Tim Black reviews Susan Neiman’s book, Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-up Idealists:
Neiman writes: ‘We want to determine the world, not merely be determined by it; we want to stand above the things we may want to consume. You can call this the urge for transcendence, so long as you don’t call it mystical. We are born as we die, a part of nature, but we feel most alive when we go beyond it. And we go beyond it often – every time we explore the world instead of simply taking it in.’ She concludes: ‘To be human is to refuse to accept the given as given.’
Sounds like a good read.
5 thoughts on “Getting back to ideals”
Sounds like technological thinking!
Yes, I thought of (late) Heidegger, too, but also of (late) Wittgenstein, and the great challenge they saw in recovering the pathos of “accepting the given as given”, if not also of Zarathustra’s quasi-mystical moment of transcendence “At Midday” (in Book IV), wherein he ecstatically contemplates his wondrous soul being drunk back into “the serene and ghastly mid-day abyss” of the heavens.
Yes, I gather the book is a cry for a return to enlightenment ideals. Hard to resist, sometimes.
At the level of public discourse and political policy, the cry can’t be beat, I think, but at an underlying, existential level it feels, to me at least, wanting in depth. But that, it seems, is our dilemma: the values (consumeristic, individualistic, and whatever else communitarians like MacIntyre complain about) which support, and are in turn promoted by, our best chances of material prosperity seem to be at odds with other needs for meaningfulness which are susceptible to finding satisfaction in fascistic, anti-individualistic, anti-liberal eschatelogical, deep-meaning-conferring schemes. Britney Spears or the Führer.
Neiman on her book: