Re: This mixing of the ethical and love? Surely not
- Dear Een,
What do I mean by the objective/subjective distinction?
I use the term 'objective' to refer to those features of reality which are to the largest extent independent of us as conscious, willful, valuing beings. Science studies objective reality, and scientists engage in objective thinking. The success of science in changing the conditions of human life over the last five hundred years shows how well we have developed our objective thinking. As well as the empirical sciences, mathematics and logic are other examples of objective thinking.
As well as scientific truths, historical, geographical, and ordinary common sense facts (e.g. there are two cats in my house at present) are objective truths. We use objective thinking to plan our day, co-operate in joint ventures and work our computers.
There is a subjective aspect to reality because we are self-conscious, feeling, thinking and choosing beings. We engage in subjective thinking when we describe our feeling, appreciate the appearance of nature and art, reflect on our vices and virtues, try to do better, curb our destructive tendencies, make the small choices of the moment, and the big choices that affect our whole lives and the lives of others.
Like Kierkegaard, I think that those of us who increase our own subjectivity live better lives than those who neglect their subjectivity. As SK reminds us, it is easy to drift though life in an unreflective way, 'fitting in' with what others expect of us, and taking the path of least resistance. SK follows Socrates in thinking that 'the unexamined life is not worth living'. To a large extent our lives are worthwhile to the extent to which we do examine ourselves and our inherited beliefs (inherited from our parents and our peers), we think for ourselves, we wonder at the fact that there is something rather than nothing, and we base our choices on careful reflection of all the pros and cons. In all this we increase our awareness and perceptivity both of our ourselves and our inner motivations, and of the needs, thoughts and feelings of others.
Like SK I believe in striving to increase my subjectivity both for my own benefit and for the benefit of those who my actions affect, and as an end in itself.
Notice the 'to a large extent' in the above paragraph - I don't think I can quite embrace Socrates' hard saying. I think there is goodness and value in the lives of simple, unreflective folk. Further often the unreflective person has a natural generosity of spirit, that the deep, critically-self-aware person lacks.
Uncontroversial stuff? - Or do you disagree with anything I've said?
Final thought: Given all this, hopefully you can see why I see the ethical life (in SK's sense) as a step up from the aesthetic life. It is also a move to greater subjectivity as SK says time-and-time again. However you seem to think that the ethical life is a life lived objectively. - I'm not quite sure why.
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