Ratha (papertygre) wrote,

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Misc; Life Orientations


Coffee: Been drinking generic Whole Foods brand french-roast coffee that I'd had a huge bag of in my freezer for ages, even before I moved out of Newport. At the moment I can't really justify to myself going out and buying new coffee, because we're trying to use stuff up before moving, and especially since I don't know a local roaster in Plymouth. But now that anukul has pointed out to me that coffee loses much of its flavor within 24-48 hours after roasting, I am having trouble not being dissatisfied. So I've been fantasizing intermittently about home roasting, and somehow having the time and the fancy equipment it would require. Seems like such an impractical luxury, kind of like baking your own bread.

Moving: I bought Birkenstocks in anticipation of warm weather in Florida, and somehow it's odd to be wearing them around the house, breaking them in, when there are four inches of snow on the ground outside.

Life Orientations

Also, recently, I've been thinking about personal motivations. I have a recorded course on Existentialism that so far I've listened only about 3/4 of the way through, but at some point in the course the lecturer brings up the idea that there are a certain limited number of basic motivations a person can have. I believe Kierkegaard was the philosopher who identified these motivations. One possible motivational choice is beauty, another is morality, and the third is religion. The motivation of beauty leads toward a hedonistic lifestyle (according to Kierkegaard), the motivation of morality leads to a rational or dutiful lifestyle, and the religious motivation leads to ... well, I checked the course notes, and they don't say what that choice leads to. I'm guessing that Kierkegaard would say, a fulfilled lifestyle, or something like that. Obviously, it's the religous choice tht Kierkegaard himself finally picked.

Having had some time to think about it, I came to the conclusion that I am motivated by the first choice, beauty. I'm not sure I could easily explain why I think that. I guess, I don't think the pursuit of beauty is necessarily a shallow or hypocritical activity; far from it. There are many kinds of beauty, and the richer, more complex kinds are not necessarily obvious or hedonistic. My personal attitude about beauty is similar to the way Thelemites split hairs about the word "will" in "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law": there is whim, and then there is Will; one is fleeting, but the other is meaningful and essential.

Anyway, an interesting question to me is whether these three modes of existence form an exhaustive list. I'm still not sure about that. However, I think Kierkegaard's point in identifying these three modes has more to do with what all such modes would have in common. He argues that a person's choice of mode is necessarily pre-rational. The ethical mode, for example, is moved by the desire to behave according to something like Kant's universal moral imperative, which is supposed to be consummately rational. However, your decision to use that mode in the first place can not be made using reason. I think that is true.

So in a sense, according to this theory, the world is filled with people who each have their own orientation. Some people have modes compatible with one another, but other people are polarized such that they will never see eye to eye. In the case of politics, this strikes me as especially the case. I have been thinking about liberalism vs. conservatism, out of curiosity for what makes them actually tick. In a sense, it is sort of obvious. They just have opposite priorities. It seems to me that left-leaning people see community and social justice and mutual support as the most important duties of a responsible society. So such people tend to think in a holistic manner, and their arguments seem to spring from a basic notion that you can't separate a person from their society any more than you can separate art from its context. On the other hand, right-leaning people prioritize safety from threats, financial justice, and the preservation of what they see as "good" and "proper". The conservative mindset seems to take for granted that there are "good" things in the world (good people, ideas, actions) and then there are "bad" ones, and you must destroy the latter in order to successfully protect the former. Also, because work ethic and personal responsibility are generally seen as "good" elements, the ideas of political and financial freedom somehow get thrown into the mix. But in the conservative agenda, to me it seems important to recognize that these are secondary, as they only just happen to flow from the premise of what is arbitrarily considered good in the first place.

I think most people would acknowledge that you can rationalize just about anything. So what we have is basically a bunch of different pre-rational psychological orientations, on which all these various edifices of scholarship and theory and policy are eventually built. But their foundations aren't sensible, they're actually arbitrary. Which is, I suppose, only scary in the sense that people don't generally recognize that. From this springs intolerance. But even if there were tolerance, it still wouldn't be any easier to reconcile the differences and come up with the Right Thing to Do.
Tags: caffeine, philosophy, psychology
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