Discover more from No Regress
inspirations on what to do with our lives
The Forces of the Soul series tried to illustrate, in broad strokes, my orientation towards understanding what we do now and what we should do next.
I see this endeavor as part of the ancient tradition of thinking about what to do with ourselves, and I have been heavily influenced by many writers and thinkers.
Naturally I won't have time to cover every thinker/idea, so this is merely a post where I briefly outline main lines of inspiration. As I find more time to do the ideas justice I will link to essays from here. The below aren't clean categories, and there's a lot of overlap because all the topics are related.
Simone Weil: Needs of the Soul, Gravity, Grace, and Attention
Powerful writer. Her essays in her collection “Needs of the Soul” framed a lot of my thinking and brought my attention to the importance of constraints.
Plato and Aristotle: Essence and Teleology
The ancient (timeless?) fixation on essence and purpose.
The Existentialists: Confronting uncertain grounds of meaning. Anxiety, authenticity, and avoiding nihilism.
What happened if we don’t focus on essence anymore?
There are wayyy too many thinkers to reasonably subsume under one label, but I will anyway. Sorry, dead philosophers!
Pleasures of life:
Highs of transcendence:
To survive, to reproduce
Seligman's PERMA acronym for describing what people strive for when uncoerced — there’s a lot of overlap, even if the mapping is not one-to-one. One conceptual difference is that Seligman sees his PERMA as unalloyed goods — i.e. when uncoerced, we only do things that lead to flourishing. In contrast, by framing things as Forces, I'm trying to think of axes along which we both strive towards and run from things, and how things might go awry. Another practical difference is that Seligman has actually done work quantifying, defining, and measuring his categories.
First brought my attention to the question, "what if there was no search?"
Articulately wrote about and focused my attention on people's fixation on certainty and absolutes.
Pedagogically, what Chapman does well is his well-measured recognition that our fixations and potential “errors in thought” are usually pragmatic solutions to real problems.
Harry Frankfurt — "The Importance Of What We Care About"
Posits there should be a third branch of philosophy, after epistemology ("what to believe") and ethics ("how to behave"). I.e. a philosophy of "what we care about." He suggests that we simply "care about caring". (He never coined a word for this study though. Playing with Greek roots… how about Philophily — love of love? Metaphily — behind love? Something involving other Greek words for love like agape or storge? Philophysis — the inclination to love? Philokedosy — care and concerns for love? Kedology — the study of cares and concerns? Although apparently in British slang “kidology” is the informal art of bluffing.)
Frankfurt talks of love and rationality as twin ways to "make available to us especially valuable experiences or states of fulfillment and of freedom."
Wayyy too extensive to cover.
Poetry and literary sources of inspiration:
Rainer Maria Rilke
wikipedia on meaning of life gives a long list of common perspectives