This is a holiday based on wonder and miracle, a celebration of birth and joy, a time for peace and love. Today (and every day!) is also an appropriate moment to think about what's really important. What gives meaning to life? Some thoughtful comments by two professional philosophers:

In Martha Nussbaum's The Therapy of Desire (1994), Chapter 1:

In short, there is in this period broad and deep agreement that the central motivation for philosophizing is the urgency of human suffering, and that the goal of philosophy is human flourishing, or eudaimonia. Philosophy never ceases to be understood as an art whose tools are arguments, an art in which precise reasoning, logical rigor, and definitional precision have an important role to play. But the point of these devices, and of philosophy insofar as it is wedded to them, is understood to be, above all, the achievement of flourishing human lives. ...

In Robert Nozick's Philosophical Explanations (1981), Chapter 5.iv:

Even if a person were able to maintain his level and rate of (spiritual) advance and development unperturbed by others around him, not dragged down by them no matter what their state, he still would lack the benefits of associating with others who are equally or more developed. First, there is the benefit of being helped along by good examples and good companions. We all know people, I hope, who bring out the best in us, people in whose presence we would be embarrassed to speak or act from unworthy motives, people who glow. In their presence we feel elevated. We are [not] pushed or lured or nudged further along a path of development and perfection; rather, we are inspired to move ourselves along, in the direction shown.

Second, there is the joy in encountering a like person, in the experience of the other and in the mutual recognition of the mutual joy. The most intense delights, surely, are those experiences, at least as they combine with, enrich, and transfigure other delights more frequently listed. One awful psychological deformity is the resentment of excellence, not merely the inability to delight or take pleasure in it --- bad enough --- but the envious desire for its absence. To avoid being the object of such envy, people will hide their own excellence and camouflage their delight in it. Not only does this deprive others of the encouragement of an example, and of the opportunity for happy mutual recognition, it also alters the person's own experience. She does not simply feel the same delight only without expressing it; an unexpressed delight is not as delightful. ...

There is a third reason for wanting other equally or more developed persons around: their appreciation is especially worth having. In a loving relationship with another adult, the worth of what they give, including themselves, depends partially upon their estimation of themselves --- whether they give something they hold precious and valuable. ...

And later in the same chapter, Nozick concludes:

The developed person will want to help perfect others; this is the most important aid he can give them. We want to find a way of living whereby our best energies and talents are poured out so as to speak to and improve the best energies and talents of others. We want to utilize our highest parts and energies in a way that helps others to flourish.

Like part of the Boy Scout Oath: "... to help other people at all times ...".

(see also RobertNozick (2 Feb 2002), ChristmasFaith (23 Dec 2000), and GoodWill (25 Dec 1999))

TopicLife - TopicPhilosophy - 2001-12-25

(correlates: PureCoincidence, VoicedPostalveolarFricative, AnonymousImmortality, ...)