I’ve been wandering around all the time, reading on many topics, and even across many disciplines. Surely this has helped me to keep a width of vision, but it is at the serious cost of productivity and as a direct consequence, cost of depth as well.
This must not continue, otherwise I would not only lose the competition, the routine work, but also my whole life, although the reason to wander in the first place, is, ridiculously, that I care so much about my life. It is because I care thus I don’t want to settle down, in fear that something important or novel probably will be missed out. The result is, I never commit myself to any single thing, although I have been wandering around some of them for quite some time and with quite some levels of effort.
Perhaps my philosophical skepticism plays a role here, but I can’t say for sure. I always appreciate the philosophical acumen of skepticism and look down a bit upon those who commit too early. Although from sound philosophical reasoning I know this is the human predicament, which no one can escape, but in the end I still could not make myself settled down.
I can without any resentment buy the pragmatist or the pragmatic argument, namely that you have to survive first, because truth is made by those who survive. Sure. Evolutionary theories these days thrive and as an ex-science major I totally believe in them. But here the question is not a scientific one, it is philosophical or humanistic. We are not robots, we don’t do things as programmed, either by others’ commands (including that of god) or by our own hidden drives. My tone here perhaps sounds like Kant, the anti-hero in my dictionary. But I appreciate Kant at least for one thing, namely he cares. He deadly cares. Hence we have the discipline called philosophy.
I digress again.
With these days’ experience of distress and feeling of emptiness, I found something. It’s very simple, but it may be helpful, at least to my type. Truth is, things are not equally important, only some of them really matters. This is an insanely simple fact, but for me it’s a great discovery.
To use pragmatist reasoning it’s easy to demonstrate the truth of the above claim. Since everyone has a goal, and in reference to this goal, things can be measured into a rough hierarchy of values. My problem, however, is with the presumption that a goal is already given. I would intuitively and instantly question: why this goal but not that goal? Ultimately why any goal at all? To fashion this question philosophically I don’t expect a pragmatist answer.
Fraught with anti-rationalism, I never believe that we can use reason to ground a goal, any goal. Psychological science has been steadily proving the fickleness and weakness of rationality. But I still cannot accept the pragmatist answer to the ultimate question concerning having goal at all.
Then is there any highest goal that is both natural (to be compatible with pragmatism and modern science) and also attractive to reason? Perhaps Aristotle’s Eudaemonia can be a candidate. It on the one hand extols excellence, esp. that of the intellect, which then can be accepted by philosophers; on the other hand, this excellence means to make the best use of your full potential, which is partly confirmed both by our intuition and by modern science, at least not at odds with the latter. Maslow’s hierarchy of human motives is perhaps inspired by Aristotle?
In this Aristotelian light then the above claim can have a philosophical explanation, which of course does not conflict with pragmatism. Eudaemonia simply transcends pragmatism. In the universe that’s composed by the natural world plus the human intellect (human soul as well, if you like) Eudaemonia distinctly stands as the objective highest value. Aristotle adds that intellectual excellence ranks the highest. I’m no fan of Aristotle or of any other philosopher, so I need an explanation why it is so, even if it is only a prima facie explanation. I take that intellectual excellence ranks higher (if not singularly the highest) is because it is difficult. Difficulty can give the actor deep meaning and serves as an objective measure to rank-order all things. Voilà