Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Abundance

MelbournePhilosopher

For the longest in I don't know how long, I feel completely blessed to have so much abundance. This demands a philosophical response!

Some people claim that all art is created from dissatisfaction, but I disagree and have always done so. Some artwork, I think, springs from an entirely positive artisitic intention.

Philosophy is the same for me. While nobody else might be able to "read" my art exactly as I intended it, it is for me an equally expressive medium as language. I believe that I genuinely have entirely abstract thoughts which are expressible through art. Sometimes, the artwork includes a structure which is linked to cognitive structure, just as words are linked to meaning.

My point, insofar as I have one, is that (a) philosophy should contribute to positively motivated theories as well as negative difficulties, and that (b) this is not obvious. I'm not intending to back that claim up very much here, but at least the perspective can be understood. If it's topical, I may return and provide a more thorough analysis.

Regardless, I am currently feeling like a very lucky ducky. Given how much philosophy is dedicated to dealing with feelings of inadequecy, choosing the "right" kind of action in adverse circumstances, etc, it would be only a rigorous test to check that those same theories applied properly to examples of a multiplicity of goods as well as a multiplicity of evils.

How might, for example, and ethicist view a person who has access to both wealth, personal satisfaction, and love? Dealing with scarcity is one thing, but how is one to deal with abundance? Can abundance be relied upon? Is it better to be optimistic or pessismistic about the future, and how does this change with circumstances of abundance?

What would Nietzsche, or Schopenhauer, or the Dalai Lama say about such things? What about Jesus, or Wittgenstein, or Heidegger?

I suppose the religiously oriented would promote some kind of sacrifice or tithing of material wealth, but nonmaterial wealth has no such nature. Something like love, or happiness is not something which must be given up in order to be shared. It is, in principle, a resource with infinite supply. Does that make one greedy if one accumulates it?

In a sense, material wealth is tithed to the state in order to fund delegated responsibility. It is, I would argue, perfectly reasonable to claim than ones economic ethical demands are met by the payment of taxes.

Ah well, just lucky I guess. Probably best to be pessimistic, and continue to plan for disaster! I might turn back to the issue through the eyes of some specific philosophers in coming days, and see if their ideas stand up under abundance.

Cheers,
-MP

3 Comments:

Anonymous Paul said...

On the subject of luck, you wrote:

“How might, for example, an ethicist view a person who has access to both wealth, personal satisfaction, and love? Dealing with scarcity is one thing, but how is one to deal with abundance? Can abundance be relied upon? Is it better to be optimistic or pessismistic about the future, and how does this change with circumstances of abundance?”

I think the best way to deal with abundance is to realise that fortune brings us things but it also takes them away just as easily. If we view material things as not really ours, and expect to lose them at any time, then perhaps we will be seeing things as they really are (and enjoying our good fortune). It’s the old story of being born with nothing, dying with nothing etc.

I’m not sure what the philosphers you listed would say about abundance or fortune. But the Roman Stoic Seneca had this to say in his essay "On Tranquillity of Mind":

“Let us learn to increase moderation, to restrain luxury, to control our appetites, to appease our anger, to look upon poverty with indifference, to cultivate frugality, even if we are ashamed to be like common people, to apply to our natural desires remedies involving little or no expense, to hold as it were in chains unruly hopes and a mind striving to peer into the future, and to keep it in view that we seek our riches from ourselves rather than from fortune.”

12/15/2005 12:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Becky said...

Well that's awesome that it's all going so well for you! And great that you're able to recognise abundance when you see it.

With most people (including me), once the more basic needs are satisfied, less basic needs begin to loom large. People can't deal with the idea that things might actually be going really well for them.

Think of the self-help book industry: it's totally based on problems that people only begin to have once things are going pretty well. I'm sure that 25 year olds in the Sudan aren't experiencing quarter-life crises!

12/16/2005 01:29:00 PM  
Blogger MelbournePhilosopher said...

Wikipedia has an article called "Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs" which is quite interesting reading.

Everyone's got their problems.

Cheers,
-MP

12/16/2005 04:47:00 PM  

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