Enjoyment: The Moral Significance of Styles of Life

Enjoyment: The Moral Significance of Styles of Life

Language: English

Pages: 304

ISBN: 0199592497

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


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.

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enjoyable. But the evaluation may also be unfavorable: a life can be miserable. Much needs to be and will be said to clarify these matters and to discuss how personal evaluation is connected with moral, practical, aesthetic, and other kinds of evaluation. If their lives are enjoyable, then the way individuals pursue their various projects will reflect it. Among Rose’s projects was to raise her children well, get along with her neighbors, and conduct her affairs competently. What revealed her

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

of morality is to secure the conditions in which it is possible to live responsibly and enjoyably. It would be a basic misunderstanding of my argument to suppose that the universal and social dimensions of morality are concerned with responsibility and the importance of the personal dimension is that it is concerned with enjoyment. Each dimension is concerned with both responsibilities and enjoyments. Enjoyments are connected with the realization of possibilities and responsibilities with conduct

herself: ‘What was it after all, to have a duke and to have lords dining with her ... if life were dull with her, and the hours hung heavy! ... And if she caught this old man, and became herself a duchess ... would that make her life happier, or her hours less tedious? ... Were she ... to be blazoned forth to the world as Duchess of Omnium, what would she have gained?’ She tells herself: ‘Money she already had; position, too, she had of her own. She was free as air, and should it please her to go

emissary to Cato and his followers offering them clemency, provided they acknowledge Caesar as their ruler. Cato advised his followers, including his son and friends, to accept Caesar’s offer. As for himself, he said: ‘I would not be beholden to a tyrant for his tyranny’ (p. 956). Why would he not be beholden to Caesar? The Republic was lost in any case, further resistance was useless, and, if Cato had lived, he could have worked to depose Caesar, as indeed he was deposed two years later by

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