Friday, May 18, 2007

Another Take on the Last Moment of Innocence, or Two Different Conceptions of Self

I propose two conceptions of self. One essentially static, and one essentially dynamic. Morality as a set of commandments which one obeys or not. Moral Law as Christians argue for it is unchanging and eternal. Accompanying this is an unchanging residue that lies beyond the vicissitudes of a person's emotional life.

This thought in the last paragraph should be clarified. It's more an attempt to give an outline to a thought project: what conception of self accompanies and is implied by conceptions of moral law? For instance, if The Moral Law is conceived as eternal and unchanging, doesn't this strongly imply that change, development, and even growth as a person is immoral and consequently forbidden?

In the Age of Oprah and the omnipresent and naive belief that the truth will of itself prove liberating, it is not immediately obvious that growth as a person could be immoral. There is a phrase that I like, "going through a phase." If we allow that an individual can grow as a person, there will be situations in which transcending one's limits means moving beyond the limits set forth by whatever morality holds local sway. What is morality but setting limits: THOU SHALT NOT... And if the internal logic of a person's passions, desires, and drives require going one step further?

I guess one could appeal to some version Leibniz's monads with their eternally preexisting harmony to exclude the possibility of any real conflict, so as to rule out any possibility that human good might conflict with Morality? But wouldn't the requirement of a necessary harmony between what is good for human beings and moral law in the end mean the same old conflict: If there is conflict between the logic of a person's passions and the demands of Moral Law, then it is always the individual who is in the wrong and must make sacrifices. Or as I wrote earlier: personal growth is immoral.

The irrelevance of Moral Law shows itself for me in the hatred shown it towards ambiguity, Vieldeutigkeit, irony, and playfulness.

I spoke of two conceptions of self in first paragraph. What is the second conception? It is old hat to speak of development and personal growth. The flip-side of development and personal growth is autonomy. The Greek roots of autonomy mean literally self-law. Autonomy means integration, ordering, assigning degrees importance, and maintaining harmony. Just to be clear, harmony doesn't mean a lack of discord. Musically speaking, the more profound the harmony the more profound the discord contained within.

A day comes when a person who is incidentally a Christian makes the painful discovery that that phase of his life has drawn to a close. It is now time to put away childish things.

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