Mar 14, 2011

Chat Transcript On What Constitutes the Good Life

On Facebook a friend posted on her wall, “wouldn't mind a little more certainty in an inherently uncertain world.” She then asked me on Gchat (Gmail’s in-chat messaging service) “will life ever become clear, or will it just continue onwards until the end in an unsettled state?”
Here is the rest of our chat conversation which ran like this:
Greig (9:14:50 PM): I think a life has the potential to become clearer. But, most events, including a life, is a combination of good luck, and good decisions. I'm not sure clarity is a given.

Uncertainty (9:17:30 PM): =)

G (9:17:49 PM): That’s one answer. I call it my virtue/luck answer

U (9:19:08 PM): In that case, I guess I'll focus on making good decisions, and try to worry less about the clarity.  I guess - it's just sometimes difficult to know if the decisions you're making are good. Some are clear.  Like - meth is bad.

G (9:20:18 PM): The other answer would be to restate the question. It's not the end of life that's unsettling: to reach the end is a given. The real question is the beginning: how did I get here! I mean not birth. That's a given. But here: in this state of affairs. What is it to be here.

U (9:19:56 PM): But most things are more up in the air. I don't know; I don't think we can know.

G (9:21:21 PM): I think there are multiple ways to live a life.

U (9:21:22 PM): See my earlier comment about being unsettled =)

G (9:21:27 PM): Ok

U (9:21:28 PM): What ways?

G (9:22:05 PM): Im straying from your original question. Wait. I'm going to write a blog post about this. Let me think about this

U (9:22:28 PM): Ok =)

G (9:22:58 PM): Your question about an unsettled life is a great question. It hits on a more fundamental question: What is the good (life). What makes a life good (or not)? Is a good life possible?

U (9:24:25 PM): I like to think so. I suspect that a good life would be unstressful, but avoiding all stress might make the life I lead less good =) Maybe useful versus enjoyable?

G (9:25:45 PM): You're hitting on major aspects of the issue. 1. Useful 2. Pleasure (hedonism). The useful argument goes like this: the greatest good for the greatest number. That's utilitarianism. You get efficient subways but no art. The pleasure argument: eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you may die. But it dismisses the reality principle. The god argument is not an argument. [This last comment alludes to a fb post on U’s wall that read: “
You don't need it because you only have to rely on God. TRUST!”]

U (9:29:40 PM): Are we very good at judging what's useful?

G (9:30:41 PM): Good question.

U (9:30:41 PM): Right.  Although it may help us to experience less personal stress by removing our sense of responsibility.

G (9:31:13 PM): Then then there's the Protestant argument: adversity breeds life. Without stress, there's no possibility for the possibility of something new If life is all vanilla

U (9:32:03 PM): Well, yeah, but too much is *stressful*.

G (9:32:04 PM): Is that the good?

U (9:32:16 PM): Probably not.

G (9:32:28 PM): The good is not easy to grasp. If it's not pleasure, it's not unstress. ??? Is it something like a combination of fulfillment and attaining the golden mean. Like take any virtue. Courage. We say the courageous man is a good. [And I am taking this from Aristotle. God I sound like a teacher in this chat]. But there's a spectrum

U (9:34:13 PM): And it depends on what he's up to when he's out being courageous.

G (9:34:25 PM): If I'm too courageous I'm foolhardy and if I'm not courageous enough I'm a coward. And if im only courageous once. I'm not a life long lived courageous. So it seem if the attainment of virtue Leads To the good It's a life long project of hits and misses. Aristotle once said no one can know the good unless he lived ir *it Which is a clever way of saying nothing  Lol

U (9:36:09 PM): =)

G (9:36:34 PM): So at the end of the day I'm not sure if there is a guarantee on happiness  Or the good Plato said the unexamined life is not worth living But I'm not sure if he knows Paris Hilton

U (9:37:25 PM): Well, how do you know she doesn't examine her life?

G (9:37:33 PM): Maybe I'm being sexist

U (9:37:34 PM): Ah. She's a pretty successful business woman.

G (9:37:42 PM): Strike against me. Bad example. You're right

U (9:38:08 PM): So, Plato is saying that there's no point if living if we don't worry about whether we're living well?

G (9:38:16 PM): Kinda lame huh?

U (9:38:28 PM): Lil' bit.

G (9:39:18 PM): Paris Hilton doesn't have to an examined life to be successful

U (9:39:30 PM): True.

G (9:39:38 PM): If that were true we'd all want to be philosophers

U (9:39:44 PM): =)

G (9:39:58 PM): Which is a profession made to support examiners

U (9:40:24 PM): Do you examine yourselves or mostly other people?

G (9:40:45 PM): I tend to examine ideas. But if I'm going to examine myself. I do it psychoanalytically. Gah.

U (9:41:33 PM): I'm just going to mention that I'm not sure that I have a technical understanding of that word.

G (9:41:34 PM): Gah

G (9:41:47 PM): I go to freud

U (9:41:54 PM): Wasn't he kind of a jerk?

G (9:42:27 PM): Basically psychoanalytic thinking is trying to uncover unconscious motivation for why we do stuff. While Freud is truly not the paradigm of Christian virtue I think he is dead on about that. But anyway uncertainty.

U (9:44:25 PM): Is [it] just uncertain, and we all have to just learn to deal with it?

G (9:45:00 PM): Gah Let me get back to you Lol

U (9:45:19 PM): =) Ok.  I'm gonna get back to plotting [Marking plots of data for analysis purposes]. And less worrying about uncertainty in an unpredictable future. It's always nice talking to you, G.

G (9:46:21 PM): You too! Ttyl

U (9:46:28 PM): Bye! =)

G (9:46:44 PM): Yah yah yah tah tah

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