In the past weeks, I have been investigating the main assumptions that underlie our modern moral metaphysic. So far, I have examined arguments 4 and 3 (in that order).
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.
In my investigations of these interlocking arguments, my theses are (i) that this metaphysic is quite pervasive (that is, many people believe these things whether they know it or not), (ii) that a certain ‘style’ of ethics is born out of a certain ‘style’ of metaphysics (if human beings are like this and the world is like that, then this is how we best treat each other), and (iii) that the picture is ‘decadent’–in Nietzsche’s term of art–as well as false.
Before I begin investigating the other three arguments, I believe it is time to articulate what my most basic questions are.
1. Nietzschean. How is the modern picture tantamount to life-and-world-denying? How is it degrading of persons? How is it a sign of cultural weakness? Nietzsche calls all cultures that cannot begin in affirmation decadent. This Nietzschean question will lead onto the Daoist question.
2. Wittgensteinian; or, Ordinary Language. First, some ways of thinking are based on category mistakes. ‘Where is my mind?’ is one such. Second, some of our concepts we are better off without since they pick out nothing actual in the world: ‘mental illness’ and ‘stress’ are concepts without actuality. Consequently, we will need to learn to stop using them and to stop thinking with them. Third, there are concepts that have ‘grown beyond’ their proper linguistic setting. The point is to bring them back home. After we no longer believe that the world is full of problems in need of creative solutions, then what are the proper uses to which (e.g.) the concept problem can be put? Where is a concept’s ‘linguistic home’?
3. Daoist. How is it possible to affirm the world when it is understood in a three-fold sense as non-being (infinity), being (totality), and beings (finitude)? That is to say, how will it be possible to affirm the world first as good as well as beautiful in respects A, B, and C but also thoroughgoingly? And how, therefore, to put oneself in tune with this properly intuited good and beautiful world?
4. Neoplatonic or Aristotelian. Somewhere or other, I will have to find a place for the concrete particulars that we call bad. Here, I will need to give an account of how bad things emerge in their particularity, in their particular instantiation. One path to take would be that of deprivation. Neoplatonists hold that bad (or evil) is lack: it is not or, more accurately, bad: not. Bad is a withdrawal from the good. The other path is Aristotle’s. I incline Aristotelian: that whatever goes beyond the bounds of ‘proper measure’ or ‘proper force’ or ‘appropriateness’ ends up manifesting itself as e.g., greed, poverty, sorrow, ecstasy, lethargy, crime, etc.
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