So there were some comments about the nature of Authenticity as it regarded morality, and especially any differentiation between an Authentic Atheist and an Authentic Christian. For now, I kept with more of the first question. Morality is certainly not my speciality, and I left some further reading for your consideration at the end of the blog, under ‘Conclusion’.
I am not entirely sure this blog will solve anything, but I am certain it will help concentrate and help us decide what exactly we are talking about when we talk about Authenticity.
Link to the first Authenticity blog: http://garrettflatt.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/rethinking-authenticity-what-does-authenticity-mean-anyway/
Links to the main page: http://garrettflatt.wordpress.com/
Biology and Social Conscience
My authenticity towards myself (because it is always moving in a direction towards oneself, observing the self in action towards others and the world and that new authentic self reintegrating and recreating itself, as is the very nature of an Authentic person, that is, always in motion and not inertial) – My authenticity towards myself enables a respect from others, and even encourages it, because being Authentic is to fundamentally act out, if not wholly understand, what it is to truly be a human, in a harmony of biology and social understanding. This is similar to the Confusion principle of Tao (pronounced Dao), which is literally, ‘The Way’, encompassing the totality of yin and yang (oppositions present in nature) and a harmony of the actions of the self with the reality of nature.
Biologically we are a part of the natural world, we have grown up in it and have been thrown from birth into the midst of it, thus we are limited by it in a very physical way. Like any living thing, it seems I have a desire, or rather, most of human society (for individual desires can be here or there, just as there are people who are color-blind or tone-deaf) desires to procreate, to create itself anew biologically. And humans have to, if they are to continue existing as a species. This leads to a necessity of physical interaction, which, amongst humans at least, necessitates an desire towards understanding and emotional connection with some of those of whom we interact.
What does this mean for our Social Conscience? Does biology have any bearing on what an Authentic person can and cannot do, by nature of his or her Authenticity? There are only a few things I can think of, which I believe lead very obviously into a naturally imposed morality which we are a part of and therefore we cannot objectively recreate at will, having no manner in which to stand outside of nature (because we are talking about all of nature, not simply a part).
An Authentic person cannot rid him or herself of all community. Let’s remember what Sartre said, from the last blog:
“What we choose is always the better; and nothing can be better for us unless it is better for all.”
Subjectively, this means I automatically associate in my mind my own choices as good, and therefore good at a systematic and holistic level, that is, including all of humankind. Humanity has survived very much thanks to its ability to interact as a community: indeed this is true of practically all animate nature. To think that one may free oneself from the ‘binds of society’ is something that is not only impossible, but creates great tension as well. To impose on the self a belief that is pro-individualist to the point that it is anti-social on the whole, is to impose on others this same belief (through your actions matching your beliefs) that all people should be anti-social. This is something, I believe, which, firstly, will never happen, and secondly, would not be healthy for any single human being, to be so separated from all other human beings. The destruction of society would in many ways be the destruction of all we know about being human. I do not know if such a thing would even be possible in this world we have found ourselves inhabiting.
In the same way an Authentic person cannot without considerable conflict contribute in any obvious way to the ultimate destruction of the physical environment in which she or he lives. We are physically made of the same things plants and animals are made from, and share many qualities with them. To destroy plants and animals for no reason (i.e., not for housing, food, safety, etc.) is something which is bad; if a child is seen torturing animals for fun, it is often taken as a sign that he or she may later in life express sociopathic tendencies. The sociopath is the favorite of human stories – the one who acts without conscience, and must be ultimately judged and cast out as something destructive and evil. The one who disregards not just the community of man, but all natural entities. A care for the environment to some extent is necessary as an Authentic person; as a person is part of the environment by fact of existence, that person cannot then contribute to its ultimate destruction.
Morality and Authenticity
So where are we? We have disclosed that there is a natural human prerogative towards the care of the environment and the care of the community (including, therefore, caring for oneself). At the same time, we are always choosing for ourselves and for all humanity the best of several options within every action we take. These are things I believe an Authentic person cannot escape. Therefore there is tension. When does one go against the community? When does a person go against his or her own feeling?
The solution to this tension, or angst, is found also where we find ourselves: the world. Now, in Heidegger’s terms a world*** is not the universe, it is more of a social function: A Texas politician and a suicide bomber inhabit two different worlds, that is, there is no way, in the politician’s world, that being a suicide bomber could seem like a reasonable thing to be, and vice versa. These are also called Potentialities-for-Being. This basically means that, in the world of the Texas politicians, other potentialities-for-being include being a schoolteacher, or a mailman, or a grocery cashier, but not a suicide bomber, nor a British Prime Minister, nor a druid or a viking. The limits of our world’s potentialities-for-being are helpful indicators of the horizons (limits) of our world.
