Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The quest for the ultimate and politics, a philosophical post

By "the ultimate" I mean the ultimate meaning of life, the universe, and everything, and not "42". Instead, there seems to have been a breakdown somewhere in the late '60s and early '70s between people who decided to pursue answers to the ultimate truths of being and those who wanted to stick hard to politics in order to facilitate social change. The split is still there to some extent but it doesn't have to be.

To get close to the pulse of the universe, to the ground of being, to the center of the universe in pursuit of some sort of universal truth is a great thing, something that people have pursued through religion, philosophy, etc..., but the question comes up of the relation of one's individual quest or subsequent revelations and everyone else. If the truth stays an individual truth, wouldn't it therefore go to waste, since there's so much more out there than individual lives? Additionally, just because a person as an individual is pursuing these things doesn't mean that issues in society don't matter, or that the individual and society aren't connected; instead, there's a very important concept that connects the two spheres and that is the idea of justice. Most quests for meaning include a notion of right and wrong, of wisdom that talks about the human condition. This information has direct social implications, and if you have a concept of justice, what's just and unjust, it matters more on a social level than some of the other insights. Indeed, justice almost implies other people, unless you just look a lot at the relationship of yourself to nature because you live isolated from society. If you have a concept of justice that you've developed it becomes less acceptable to dodge current events and issues, or to say that your own personal truth matters to the point where no one else deserves any consideration. Your own personal truth may in fact mean everything to you, but concern for yourself and concern for society are not mutually exclusive. You can continue to pursue your personal truth while engaging with society and giving your two cents about what's right and wrong with it according to your idea of justice. You can still pursue your own truth while trying to work for that justice to manifest in the world, having good arguments to back up your views of course.

So there you go. You can be a total idealist in the sense of an almost mystical belief in the existence of ideals, and still be present in the very material world of group politics. In fact, I think that the adoption of vulgar materialism by sections of the left was an unnecessary act and one that alienated many people who otherwise would have agreed with it. The Enlightenment is over; Enlightenment materialism was torn to shreds by Romantic and other trends in philosophy which started in the early 19th century. Trying to resuscitate it won't work. Instead, my stand is that neither materialism or total non-materialism are probably totally right and that in any case we really don't know enough to make a final determination on it.

Anyways, that's my take. Bottom line is that journeys, whether they be religious, mystical, to the center of the mind, to foreign lands, in search of what it's all about aren't normally incompatible with social justice.

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