Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mature and Balanced Individualism on Display

I've recommended him before, and I'll recommend him again; Arturo Vasquez has a very insightful post today regarding individualism, philosophy as a way of life, living in the present, and "the liberation of thought and action from the modern prison of ideology":

Some of the things he said in that post made me re-examine my own motives and strategies of organizing my thoughts about the world; and when something makes you question yourself like that, you know it's valuable (an experience he apparently had, in turn, with Hadot).

My only concern is that such an attitude could tend towards dismissing any visionary drive for change whatsoever, could be somewhat quietist and tend towards resigned inaction.

I think that it's true that problems have never gone away, merely become different, and that humanity's average subjective happiness has not gotten any better even for all the "progress" the world has had. However, the specific condition of specific people with specific problems can and has clearly been ameliorated at various points.

Working on a project with others to solve a specific current problem or for a vision of a "brighter" future in some specific aspect (as long as you don't get too utopian) in some ways exactly the thing that can and should make us happy and ennobled in the present, the concrete expression of Charity, even if some might view the effort as "futile" just because it won't make everything perfect and may even have unforeseen side-effects. Trying, even against all odds, is our solace for the present. God will decide if we succeed or not, if we do "make a difference," but even trying is meritorious, and even making a difference in one life is good.

Still, I think a very nuanced and perceptive post, and the point about hidden agendas and ideologically romanticizing the past and/or future...are well taken and very important. The modern Secular Messianism whereby many seeks happiness in history (ie, in either the past or the future) instead of beyond it, does tend to value some abstract utilitarian systematic judgment of good. When really the Kingdom of God is an eschatological reality that will only find expression in the concrete individual acts motivated by Charity and done in the present for the good of people seen as more than just statistics or theoretical beings.

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