Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Subjectivity and the World of Work

I am still writing blog posts in my head. ... I never seem to have time to actually think them out on the typepad though. Maybe I should just try pretending I'm thinking. So here goes:

In Joseph Pieper's book on Leisure, the Basis of Culture one of the things he says early on in the first chapter is that the loss of the concept of leisure is directly correlated to subjectivism, or the putting of oneself and one's experience in the center of everything. Whew, there's a mouthful. To unpack:

Kant thought that all thinking was work.
Maybe you think it is, too? Well, it is what we pick up from our culture. School is a child's work. When you are a professor or a scientist, thinking is your job.

But the Greeks, and Christians up to about the Renaissance, would not have thought so. They would not have thought all thought was work.
They divided thinking into two modes -- ratio and intellectus.

Ratio was the process of reasoning, what you do when you solve a math problem or figure out a plan of attack for your business or do scientific research. Yes, that is work.

Intellectus was what the angels have, and we as part spiritual beings share it. It is also known as contemplation. It is receptive intelligence. It's the kind of thinking that takes hold of you rather than you taking hold of it. For more, go here.

Kant thought it didn't exist. Now how does that lead to subjectivism, what you could almost call an intellectual works-righteousness? Well, if you have to go out constantly and track down and trap and organize all those thoughts out there, it is YOUR work. You pay in, and cash out in terms of knowledge. In a way you construct knowledge, you build it.

There is no room for reception, for out-pouring of something upon you. This is a sort of sad thing to get locked into.

This isn't totally connected, but I always think of a Flannery O'Connor story (can't remember the name) where some respectable lady who keeps her house and farm in order and does everything "right" comes upon her employee's wife, I think it's a migrant-worker couple, having a mystical fit. She's rolling on the ground or something (can't remember the details) and she is sort of fat and not very clean. The respectable landowner woman is shocked and disgusted, of course. But the point in the story is that the respectable woman is basically totally shut out of everything but her own little tight, small, organized world, in a way the servant woman is not for all her disreputableness. Is that a word?

If everything intellectual is a matter of work, then experience is a sort of transaction.
If nothing comes of itself, then everything centers around the individual and his own efforts.
So Kant basically disallowed culture. Haha, is that going a trifle too far?

Sure, everything meaningful is associated with work, but that doesn't mean it is the work that gives it the meaning or that a huge part of it isn't bestowed freely, generously. Forgetting leisure generally means over-focusing on self and self's efforts and self's attitude, and for the intellect and the spirit, this has a harmful effect.


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