Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Disagreeing with Thinkers


In what I believe was a review of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason on the website goodreads.com, a reviewer expressed the wise insight that we read thinkers/philosophers not so much to agree with them but precisely the opposite. 

It is in disagreeing with or at least qualifying and moderating the strong angles offered by thinkers that we may come to sharpen our own thinking and awareness of our particular sensibility, provided the disagreement or nuancing is the fruit of not a superficial, blanket rejection but a careful consideration and evaluation of the words - written or spoken - of the thinker in question.

In fact I have done this with great benefit to myself in the case of thinker Friedrich Nietzsche (Morality and the Big & Powerful and Relative Failure of the Nietzschean Project) - whose words I used to take as gospel initially and for a long while afterwards - and, to a lesser extent, by nuancing or qualifying Mark Passio's more extreme positions (Mark Passio and the Chess Game, Dual Nature of Natural Law). 

Thinking, like music, is never set for all time and is open to continuous interpretation, correction and amendment and to want to police thinking or bring it to a halt or stand-still, just like wanting to police art and bring it to a fixed state of existence, is to kill it (for, as Nietzsche wrote, life, which manifests in both art and thought, is that which overcomes itself again and again). 

I will view the 'thoughts' section of my blog as having been of some benefit to others if these others, in disagreeing with or nuancing my positions and angles - whose partial, biographical and flawed nature I readily admit (Disclaimer about this Blog - My Rubbish) - gain in self-understanding by their so doing.

And it could be said with some honesty that philosophical discourse, however well-argued, intricate, logical, sensitive and thoughtfully executed, is, at bottom, opinion-based (some would even say simply 'glorified opinion'), in the sense of offering one fragmentary angle out of countless other options on the mysteries and complexities of existence (for more elaboration see post Thinking v Opining).

Limitations of the Work Ethic as Moral Paradigm


The puritanical, capitalist work ethic is one of the most entrenched and powerful moral paradigms of the Modern World - 'moral' in the sense that it judges things in terms of 'good' and 'bad'. 

Whether one is employed or not, has a 'real' job or not, is an economic contributor or not, a 'taxpayer' or not (although see post Who are Taxpayers?), is a default and ubiquitous way of measuring a person's worth, so that activities not pertaining to monetary considerations and societal trinkets are often seen with a suspicious glance and commonly denigrated as 'self-indulgent'.

In my post Puritans as Self-Loathers? I suggested the psychological possibility that much modern-day, conformist puritanism could be rooted in self-loathing or, at the least, some pent-up resentment as expressed in much of the right-wing vote (Considerations on the Right-wing Working Class Vote).

In any case the ubiquity of the capitalist and therefore conformist mindset - capitalism being the economic system now in favour with which, by and large, all have to conform (see Truthfulness and Money) - is daily revealed by the question many if not most people ask on first meeting you: 
"What do you do for a living?"
As I wrote in The Superficiality of Normality, one of the key divides and conflicts that affects and has affected the human population is the one pertaining to the priorities of conformists as against the preferences of misfits. 

For the Daily Mail reading public, the work ethic is the criterion for measuring someone's morality so that the abuses of bankers, corporate owners and other 'hard-working' types, including in terms of something as harmless and mundane as drug abuse, is of no import as opposed to the inadequacies and said drug abuse of benefits 'scroungers' who are not employed although, like me, might apply themselves diligently in many areas (see post What is Work?) including in terms of voluntary, unpaid work.

The argument of this post, therefore, to say that the capitalist work ethic is a conformist (and, arguably, superficial) way of (morally) evaluating people and activities as opposed to other, less established ways of making moral judgements such as the one expressed in my writing How to Become Master of the World which puts thoughtfulness as the prime criterion for rightful, care-ful, action, conscious of its effect on others (an angle also put forth in my post Thought and Responsibility). I indeed define 'enlightenment' as treating oneself and others with care (Meaning of Enlightenment).

It goes almost without saying that, taken in isolation from other considerations, the puritanical work ethic can in fact be highly immoral if it is used, as indeed it is, to harm others, whether by shaming them for not wanting or being unable to work or by forcing them into a position of exploitative subservience, since undermining their conscious ability to resist the apparently self-evident requirement of selling one's labour to others to be able to continue to exist - employment as a form of modern-day (wage) slavery.

The work ethic as a methodology to enforce capitalist practices on people and as an instrument of incalculable mind control since repeatedly and constantly reinforced by mainstream political discourse says nothing of the harm actually caused by work itself, i.e. employment, whether it be the nature of the work in question, should it be of a harmful and violent nature (see, for example, Business is Business), such as practices employed by food giant Monsanto or Arms manufacturers, or the conditions that permeate the work context (see Culture of Fear in the Workplace) which have worsened over the years due to anti-labour, neoliberal policies and are in any event a huge component of daily human stress, agony, misery and even injury.

Post Scriptum: This blog post is of course very symptomatic of the privileged lifestyle and economic conditions prevailing on my person at the time of writing. For all that I do hope my argument transcends, at least in part, the singularity of my social and sociological position.