Struggle with the world: how we come to share in the attributes of divinity


1. Radical individuality of persons: everyone is an original.

2. The person as embodied spirit: the inseparability of mind and body. More generally, the person as a mortal, context-dependent, and context-transcending organism. Everyone is obscure, and has infinities within.

3. The mind is not like a machine; it is like the combination of a person with a machine. The imagination surprises and transcends; it is capable of defying all formulas. The relative prominence of the formulaic and the non-formulaic sides of the mind depends on the organization of society and culture as well as on our natural constitution.

4. Social and cultural structures, or systems and methods of thought, never fully shape or contain us. There is always more in us than there is in them. We can change their relation to us as well as their content, creating structures that allow us to be inside and outside them at the same time.

5. Value and danger of having a character. The imperative of resistance to the hardening of the self. Openness to the new and to the other as both the reward and the condition of the campaign against the mummification of the self. We should seek to die only once.

6. Shallowness of all divisions — especially divisions of class and role — within humanity. Rejection of role-based ethics.

7. The roots of a human being lie in the future. Living for the future as a way of living in the present, as a being not completely under the sway of the present determinations of his existence. Prophecy speaks louder than memory. Prophetic power is diffused, although unequally, within humanity.

8. Life as a transformative ordeal. Self-transformation through efforts at world transformation. Looking for trouble rather than staying out of trouble. Vulnerability instead of serenity.

9. Centrality of the problems of connection and transcendence.
The problem of connection: we need connection to others, but connection threatens us with subjugation. The ideal: connection without subjugation.
The problem of transcendence: we need to engage in a particular social and cultural world (i.e., a context), but engagement may bring enslavement. The ideal: engagement without surrender.
A different idea of happiness, contrasting to the eudaimonism of ancient philosophy.

10. Love — not altruism or benevolence — is one of the two guiding and organizing aspirations of our moral experience. Fully to manifest its power, it must be combined with transformative work, with living for the future.

11. Transformative work — not the assigned station or the honorable calling — is the other guiding and organizing aspiration. By struggle with the arrangements of society and culture, as well as with his own character, the individual becomes more godlike and lives until he dies all at once.

12. The personal is more valuable than the impersonal. As believers, we understand our relation to God by analogy to relations among people. As disbelievers, we understand God talk as a projection of our claims and hopes with regard to one another.

13. Time is real. Distinctions are real, but, given the radical reality of time, ephemeral. There is no timeless set of natural kinds. All claims to exempt some part of reality — including the laws of nature — from the power of time are suspect. History matters as the place for the ascent or the failure of humanity. If God exists, he acts by intervening in history and by filling it with meaning. If God does not exist, we give history a meaning through our attempts to share in the attributes we ascribe to the invented God.

14. However, we live in biographical, not historical time, and must foreshadow as individuals what the species has yet failed to achieve.

(Attributed to Roberto M. Unger)

It has been suggested that I update this…


… so as to make it a multiple-post blog, which tend to be more interesting than single-post blogs. I’m still wavering on the question of this blog’s existence, so let this post represent a temporary abstention. I’m in Lamont Library at present, about to launch into a paper due at midnight. Oh, how disastrous!

Springing through senior spring


Senior spring will soon be a memory. This is a sad thought, as I’ve come to like my arrangement this year. I think back to freshman year at Berkeley. Could I imagine being a senior, let alone a second-semester senior here? No, and this bodes well for the indeterminacy of my future.

I’ve been terrible at keeping up with people, so if I haven’t spoken with you in a while drop me a line.

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