So in the world, I find morality. This is neither something wholly objective, that is, imposed from nature or ‘society’*, nor wholly subjective, that is, something which I create. It is co-created with myself being a tiny piece, more or less insignificant. I am mostly passive to this morality. I find myself in many ways in submission** to the world and thus am left to come to find out and understand what morality means.
Now, it would seem that an Authentic person is not someone who is ‘objectively’ good or evil, but one, as I have said many times, whose beliefs and actions correspond, and for whose resulting actions one takes responsibility in all of its recourses and consequences which were in one’s power to change through a change in action. An authentic person does not necessitate by nature of Authenticity a person who is an Atheist, a Christian, a Buddhist, a Politician, a Librarian, a Scientist, etc.
That being said, I have already shown ways in which an Authentic person, being a person who by fact of existence inhabits a world, would be in many ways considered a good person within that world. It is not only humans who give other humans criticism, but every part of the world in its endless cause and effect. Authenticity then, expands to not only one who is responsible for ones actions, but one who understands that responsibility for one’s actions is indeed a good thing, and that good things should be by their very essences sought after and explored.
For further reading on this subject, borrow a copy of C.S. Lewis’ Abolition of Man, Mark Wrathall’s How to Read Heidegger, and Heidegger’s Being and Time. If you haven’t noticed, I’m a big fan of Heidegger and Lewis. If you ever have a chance to read either, especially Lewis, I would suggest taking it.
I love when an addendum is longer than the original (and just wait until you hit the Notes for this blog). For really long appendices that are also confusing, see War and Peace, epilogue two. Actually don’t. I couldn’t just let you go read that as a good person without a warning that it makes very little sense. Don’t even read War and Peace. I’m even saying this as a Russian scholar. Just say no. Unless you really want to.
Anywho, drop me any comments. This whole blog was brought on my a few comments to my Facebook post about my previous blog.
*I did not include ‘God’ in my idea of the outside imposing a morality, and this is why: as God creates the totality of the world, morality would be something included naturally within it. Experience within the world would give testimony to that fact. When in the Bible God reiterates codes of morality, it is to draw attention to this very fact, and not to arbitrarily insert something into nature which is not there anyway.
**Early in reading Heidegger, I was a bit put off by this idea of submission to the world as the means wherewith we find things meaningful. Page 36 of Wrathall’s HTRH says:
“Finally disposedness [or state-of-mind, our moods] is a kind of submission to the world which allows things to matter to us. We saw how, in fear, the situation into which we are thrown dictates the possibilities available to us. Through our fear, certain possibilities become important, others unimportant. The way things matter to us…is not something that we are free to decide, but is imposed on us by the way the world is arranged and the ways that we are disposed for the world. Letting things be encountered in a particular…is primarily ‘circumspective’….It is…the kind of seeing or experiencing of the world that we have when our relation to things takes its measure from the other things and projects with which we are involved.”
Maybe that is helpful, maybe not. Anyway, it’s something to think about!
***This inevitably brings up an idea that all morality is then relative to where you are in history and where you are geographically and socially. I leave you with this quotation from the first chapter of C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, entitled The Law of Human Nature.
“I know that some people say the idea of a Law of Nature or decent behaviour known to all men is unsound, because different civilisations and different ages have had quite different moralities.
But this is not true. There have been differences between their moralities, but these have never amounted to anything like a total difference. If anyone will take the trouble to compare the moral teaching of, say, the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Greeks and Romans, what will really strike him will be how very like they are to each other and to our own. Some of the evidence for this I have put together in the appendix of another book called The Abolition of Man; but for our present purpose I need only ask the reader to think what a totally different morality would mean. Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double-crossing all the people who had been kindest to him.You might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five. Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to—whether it was only your own family, or your fellow countrymen, or everyone. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put yourself first. Selfishness has never been admired. Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. But they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you liked.
But the most remarkable thing is this. Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining “It’s not fair” before you can say Jack Robinson. A nation may say treaties do not matter, but then, next minute, they spoil their case by saying that the particular treaty they want to break was an unfair one. But if treaties do not matter, and if there is no such thing as Right and Wrong— in other words, if there is no Law of Nature—what is the difference between a fair treaty and an unfair one? Have they not let the cat out of the bag and shown that, whatever they say, they really know the Law of Nature just like anyone else?
It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong. People may be sometimes mistaken about them, just as people sometimes get their sums wrong; but they are not a matter of mere taste and opinion any more than the multiplication table.”
That is all.
I’ll hit you up later this week with a new blog, all things going as planned. Again, any suggestions for other topics to include under the Authenticity heading are welcome.