The Charioteer

"The charioteer of the human soul drives a pair of steeds, and one of the horses is beautiful, good, and formed of such elements, whereas the makeup of the other one is quite the opposite." -Phaedrus

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Location: Duquesne University, United States

A Blog For All and None. Consider it my narrative history of ideas. A place primarily to share and obtain feedback to my thoughts through my graduate career in philosophy. For philosophy is simply "thoughts that have been thought out."

Friday, June 01, 2007

Scheler's Anthropology and the Telos of Modernity

How depressing it would be to progress through life and have nothing to look forward to. I was thinking this at work the other day, and the thought was prompted by the life of a co-worker of mine. He was telling me how he works the security bit from 7a-3p, but comes to the PNC building for this shift after a full overnight shift at Allegheny General. He goes home from the PNC building, grabs a bite to eat, and heads to bed only to do the same thing the following day. I thought to myself, "and for what?" Whether this person's life, outside of his 16hr a day work routine, is meaningless is not the question and should not be judged rashly.

The question this discussion sparked was, what is the drive that would compel someone -- anyone -- to live such a life where the major concern is simply making money? What is the telos, the goal, behind it all? There could certainly be noble reasons one would have to work such an amount of hours. However, most people, unfortunately, probably work those hours in order to increase their expendable income. And I do not consider a noble goal the desire to buy one more thing that one might want. Is this the telos of the modern mind? Is this the drive that propels one to fill 2/3 of their day working so they can either purchase something not yet owned, or pay off something already bought? Is this the highest and mightiest toward which we can look forward to, and hope for: only more stuff?

Whatever happened to the ancient perspective of fulfilling our nature in actualizing our potentiality by means of virtue; or the medieval interpretation of this from a religious perspective whereby to become more fully human is actually to become like the divine? These former ages noticed something behind all the work: an ultimate noble goal -- a worthy ultimate.

I thought back to these things today, when, in reading Scheler's essay On the Idea of Man (1915), I noticed he has some relevant thoughts. Scheler sees the danger in describing man as a "rational animal" or "homo faber" as not recognizing that for which these things aim. In other words, it is precisely through this activity of intellect and of work that man becomes who he is, i.e., man becomes

that being which can transcend all life and can transcend himself. 'Man'...is the intention and gesture of 'transcendence' itself. ... And he is able to be this, and is just able to be this, to the extent that his intellect, his tools and his machines give him more free leisure time for the contemplation and the love of God. This alone is that which justifies his intellect and his work -- civilization. Intellect and tool allows his essence to be more and more permeated by spirit and love, which in all his movements and acts...have the tendency toward something called 'God.' ...the root of all culture is the x toward which prayer and the movement of a holy love has its direction: God.
But is Scheler correct since it seems to be so far from what seems to be the telos or drive of modern culture? I will simply say this, taking from the last line of the passage: the root of our culture is the x toward which prayer and the movement of love has it's direction: the consumption of "goods."

11 Comments:

Blogger MAHARAJADHIRAJ said...

Gr8 place this is :)
About this post, I was just wondering whether transcending his lower nature is the telos of man... I don't know... there is this thought in Hinduism that says (and I paraphrase it) that redemption is in your nature (compulsions) and you will seek it through the 'tools' given to you in your present incarnation.

3:59 AM  
Blogger Eric J Mohr said...

Interesting insight, thanks. Lower nature? I'm not sure. In fact, (despite the typical jargon) I'm not sure exactly what a lower nature is? It seems we just have a nature (in terms of drives and impulses), and a "spirit" or "mind" which might have the capacity to transcend it.

I love the Hindu thought. Especially the idea of using tools for a purpose far greater than the tools themselves!

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