Over the past couple of weeks, I have been trying to understand what I have been calling our ‘modern moral metaphysic.’ So far, I have examined arguments 4 and 3 (in that order). This worldview is comprised of all or most of the following:
1.) Because the world is lost and fallen, it needs to be changed or ultimately saved.
2.) Because the world is broken or out-of-order, it needs to be fixed or restored.
3.) Constituted by problems, the world requires solutions.
4.) In virtue of our being inherently weak and prone to suffering, we human beings yearn to be helped.
5.) Because the human mind, like the human body, tends to be sickly and ill, it seeks healing or cures.
Standing back to look at 1) – 5), one notices that they are attempts at saying that the modern world has not reached universal equality. I would deduce, then, that the point of departure is one of the two interesting philosophical questions for our time.
Call it ‘Question I.’
- What is human equality, and how can it be realized as far as this is possible?
This question stretches from the Enlightenment through Marx and ends in Thomas Picketty. Let’s rename Question I ‘The Marx/Picketty Question.’
Here is Question II:
- How can one make oneself into an extraordinary human being?
The figures who spend their life seeking to answer this question are sadhus, sages, holy men, and exemplary persons. Rename this ‘The Nietzsche/Sloterdijk Question.’ Understood rightly, this question is not about my wanting my life to change, however that happens, but rather about my wanting to change my life. And not simply changed in any old fashion but rather to achieve ‘greatness of soul.’
As I write, I believe two things are the case. One is that The Marx/Picketty Question’ has occupied much of our ethical and political attention to the exclusion of The Nietzsche/Sloterdijk Question. The modern moral metaphysic certainly ‘tips the scales’ in favor of asking and seeking to answer Question I. The other is that, so far as I can tell, one can only spend one’s life on one question or the other and not on both.
To be sure, Question I is philosophically interesting, yet it is not the only question of keen interest. What is more, I do not think that Question II can be properly heard, let alone taken seriously, so long as Question I is the only genuine question being asked. For this reason, after I investigate arguments 1), 2), and 5) above and show that they lead us astray, I believe the ground for hearing Question II will be cleared for its disclosure.