Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024

End of History

The global community is facing numerous problems, including war, new nationalism, social inequality, cultural differences, climate change, and other ecological threats. 30 years ago, the Cold War and conflicts between capitalism ended, making socialism a reality for democracy and human rights. It is challenging to predict the “end of history” in light of such matters. In 2013, academics and intellectuals published The Convivialist Manifesto, calling for change and envisioning hopeful coexistence.

In 2020, the Second Convivialist Manifesto reached a much broader global audience and expanded significantly. The manifestos emphasize “conviviality” for a fresh ideology and viable strategy towards peaceful coexistence. Both manifestos attempt to demonstrate that different societies have inherent worth. Today, we can observe various forms of anger, but it is also necessary to address these issues.

Are these just snide comments on society and well-meaning calls for reform? Why are so many of us still dissatisfied despite two centuries of increasing wealth and freedom in the West? Although people have more wealth now, they are generally happier than their parents or grandparents.

Constructing a Post-Secular Ethic

However, major depression is on the rise in wealthy countries, reaching its highest point in the United States. Thus, Clive Hamilton’s book, The Freedom Paradox, explores this paradox. Hamilton seeks to construct a post-secular ethic by reimagining metaphysics through the perspectives of Immanuel Kant and Arthur Schopenhauer. This endeavor requires more attention than it currently receives.

The first part of the book focuses on the apparent contradiction that, despite having more freedom, we often feel no better off than we did 50 to 100 years ago. Struggles with self-doubt, status jealousy, lack of significance, and inability to flourish contribute to increasing unhappiness. Hamilton argues that not all freedoms are equal and attributes this dissatisfaction to a misunderstanding of what freedom truly means.

He utilizes Martin Seligman’s three dimensions of well-being to frame the conversation. Seligman defines a good life as maximizing potential, cultivating connectedness, and experiencing enjoyment, greatness, and meaning. Hamilton suggests that the original purpose of individual freedom was to empower individuals to pursue their own goals. Finally, people find satisfaction in living a meaningful life.

Traditional Constraints

Enjoyment has increased, but meaningfulness has been sacrificed, leading to empty lives centered on fleeting pleasures. Traditional constraints limit freedom, making it crucial for individuals to choose their values and live accordingly. Consumer culture has achieved tremendous success by appealing to our basic desires. Advertising and marketing fill the void left by institutions, promoting the pursuit of more than momentary gratification.

However, a commercial culture that embodies the ideal often fails to lead to happiness or fulfillment. The first Convivialist Manifesto‘s uniqueness lies in academics uniting to identify unfavorable trends in modern society, despite their differences. The main cause identified is the pursuit of utilitarian excellence, leading to selfishness and the idolization of economic development.

Progress aligns with the vision of a decent life, prioritizing social interaction and our relationship with nature. Influential academics such as Marc Humbert and Edgar Morin have shaped this perspective. Convivialism tenaciously attempts to incorporate various political philosophies, ranging from liberalism, socialism, and communism to anarchism.

Hospitality

It seeks to establish a connection between state social policy, extreme universal equality, and self-governance. Political views within the movement span from radical Catholicism to socialism, alternative economic philosophies, and poststructuralist thinkers. The relevance of The Convivialist Manifesto in the political sphere is evident through its discussion and endorsement by numerous civil society organizations and initiatives in France.

Conviviality refers to a theoretical perspective that emphasizes understanding democracy through its social embodiment, based on the inherent human drive toward cooperation. The Convivialist Manifesto formalizes hospitality as an “ism,” showcasing its practical application. The manifesto underscores the need for systematizing social and political theoretical viewpoints. While hospitality refers to the practice of coexistence, it recognizes a similar distinction to the term “liberalism.”

Thus, the manifesto emphasizes two main points: hospitality as a life experience and hospitality as a theory within the field of social science. We regard hospitality as an innate telos in human coexistence, inherent in the design of human social structures. Although we never fully realize it, it shows that hospitality can be found in all eras and cultures. In the mind of the manifesto’s creator, conviviality and convivialism serve to describe our interdependent nature as social organisms.

Challenges Faced in Modern Society

The French subtitle, “Déclaration d’interdépendance,” underscores that the only valid form of politics is one in which the principles of humanity are shared and inspire action. The manifesto aims to outline principles for a new society based on friendship. It can be said that the convivialist “test” reduces the structure of the social and political organization to a question: Are the principles of general sociality realized, and should we uphold the idea of individuation?

In 2020, a Second Convivialist Manifesto was published in France, introducing two additional principles: opposing all forms of human pride and highlighting the fundamental idea that humans and nature are equally natural. These principles provide a normative framework for evaluating social and political regimes. Alongside the relexification and normativization of customary hospitality practices, Hamilton’s analysis discusses our struggles with popular culture, which has grown to prioritize worldly pleasures.

Factors such as gender, indulgence in fatty foods, popularity, and status significantly impact our lives. While we may justify new purchases by citing safety or necessity, marketing, and advertising companies also pay close attention to our desires and preferences. The influence of marketing firms on our behavior is an underappreciated achievement of psychology in the 20th century.

In essence, we face challenges.

Shared Decency

Despite having more freedom, society has not progressed from satisfying basic needs to satisfying higher needs. Instead, increased freedom and affluence have led us to lose ourselves in a world of fleeting sensory pleasures that we believe will bring true happiness. However, the manifesto also emphasizes the role of shared activities and communal living in fostering hospitality.

