The idea that I have never ceased to develop is that in the end a man can always make something out of what is made of him. --J.P. Sartre
Sunday, November 15, 2009
In light of Beauvoir and our discussion on his work, I've been thinking a lot about alternatives. People seem to make rules for themselves in life, whether on a personal or ethical level. These could be anything from wiping your feet before coming into the house, to thou shall not kill. We create these rules for ourselves and live by them, more or less. Whether based on nature, reason, or God, we all have these rules and can logically defend them, despite the fact that they can be equally valid, yet completely contradictory. In the back of our heads, however, we know that we are free beings and that we fabricated our own values. In other words, we are responsible for our own rules, we made them and technically we can break them. This presents two questions, the first being just how arbitrary are our values systems and rules? Could they just as easily be completely different, yet still make sense within society? The second, and perhaps more important question is why do we stick to them? If somewhere in our consciousness we are aware that we are free from our own rules because we made them and they really don't limit our freedom as individuals, why do we embrace them and let them dictate our lives? I recall Dr. J's question as to whether or not we do this because of a lack of alternatives. At first this concept made a lot of sense to me; there really don't seem to be too many reasonable alternatives to how we live that don't seem absurd. But after really thinking about it, I realized that the world is literally full of alternative systems of ethics and laws. The Imbonggu people of Papua New Guinea, for example, have a totally alternative set of beliefs and way of living in the world. So the alternatives are out there, but why do we still maintain our ways?