Article  What is a life worth living? + Psychedelic brew ayahuasca’s profound impact (DMT)

C C Offline
Psychedelic brew ayahuasca’s profound impact revealed in brain scans

The brew is so potent that practitioners report not only powerful hallucinations, but near-death experiences, contact with higher-dimensional beings, and life-transforming voyages through alternative realities. Often before throwing up, or having trouble at the other end.

What is a life worth living? For the ancients, it depends

EXCERPTS: . . . for ancient philosophers, including Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics, this is merely wishful thinking. What makes a life worth living, on the prevailing ancient view, is a degree of life’s objective perfection – a view that is likely anathema to modern sensibilities. This is the outlook that underlies Socrates’s dictum from the Apology that an ‘unexamined life is not worth living’. A human life doesn’t have to be excellent, and it doesn’t have to be the life of a philosopher, but it must exhibit some level of reflection on how one should live and why.

A more radical statement of the perfectionist outlook can be found in the Aristotelian view that ‘good humans should stay alive even in bad fortunes, whereas bad humans should flee life even when fortunes are good’. If your character and intellect are irreparably corrupt, you should hasten to exit life no matter what other goods, including bodily health, you may happen to enjoy.

The reason is not that you do not deserve to live, from the legal or moral point of view, but that such living is bad for you – whether you are aware of it or not. Most bad humans in good fortunes no doubt do believe that their life is worth living for them. But this belief simply does not create the fact.

To the modern ear, these views and their consequences sound problematic, even deluded. Some contemporary philosophers have criticised Socrates’s claim as harsh and elitist. Why should the activity of philosophical reflection, rather than plain satisfaction with one’s life, be the decisive criterion for having a life worth living?

[...] The key to a sound assessment of ancient views is to appreciate that perfection is understood in terms of fulfilment of function. The insistence that a life must have a degree of intellectual and moral perfection amounts to the view that a life cannot be worth living unless it enables us to fulfil our natural functions, both biological and social, and in that sense allow us to live up to who or what we are.

From this perspective, humans are not at all different from other living things. Imagine a caged eagle that is well fed but cannot freely fly and hunt. Many would agree that a life is not worth living for this bird, given how impoverished, even humiliating, its existence is. The eagle may wish to stay alive, as long as it is well fed; but that just does not make its life worth living.

What flying and hunting are for the eagle, reflection and morality are for humans. What is distinctive for humans as a biological species is a wide range of psychological capacities under the ambit of ‘rationality’, ranging from the capacity for speech to the capacity for intellectual reflection or for doing good things for the sake of their goodness.

And so those humans who do not ever reflect on their way of life, or those who are corrupt, are like caged eagles: having such impoverished lives, they are a pitiable lot. The fact that they are not aware of their misery does not diminish but rather exacerbates our pity for them.

The assessment of a life’s value is always relative to the natural function. The captive life is not worth living for an eagle, but it might be worth living for two caged love-birds. Similarly, Socrates says, an unexamined life is not worth living for humans, but perhaps it might be worth living for a jellyfish.

Is this emphasis on function precisely what we nowadays find unattractive? From the functionalist perspective, the value of life seems to be unduly instrumentalised... (MORE - missing details)
Magical Realist Offline
Socrates seems to suggest that self-awareness is what distinguishes a worthwhile life. But along the way to these sometimes consoling and sometimes painful moments, we have to let go and just live. There is a certain virtue in not being TOO self-aware and just going with the flow of what is happening. That way we will have something to be aware about later, either proudly or regretfully.

Possibly Related Threads…
Thread Author Replies Views Last Post
  The Worth of an Angry God C C 9 88 Dec 17, 2021 04:24 AM
Last Post: Syne
  Are near-death experiences just psychedelic trips? C C 1 47 Dec 5, 2021 09:51 PM
Last Post: Magical Realist
  Eco-religion calls for mass psychedelic disobedience (spiritual political practices) C C 2 229 Aug 20, 2019 04:54 PM
Last Post: C C
  The ineffable + Life & death thought experiments + Haunting the living C C 5 1,022 Jan 24, 2017 05:50 PM
Last Post: Zinjanthropos

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)