with roots in a pagan past in
      conflict
      > with the unyielding, extremely Prussian strict-to-the-rules
      unyielding
      > German dominant class long after the Germans colonized the land and
      > eliminated native identity.
      >
      > aija
      >
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