Envy and admiration: Some important remarks about higher forms of life

1. Now more clearly than before, it occurs to me that all higher forms of life will require renunciation. At the moment of severance, the renunciant points to the lower, gives it a name, and frees himself from its hold. As Hadot shows in his work on ancient philosophy, the ancient philosopher must sever himself from ‘everyday consciousness’; Sloterdijk, in his work on Nietzsche for whom living extraordinarily and daringly was the ‘arrow’ of life, points to ‘ordinary life’; social entrepreneurs will point to greedy capitalism; the Romantic artist of plenitude to the bourgeoisie; the warrior to the hedonist governed by his appetites; etc. In sum, the lower serves its purpose if it can, at the outset, be that from which I sever myself.

Continue reading “Envy and admiration: Some important remarks about higher forms of life”

The active life: Ways of life available to us in modernity

More reflections on my fall course at Kaos Pilots

*

Given the distinction between the good life and sustaining life and given also that the former furnishes us with a reason for being while the latter, on its own, can only answer the question of how to go on, it follows that someone will be wasting his life if he seeks only to secure his material needs (food, water, shelter, clothing, warmth when cold, coolness when hot, etc.) without any consideration for why he would do so apart from mere persistence in his existence. In brief, sustaining life cannot be a reason for sustaining life: this is mere tautology.

This requirement that sustaining life be an infrastructural support to the good life calls us to examine which forms of life can be defensibly higher forms of life. We can rule out from the outset any claims about status, wealth, popularity, career progression–that is to say, all bourgeois claims–on the grounds that this is merely sustaining life for the sake of sustaining life. Also out is the hedonic view according to which one is to maximize pleasures and minimize pains. Finally out is the everyday pragmatist who seeks to find the utility in all things and persons, asking always in what ways this or that will benefit him.

Continue reading “The active life: Ways of life available to us in modernity”