17 August 2007

Questions of Value.

Questions of Value is my current Teaching Co. course (Prof. Patrick Grim). The third lecture addresses what we value in a life, asks us to think about what we think is a good life. Is a good life one that is prized, or is it one that is praised? A life that is enviable, or one that is admirable?

The enviable life is one full of endless enjoyment, parties, and pleasure (think Paris Hilton). Viewed from inside this life, it is full of good fun, and some people value this type of life above all others. In contrast, the life that is admirable is one that people on the outside consider a life of value. "He is a good person." It's sometimes a life of self-sacrifice for the good of others. (Think of Ghandi, or Sister Theresa).

Consider these two types of "good" lives. In my opinion, it is important for us to take time occasionally to consider or re-consider our goals. Am I after worldly goods, items that offer me comfort or are that are the current fad, or would I rather act in ways that help other people, even if it means self-sacrifice?

In the end, Prof. Grim and I agree that a happy medium is the best: Help others, and also work to make your own days pleasurable.

Take some time now and then to make sure that your life is in balance.

Prof. Grim validated some ideas that have come to me over the years. If you sacrifice to help someone else, you are usually giving that person pleasurable things. Okay. So, you are leading a valuable/admirable life, while helping someone else have a valued/pleasurable life. If the life that is more valued is the one that is admirable, you rob the person you have "helped" of having a valuable life, because all they get to do is sit back and enjoy the pleasurable things you have given them.

Prof. Grim categorized learning for the sake of learning as one of life's pleasures. I've always thought that.

I like the philosophy courses because they give words and validation to many ideas that have drifted across my consciousness all these years.

Back to the philosophical value of a life. I wrote in the above paragraphs that I believe a life of value is some combination of pleasure and hard work and sacrifice; a balance, a constant tug-and-pull of what you feel you should do to help others or society, and what you want to do to please yourself. I think this reflects directly our internal selves, the id and ego as explained in the psychology courses that I have taken. The striving for pleasure while the little voice in the back of your head says you should instead be doing what is "right". You want to eat that brownie, but your conscience tells you that it will make you fat. You want that new pair of shoes, while your conscience tells you that you should save your money and you cannot steal the shoes. On an internal basis, we have not a struggle with a life valued as enviable or admirable, but a struggle within our own self about what will bring us pleasure and what is best for our survival, or what is the proper way to act.

So, what to do? I combine pain and pleasure. Like going to do my work-out: the exercise will be a lot of hard work, but the music flows from my iPod and I feel pleasure. Or I go for a bike ride, and the hard ride is softened by the nifty new bike and I am rewarded by a view of the back range.

bike and back range


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