Enjoyment: The Moral Significance of Styles of Life
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In this book John Kekes examines the indispensable role enjoyment plays in a good life. The key to it is the development of a style of life that combines an attitude and a manner of living and acting that jointly express one's deepest concerns. Since such styles vary with characters and circumstances, a reasonable understanding of them requires attending to the particular and concrete details of individual lives. Reflection on works of literature is a better guide to this kind of understanding than the futile search for general theories and principles that preoccupies much of contemporary moral thought.
Enjoyment proceeds by the detailed examination of particular cases, shows how this kind of reflection can be reasonably conducted, and how the quest for universality and impartiality is misguided in this context. Central to the argument is a practical, particular, pluralistic, and yet objective conception of reason that rejects the pervasive contemporary tendency to regard reasons as good only if they are binding on all who aspire to live reasonably and morally. Reason in morality is neither theoretical nor general. Reasons for living and acting in particular ways are individually variable and none the worse for that.
Kekes aims to reorient moral thought from deontological, contractarian, and consequentialist preoccupations toward a reasonable but pluralistic reflection on what individuals can do to make their lives better.
whereas individuality is always deep, because it reﬂects a person’s deepest concerns. So, in contexts where the only question is about genuineness, it makes no difference whether individuality or sincerity is ascribed to someone. But when not just genuineness but also enjoyment, realistic, coherent, and durable attitudes, and deep concern matter, then the differences between individuality and sincerity tend to be more important than the similarities. The similarities between individuality and
question is whether that distinction can be drawn on the account I have been giving. The answer is an obvious yes. Sisyphus’ implant meets the condition of a durable pattern of action by his endless rolling of the boulder. But it does not meet the conditions of realism and coherence. Realism involves the recognition of all and only possible lives that are available to one, given one’s capacities and social context. The implant made Sisyphus incapable of recognizing possibilities other than
point of view of the person whose life is being evaluated. The standard of evaluation is enjoyment. And the evaluation is always of the extent to which a particular person’s life is enjoyable. The evaluation is favorable if the style of life expresses the person’s individuality. Whether the style does that depends on the coherence, realism, and endurance of the person’s attitude to life, and on whether the person’s dominant activities and the manner in which they are performed reﬂect that
securing goods for oneself depends on the cooperation of others, and ties of loyalty, requiring one to care about the goods of those who share one’s form of life, are among the goods one wants for oneself. Moral conﬂicts here may take the form of pursuing goods for oneself that interfere with the goods of others either within or outside one’s form of life. The upshot is that, when individuals proceed in the manner recommended by Foot, they routinely ﬁnd that their consideration of all things
decide what to do. If he does nothing, he in effect resolves the conﬂict in favor of staying. So Stephen is considering all things, but he does not know how he should weigh their respective importance. If he weighs all things in terms of the personal dimensions of morality, it will be clear that staying is incompatible with having an enjoyable life that reﬂects his individuality, whereas leaving gives him a chance for such a life, even if it is an uncertain one; so he will tend toward leaving. If