Sunday, June 18, 2006

Why Think?

So, I've just read The Birth of Tragedy, and I'm pretty sure now that Nietzsche poses, as I suspected, the only serious challenge to the examined life.

The difficulty is this:

It is not too hard, on the grounds of reason and truth, to commit oneself to the examined -- philosophic -- life. To value reason over faith, and logic over feelings as a source of knowledge.

But while we should value logic over emotions as a means of achieving the truth, it does not necessarily follow that we should value logic over emotions as a means of achieving happiness. The second, implied premise in the syllogism is that truth is always the best way to achieve happiness.

Of course, this ends up being true -- empirically, obviously true -- when we are talking about external goods. Truth is useful in getting stuff. But what about emotions? What about the value of believing certain things? It is conceivable that believing a true thing, while leading to external efficacy, could be so deeply disturbing as to not be worth it. Or believing a false thing might cause a good far greater than its practical harm.

For this reason, any way of thinking about the world, at its root, must have what Nietzsche calls an aesthetic justification. We need to be able to tell ourselves a compelling and appealing story about out worldview. This is not only a tool for self-deception. No, the man of reason cannot afford to ignore this need. If the life of reason is in fact the best, it too needs an aesthetic justification -- gods and myths of a sort.

This inquiry, of course, carries grave risks for rational philosophy. After all, we can't presuppose that our current way of life is correct when examining it. But all life carries risks.

We are surrounded by a thousand fates. Let us enter the fight. -Homer

There's nothing Nietzsche couldn't teach ya 'bout the raising of the wrist. -Monty Python will boost your web site traffic by 50%. Starting tomorrow. For as long as you like. No purchase necessary. 100% totally free. No kidding!

Search For It

Search For It