Friday, June 22, 2012

In Which I Become More Masturbatory Than Usual

Living well means living a ethical life and doing what one ought to do with what they are given. We have our responsibilities in life, and then there are things we must leave to G-d. The meaning of life is to live and to live well. That is my now my conclusion, G-d cares about our behavior, but we we created simply to be what we are. 
- Some Blogger in 2008

There are ideas and questions that our minds return to time and time again, and our beliefs and answers change over time. The whole enterprise starts feeling a little empty if we aren't evolving and growing. The internet – blogs in particular – give us an opportunity to really see how much we are growing and evolving.

For example, as I have documented over the course of my various blogs, I devoted most of my mental energy to metaethical questions for about three years after I left Christianity. I still devote energy to metaethics frequently. But metaethics are just a part of my larger concern with the meaning of life, with the question of how I ought to live. And to state my position, I would say something like this:

The world is large and out of our individual control. All we can handle is what life presents us in the moment from the points of view we have available to us, because we simply lack the informational resources, time, and energy to look at any matter from all possible angles or to look at all possible matters that may be presented to us. We have to do what makes sense, right now, using our guiding values and principles, and then let the chips fall where they may.

Compare that to the quote at the top. The first quote is explicitly theistic and has faith in an inherent order to the apparent chaos of life, and makes reference to an “ethical life” (whatever that is). But the same basic model underlies both quotes: handle your domain, live your life, do not suppose that you can steer the universe, and don't bother with some hidden endgoal that you need to figure out to pursue.

Now, I fancy that the second quote comes from skepticism of ethical truths, a reluctant acceptance of determinism and fatalism, an appreciation of Nietzsche's √úbermensch and Camus's absurdism (or perhaps just the parody of them that I've cobbled together based on what I have read) coupled with a good sense of humor that keeps me from thinking there's actually anything heroic or epic about either concept, a heavily reserved acceptance of some of Marcus Aurelius's ideas about operating according to ones place in the great machine of nature, and the leftover exhaustion from years of trying to figure out an objective meaning of life.

The first quote was written four years ago. By me. I had just barely left Christianity. Still had faith in some kind of objective ethical truths. No Camus. Hardly any Nietzsche. No Aurelius. Resentment toward determinism and fatalism. And as the up-my-own-ass tone of that earlier blog shows, a severely underdeveloped sense of humor. Has growth occurred? Yes. But the central nerve in my thinking is, at least in this area, the same.

Four years, and I'm just repeating myself. These are the kind of things you have to laugh about if you don't want to end up an alcoholic.

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