Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
Professor Kreeft, in The Modern Scholar’ lectures, offers stories of interesting philosophers and what they think they know about moral thought. Ethics: A History of Moral Thought is a whirlwind tour of how philosophers define ethics. It begins in antiquity and continues through tomorrow. What one hears in these lectures may be accepted and practiced in life tomorrow or never; if never, one is seemingly confirming belief in free choice, but not much more. As a warning to the curious, the tour is circular. The tour ends as it begins.
Nearing the end of Krefft’s lectures, he addresses the attempts of science to define morality and ethics. Krefft acknowledges the idea of observational analysis, dating back to Machiavelli’s views of history but the scientific movement gains momentum with David Hume (1711-1776), Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), and John Stewart Mill (1806-1873). It seems these three users of the scientific method provide little light in their analysis of morality and ethics. Their contribution is in the use of scientific method to understand normative standards of society.
By the end of Professor Krefft’s lectures a listener returns to Socrates suggestion; i.e. “Know thyself” because “The unexamined life is not worth living”. What you believe is what you believe. Krefft suggests we should always seek to understand why we believe what we believe.
Jay Garfield dares to know “The Meaning of Life” in a review and analysis of thoughts and writings recorded in ancient and modern texts. In 36 lectures, ranging from the Vedas (Sanskrit scriptures of Hinduism) to “Discernment and Happiness” (Dalai Lama XIV’s teachings as noted in the Pali Canon of the earliest records of Gautama Buddha), Garfield offers over 3,700 years of philosophical belief. He offers a qualified answer to “The Meaning of Life” in his last lecture.
A listener’s journey from first lecture to last is enlightening but troubling. Philosophy offers many ways for one to be happy, content, and fulfilled but each seems a matter of personal choice, rather than universal truth. Garfield summarizes Buddhism, secularism, Hebraic religion, Hinduism, Daoism, Zen, and Native American belief about “The Meaning of Life. Garfield distills common characteristics of philosopher’s understanding of “The Meaning of Life”.
Garfield’s presentation of “The Meaning of Life” is troubling because philosopher’ definitions are dependent on the machinations of human beings living in the same Socratic’ cave.
There is a great deal of wisdom in Garfield’s lectures on “Perspectives from the World’s Great Intellectual Traditions”. No single philosopher convinces a listener, but Garfield’s analysis of many philosophers gives one a useful guide for pursuit of “The Meaning of Life”.
It is past time for Americans to re-read Thomas Paine’s “Rights of Man”. Though his primary purpose is to refute Edmund Burke’s condemnation of the 1789 French revolution, his observations on British Aristocracy are the essence of today’s American “Money-ocracy”.
The Occupy Wall Street demonstrations are an amorphous scream of disgust by an educated population that resents American “Money-ocracy’s” control of the economy, elected representatives, the election system, and the “Rights of Man”. “Money-ocracy” is an inheritable line of an American aristocracy.
Stockholders in American companies need to fight employee compensation inflation that is disconnected from human productivity. Entrepreneurs that create productive enterprises should be rewarded by as much money, power, and prestige as their contribution warrants but not by ridiculous salaries that make a mockery of human productivity.
“Occupy Wall Street” is an unlikely precursor of another American Revolution; however, it may be a symptom of an American cancer that debilitates productive life without killing the patient. “Occupying Wall Street” is not a hippie “sit in” but a plea for reform of American “Money-cracy” just as Thomas Paine’s “Rights of Man” was a plea for reform of Aristocratic inheritance.