June 12, 2008

WHAT ARE PEOPLE FOR?


Seamus McGoogle never asks such questions.

One area where some fundamentalists and atheistic materialists agree is the idea that there is no inherent end or goal of human life. For the former, these come only from God, while for the latter any goal or end is arbitrary.

Leaving the God issue aside, I disagree with both. While people have racked their brains over this question, I think it's one of the easy ones. I keep harping on this theme, but I still think Aristotle nailed it when he argued in his Ethics that the goal (telos) of life is happiness because we want it for its own sake whereas we want other things in order to be happy.

The word he used for happiness was eudaimonia, which means something like thriving. It implies actualizing one's potential over the course of a lifetime. It's also the goal of political life.

Thriving isn't necessarily the same thing as pleasure or even pleasing emotions. Sometimes people are happiest when they are so absorbed in doing something that they have little or no self-consciousness. This is sometimes called the flow state.

It also means having one's basic needs met. It's hard to thrive when you're cold and homeless, hungry, sick without the prospect of care, or are unable to have an adequate standard of living. As social beings, we need positive interactions with others and good social networks. As (occasionally) rational beings, we need mental stimulation, etc.

There's obviously more to it than that, but the basics are important.

I'd suggest that a valuable lens to use in looking at economic issues and policy options is to begin with the end in mind and consider how these impede or promote thriving.

IT'S NOT JUST THE UNINSURED who are having health care problems these days. Twenty five million underinsured Americans are facing hard times, health problems, and financial strain.

IT WASN'T JUST IRAQ that the Bush administration misled the nation about. Their greatest success, this item argues, is its attack on the estate tax.

SPEAKING OF IRAQ, some soldiers are going to great length to avoid going back there.

EVERY MOUNTAIN SHALL BE BROUGHT DOWN. Here's s story about mountaintop removal mining in WV that appeared in Financial Times Deutschland, a German publication.

MEDICAID. Here's the latest on the controversy surrounding WV's Medicaid program.

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello, world, here's a song that we're singin', come on get happy!

Yennob said...

Does happiness equal thriving? Really? I'm sure there are some people out there thriving and still inherently miserable. Or is it about FULL thriving, in all areas of life- economically, emotionally...
Is this the answer? To realize that we will never truly thrive and thus free ourselves from the worry of it and, by doing so, release ourselves from the binding nature of what it MEANS to thrive in teh first place?

El Cabrero said...

anonymous,
That's what I'm screaming.

yennob,
Sticking with Aristotle, I'd say it was FULL thriving. I do think people are often happiest when they're not even thinking about it.