When discussing concepts like common decency, it highlights the importance of living by moral values and ingrained judgment procedures. Jean-Claude Michéa reintroduced the concept of “shared decency,” based on the belief that people are not rational egoists but have psychological and cultural tendencies towards altruism and solidarity. Building on virtues, shared decency can provide a normative structure for politics and society.

Michéa also employs the giving paradigm to demonstrate that individuals possess qualities or inclinations toward loyalty and generosity. According to Michéa, traditional holders of power have a history of neglecting or undermining essential principles, and he argues that socialism should be built upon these principles. However, the optimistic anthropological view of humanity has significant consequences.

Michéa believes that modern liberalism contradicts human nature by transferring personal encroachments to the economic sphere, subjecting people to impersonal legal mechanisms. In such societies, moral and ethical issues are often taboo in public settings, undermining the necessary conditions for community and citizenship to flourish.

Critique of Authoritarianism and Liberalism

Michéa advocates for the construction of a socialist system that embraces normative institutions and recognizes the significance of morality over justice. Understanding the lower class’s reliance on decency, tradition, morals, and order, Michéa sees these tendencies as potential socialist and anti-economic virtues. Michéa asserts that both authoritarianism and liberalism are based on an inhumane perspective that blames the common people for selfish calculations.

While authoritarianism accepts people as they are, liberalism aims to create a new society. However, this unfavorable image can be a curse in itself, as neoliberalism has fostered egoism for decades. The strength of the manifesto lies in addressing prevalent ideologies, particularly in Northern countries, and incorporating convivialist thinkers to strengthen rather than impose its ideals.

In practice, hospitality has been observed in various social settings, and society is not purely selfish. People are capable of spontaneous acts of empathy, support, and giving without planning, as David Graeber argues. Contemporary capitalist society is built upon “communist relations” that promote coexistence among people. Examples include family relationships, friendships, cooperation, altruism, and dialogues.

These instances of communist morality pervade everyday life and cannot be fully explained by utilitarian or normative social theories. It turns out that both socialism and liberalism share the same dream of human development based on false assumptions.

Limitations

Virtue, patience, and concern for the majority are believed to bring security, comfort, and fulfillment. However, liberalism fails to expect individuals to transcend their instinctive desires and pursue “higher” goals. Additionally, socialism has failed to free everyone from the constraints of routine work, despite its aspirations. In today’s society, liberalism and socialism continue to serve as the main ideological models.

Hamilton aims to provide a different perspective on freedom that leads to true happiness, rather than its empty semblance. He delves into metaphysics, particularly focusing on the ideas of Kant and Schopenhauer. A key aspect of Kant’s philosophy that Hamilton explores is the distinction between the phenomenal and noumenal worlds. However, it is important to note that the notions of phenomena and noumena have limitations and specificities that Hamilton alludes to only briefly.

Originally, Greek philosophers defined the noumenal as “what we think about,” in contrast to the phenomenal, which they defined as “what we feel.” Thus, the abstract ideal of a triangle exists in the noumenal world, and knowledge of the noumenal can only be obtained through thought. However, Kant emphasizes that the characterization of noumena as “things in themselves” is a misinterpretation.

According to his theory, we can never directly perceive or understand noumenal objects in their true nature.

Perceiving Others

Here, Hamilton takes a notable detour into Eastern philosophy, drawing on ideas that many Western philosophers have found beneficial. The crucial point is that any objects of thought are inevitably abstracted from the noumenal to the phenomenal world as soon as we encounter them. In his book, Hamilton argues that it is through interactions with noumena that we attain true freedom and access to a higher reality beyond the phenomenal.

When we truly engage with the noumenal, we dissolve into the cosmos, and all distinctions become meaningless as they are constructs imposed by us. This allows us to gain access to a certain form of universal knowledge. Since the phenomenal world is unstable, deceptive, and unreliable, it is impossible to derive universal moral principles from it. Kant is known for critiquing moral psychology, suggesting that it merely represents our morally flawed thoughts.

Hamilton then delves deeper into the overarching moral values and contends that when we recognize our noumenal self, our true self, we realize that the separation between ourselves and the rest of the cosmos, including other people, is an illusion. Therefore, we must perceive others as extensions of a larger whole. Hamilton introduces concepts like “moral intuition,” which may not necessarily derive from noumenal intuition but rather exist as instinctual aspects of our human nature.

Exploitation of Strong Emotions

These instincts, like an evolutionary switch, propel us toward certain things and away from others. Indeed, intuition develops as a means to promote social behavior that is beneficial to human survival. It is not a universal or purely logical guiding principle. It is through this phenomenon that we project morality onto the phenomenal world. While the noumenal perspective may foster empathy by connecting others with ourselves, it does not exclude the possibility that other behavior patterns, including selfish or survival-oriented intuitions, can also be inherited.

Hamilton’s argument may be seen as a leap from the noumenal to the moral realm. The exploitation of strong emotions such as sex, food, prestige, and terror by consumer society is a reality. However, it is important to acknowledge that developed intuition is not the only driving force. Hamilton does address the difficulties of contemporary society to a certain extent, but the complexities and nuances of these issues require further consideration.

Bibliography

Related Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *