This blog is in response to:
Why the Fuck am I Doing This? – Addendum, Pt. I
which is in response to:
The thing that I found most striking about this quote was that although it was a ‘negative’ critique of Western society, it actually (with some obvious word changes) spells out the criterion of a more idealized society, which for a lack of a better word I will call a Utopia.
This discussion begins with the practicle differences between the age old active philosophies of Christianity and Confucianism,
“Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you” Analects 15:23 (Confucius)
“And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” Luke 6:31, King James Version. (Bible)
source for quotes:http://www.religioustolerance.org/reciproc.htm
I think taking the Confucius approach makes much more sense for several reasons. Firstly, it requires less from the individual so it is easier to implement. Secondly, it certainly does not exclude the Christian version “that men should do to you, do ye also to them.” T Finally, the Christian version has a flaw, in that it does not recognize the variation in the “should-do’s” across a population of people. For example, a religious person might believe that they should “save” another person, because they would want to be “saved” in if they were in that other person’s shoes. This may offend the non-religious person, creating an ‘unexpected failure mode’ of the philosophy.
My conclusion is that one of the keys to striving for Utopia is aiming to eliminating things that are undesirable rather than aiming at achieving thing that you desire in a society. Action through inaction.
Fromm starts by defining the crisis, or in other words he points out things that need to be avoided in a Utopia:
“It is the crisis which as been described as malaise, ennui (boredom), mal du siecle (worst of the century), the deadening of life, the automatization of man, his alienation from himself, from his fellowman and from nature. ”
Rewritten this becomes an inspiring sentence
“It is the revolution which as been described as a well being, an excitement of human potential unlike any other in recent history… the awakening of life, the de-automatization of man, his unification of himself, with his fellowman and more importantly nature. ”
Fromm then explains what one should avoid when traveling through life and how the construct of our lives has somehow stripped us of our “humanity.”
“He still pays lip service to the aims of happiness, individualism, initiative – but actually he has no aim. Ask him what he is living for, what is the aim of his strivings – and he will be embarrassed. Some may say they live for the family, others, ‘to have fun,’ still others, to make money, but in reality nobody knows what he is living for, he has no goal, except the wish to escape insecurity and aloneness.”
Then, in the conclusion of the paragraph, Fromm explains that humanity is “embarrassed” because they have no “aim in life.” This is again another negative quality of society that we (humans) should avoid as we revolutionize our world. Rewritten:
“Man always honors and strives for the aims of happiness, individualism, initiative. Ask him what he is living for, what is the aim of his strivings – and he will be proud. He may say he lives for his family, he may say, ‘to have fun,’ hey may even say, to make money, but in reality everybody knows that he is living for a combination of many goals; he has no need to escape insecurity and aloneness, for he and his fellowman are at finally at one with themselves and nature.”
For me this was actually a very inspiring quote. I am not sure what else to think about it right now. The semi-mathematical negative logic that I used in this post is explained in detailed in the post about relative knowledge
It is easy to see morality as really being about “what is bad,” and “how to stop bad things from happening.” It is difficult to see how anything can happen that is truly “good.” What exactly would a utopia look like if it aimed at “good” things rather than just stopping bad things from happening? Do you think this is an entirely empty idea?
Wow you nailed it. Wait till I put up the second half of the quote from Fromm…the conclusions you drew are pretty impressive.
In response to James Gray, your thoughts bring me back to Spinoza in that perhaps the answer lies in throwing out absolutes like truly good and truly bad because we only have relative good and bad – this is strangely compatible with modern economics and its insistence on trade-offs.
Aiming at relative good I think would be a very worthy goal but easily diluted. For example ending hunger is relatively good but if it’s done by a dictator that removes much of the good, given modern notions. So it all reverts to objectivity which falls apart unless morality is strictly applied. That is based on faith but isn’t such a bad thing. The solution is nebulous. For example it may require the dismantling of self-identification in many arenas to honor honesty and justice. Which goes back to courage.