Enjoyment: The Moral Significance of Styles of Life

Enjoyment: The Moral Significance of Styles of Life

Language: English

Pages: 304

ISBN: 0199592497

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In this book John Kekes examines the indispensable role enjoyment plays in a good life. The key to it is the development of a style of life that combines an attitude and a manner of living and acting that jointly express one's deepest concerns. Since such styles vary with characters and circumstances, a reasonable understanding of them requires attending to the particular and concrete details of individual lives. Reflection on works of literature is a better guide to this kind of understanding than the futile search for general theories and principles that preoccupies much of contemporary moral thought.

Enjoyment proceeds by the detailed examination of particular cases, shows how this kind of reflection can be reasonably conducted, and how the quest for universality and impartiality is misguided in this context. Central to the argument is a practical, particular, pluralistic, and yet objective conception of reason that rejects the pervasive contemporary tendency to regard reasons as good only if they are binding on all who aspire to live reasonably and morally. Reason in morality is neither theoretical nor general. Reasons for living and acting in particular ways are individually variable and none the worse for that.

Kekes aims to reorient moral thought from deontological, contractarian, and consequentialist preoccupations toward a reasonable but pluralistic reflection on what individuals can do to make their lives better.

Figures of History

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New Left Review, Volume 324 (November - December 2014)
















attitudes both favor some possibilities and set some limits. As enjoyable actions make one’s life better, so miserable actions make it worse. We have good reason, therefore, to seek enjoyment and avoid misery. Personal Evaluation 39 Furthermore, even if some actions are enjoyable given a particular personal evaluation, we are normally committed also to other modes of evaluation. Moral, practical, and aesthetic evaluations may conflict with and override personal evaluations, especially if the

to a coherent, realistic, and durable attitude to life, whereas authenticity makes no such demand. People can be authentic by following their emotions, even if their reason advises otherwise; by trying to realize socially or individually impossible goals; or by acting in ways that reflect unstable attitudes to life. The self to which individuality consists in being true is a coherent, realistic, durable self. The requirement of authenticity is simply to be true to whatever self one happens to

insures that we will make, and understand, the same projections. That on the whole we do is a matter of our sharing routes of interest and feeling, modes of response, senses of humor and significance and of fulfillment, of what is outrageous, of what is similar to what else, what is a rebuke, what forgiveness ... all the whirl of organism Wittgenstein calls ‘forms of life’.¹⁴ A Great and Rare Art 87 Thus far I am in agreement with Wittgenstein, McDowell, Murdoch, Lovibond, and Cavell, but now I

radically, have no regret for the major decisions they have taken, feel that their manner of living expresses their individuality and deepest concerns, and believe that they are living and acting by and large as they want, and that their actions reflect these attitudes. Such evidence is not conclusive, because individuals may be mistaken in their beliefs and feelings. This, however, is a possibility all factual claims face, and not a special problem for personal evaluation. An enjoyable life may

in general and to our own life in particular. It is someone’s style which brings his virtues and vices alive; which shows him to be full of life or dead within; which excites our interest in him or makes us turn away from him in boredom. ‘Le style, c’est l’homme meme,’ says Buffon. Style is one of the most fundamental things about a person and reveals the deepest layer of his mind. The way a person converses, eats, drinks, gets angry, smokes a cigarette, gesticulates, makes love, walks, laughs,

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