On Second Thought: Nah.

So the whole, "express the universe, sage, blah blah blah" thing just isn't working for me.

I just believe far too strongly that over-achievement is over-rated, and that simply existing well is the key. I believe this so strongly, that it's really hard to convince me that "going for it" is worthwhile, when "getting by" can be so satisfying. I don't believe in any higher purpose to serve, nor in destiny, nor in any prize for those who accomplish more than the next guy.

At the same time, what I said about hedonism is quite true. A person does need to feel like they have made their contribution to the world, even if their particular cog is quite small. Being a selfish bastard isn't that satisfying. Perhaps not everyone feels this way, but I do, so taking what I want at the expense of others is pointless for me.

Well. This kind of puts my personal goal-setting exercise in the shitter... but I think I've learned something because of it, and that makes it worthwhile. Now I have to figure out where this watered-down philosophy leads.

1 comment:

Victor said...

I am glad you came to your senses. :)

I think the danger here is, when trying to contextualize yourself, to basically engage in fantasy; to weave a narrative which expresses one's ideal view of one's self. I am guilty of that also: it's very pleasant to be a hero in your own epic.

I disagree with you about selfishness. Trying to make your contribution to the world is also a selfish thing, in that we are trying to achieve the feel-good state of having contributed. In a way, everything we do is selfish, so I think 'selfishness' is not a useful concept. It's better IMO to think of our actions in terms of their effect on others, or at least in terms of their proximate causes, rather than in terms of their fundamental motives, because the fundamental motives are pretty much all the same, so we get no exploitable distinction if we dig deep enough.

In this respect, I think your previous point about the abuse of power made for a far more useful distinction than selfishness; though I think that the greatest of the common evils, i.e. excluding stuff like genocide, is faith: epistemically unjustified belief, which usually amounts to believing what you wish to believe. Faith -- wishful thinking, self-delusion -- is what enables most other evils to be done with clear conscience and cheerful countenance.

Anyway, forget the digression. Yes, this development does put your goal-setting thing in the shitter; as it should. It's one thing to talk about concrete goals which can be reasonably accomplished and their accomplishment verified ("move to the Cape"); it's quite another to talk about things like "becoming a sage". Once you move to such abstract goals, it becomes little more than an exercise in self-gratification -- a way to think of various pleasing ways to conceptualize one's self.

Simply be. Try to act, and express yourself, without overlaying it with a grand epic narrative. If you like to be the kind of person who likes constantly learning about the universe, then just do it, don't bother trying to construct a story about it.

P.S. Why yes, acting as a wise teacher (in my mind) does give me the warm fuzzy glow of selfish satisfaction. Why do you ask?