Lebenskünstler

Gregory Pappas – Dewey’s Ethics – Democracy as Experience [Part IV]

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 05/07/2012

“Dewey used philosophy to make his hope reasonable, which is different than seeking a foundation or a rationalization for a way of life.”

“A philosophy of democracy is an imaginative effort to articulate in a coherent fashion the most salient traits of the most worthwhile experiences and possibilities of human interaction for the purpose of ameliorative criticism. Democracy rests on experiencing and discriminating better and worse forms  of interactions in daily life. It is precisely because meaningful and enriching relationships are hard to come by that we need to set them up as ideal and inquire into their conditions.”

“The art of listening needed in a democracy is a matter of embodied habits. Without a cadre of people with certain imaginative and emotional capacities there is no hope for democracy.”

“The recent interest on deliberation is a good corrective against narrow views of democracy, but political theorists must avoid the intellectualist temptation that has plagued the history of philosophy: the reduction of experience to the cognitive realm…How we experience each other in our everyday local and direct interactions is something more inclusive than how we talk and inquire together.”

“Intelligence for Dewey is not a faculty, but a general way of interacting…”

“You can guide but not reason someone into having the experiences that can validate democracy…the empirical philosopher must provide arguments, but she should also guide others (through descriptions and other means) to have the experiences that may confirm their hypotheses.”

“Dewey wanted to shift the focus of democracy to the present striving or democratization of experience instead of toward future results…There is no grandiose or ultimate war for the sake of which the piecemeal present battles are fought…Trying to transform everyday activity to make it richer and fuller relative to concrete present problems and possibilities is what we do in democracy as a way of life.”

The reasonableness of an ideal way of life is to be tested in lived experience by trying to live it…we can test our hypotheses only by living them. Participation can only be tested by participating. There is, then, no theoretical justification of democracy that can replace the support provided in favor of democracy by living and embodying democratic habits in our everyday interaction.” [emphasis mine]

Philosophy – Plumbing

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 08/30/2011

“The society that scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity, and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because philosophy is an exalted activity, will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.”  – John Gardner

Thoreau – Art/Life

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 02/06/2010

The true poem is not that which the public read. There is always  a poem not printed on paper, coincident with the production of this, stereotyped in the poet’s life. It is what he has become through his work. Not how is the idea expressed in stone, or on canvass or paper, is the question, but how far it has obtained form and expression in the life of the artist. His true work will not stand in any prince’s gallery. [italics in original; bold emphasis mine] – H. D. Thoreau in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

Josef Pieper – Leisure – Chad Lakies – How Might Life Live?

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 12/22/2009

An abstract for the forthcoming paper “Challenging the Cultural Imaginary: Josef Pieper on How Life Might Live” by Chad Lakies discovered at his blog here:

“Asking anew “How might life live?” is to offer an opportunity to re-imagine. In the midst of a cultural imaginary that imagines life in terms of the Protestant work ethic, resulting in a culture of total work, Josef Pieper imagines a different way of living. His work emphasizes the place of leisure in the life of the human creature. From within a culture of total work it seems impossible for leisure to have a place, yet Pieper’s reflections pose leisure as the very basis of culture itself, ironically the basis from which the current culture of total work may have emerged and at the same time, the only place from which it can be escaped. It is in the imaginative moment of leisure that one can affect a transformation of the cultural imaginary, for at one and the same time leisure is the basis for a new formulation of culture against total work and a living of life in a way that inherently stands in disobedience against the total work world.”

Tiger Woods – Love – Agnès Poirier

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 12/10/2009

“Without risk there can be no passion. Philosophers know that, beyond golf, romance is under threat”

“If this saga proves one thing, it is not Woods’s “malice”, but that love is threatened by the world’s two leading ideologies: libertarianism and liberalism. These two 21st-century diseases concur to make us believe that love is a risk not worth taking: as if we could have, on one hand, a safe conjugality; and on the other, sexual arrangements that will spare us the dangers of passion. Both are illusions.” from an article by Agnès Poirier here.

Risk, passion, love – something I wrote about at LeisureArts re: social practice in this post: Social Practice – Revelry and Risk – Art/Life

Leisure – Jerome Segal – Graceful Simplicity

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 11/12/2009

Thinking more deeply about the politics of leisure. Jerome Segal calls it “graceful simplicity,” but we basically mean the same thing. He states, “A politics of simplicity seeks a world that is not hectic, not filled with anxiety. It is a world in which people have sufficient time to do things slowly and to do them right, whether what they are doing is building and enjoying a friendship, working on sculpture, or studying scripture.”

Robert C. Solomon – The Art of Living – Professionalization of Philosophy/Art

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 12/28/2008

“Philosophy is essentially an art. It is the art of living, the search for wisdom.”

“What gives our lives meaning is not anything beyond our lives, but the richness of our lives.”

– Robert Solomon

I’ve written before about Robert Solomon at LeisureArts:

Robert C. Solomon – Passionate Life – Raoul Vaneigem

Philosophy – LeisureArts – Passion

I recently read his The Passions: Emotions and The Meaning of Life. In it, Solomon argues that  “…emotions are the meaning of life. It is because we are moved, because we feel, that life has meaning. The passionate life, not the dispassionate life of pure reason, is the meaningful life.” The central thesis of his book is of great interest, but I unfortunately found his deep commitment to existentialist responsibility off putting. Despite that, the core argument is a necessary salvo at the analytic/rationalist mafia.

What is of real interest to me is his introductory riff on the professionalization of philosophy and its impact on our lives.

“Let me be outrageous and insist that philosophy matters. It is not a self-contained system of problems and puzzles, a self-generating profession of conjectures and refutations…We are all philosophers; the problems we share are philosophical problems. What has been sanctified and canonized as ‘philosophy’ is but the cream of curdled thought from the minds of men [sic] rare in genius, but common in their concerns.”

Solomon, throughout many of his works revisits the theme of  what he calls (professional) philosophy’s “thinness.”  He maintains that the aforementioned puzzles ultimately devolve into examining narrower and narrower slices of human experience. In its attempt to emulate the precision and appearance of objectivity of the sciences, philosophy has developed into highly “sophisticated irrelevancy.”

In his defense of the passions he posits that their subjective nature is a strength, not a weakness. The passions add to, rather than inhibit our understanding of reality. Of course it is not the capital R reality of professional philosophy that he thinks should be the ultimate aim of philosophical inquiry. “They [the passions] are not concerned with the world, but my world. They are not concerned with ‘what is really the case’ with ‘the facts,’ but rather with what is important.”

It is professional philosophy with its system of rewards for esoteric argumentation and refutation that all too often dispenses with what is important to the everyday concerns of people outside the discipline. Or as Solomon puts it:

“Nothing has been more harmful to philosophy than its ‘professionalization,’ which on the one hand has increased the abilities and techniques of its practitioners immensely, but on the other has rendered it an increasingly impersonal and technical discipline, cut off from and forbidding to everyone else.”

He calls this “tragic” and yearns for philosophy’s return to the streets where “Socrates originally practiced it.”  The parallels with the professionalization of art should be obvious enough.  In fact, Solomon has called philosophy “conceptual sculpture,” but his usage refers to the shaping of the mental structures that shape our everyday lives. There’s  too much at stake in both these  fields to leave them to the academic class. They must not be about life, but serve it.

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