陈凯论坛 Kai Chen Forum 不自由,毋宁死! Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death! 陈凯博客 Kai Chen Blog: www.blogspot.com 陈凯电邮 Kai Chen Email: elecshadow@aol.com 陈凯电话 Kai Chen Telephone: 661-367-7556

自由意味着个体责任 The Responsible Self

in 陈凯论坛 Kai Chen Forum 不自由,毋宁死! Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death! Sat Oct 15, 2011 1:11 pm
by fountainheadkc • 1.385 Posts

The Responsible Self

In our series on the self in modern culture we examined the excesses of both the Imperial Self and the Diminishing Self.

Today, Dinesh D'Souza addresses the question:

[size=18]Is there a better alternative for the self in culture today?[/size]

Dear Concerned Citizen, December 15, 2004

Between the “diminishing self” and the “imperial self” there is a third alternative: the “responsible self.” This is the Christian alternative, but its relevance is not confined to Christians. Hindus, Muslims, Jews, and secular people of goodwill can embrace the responsible self and thus make themselves better, and society better.

The problem with the “diminishing self,” as proclaimed by science, is that it reduces man to a being fundamentally indistinguishable from the rest of creation. In Darwin’s view man is on a continuum with the animals, but even this view is far too optimistic for many modern physicists, who declare that man is simply a thing made up of chemicals and molecules. In this view man is not fundamentally different from a tree, or a stone.

Since man is viewed as a material object responding, as trees and stones do, to immutable physical laws, the “self” loses its claim to unity, to identity, to free choice, and to moral responsibility. All those things become illusions.

Recognizing the moral chaos and nihilism that this view implies, many in our society today ignore the findings of modern science and cling to what they hope is an enduring alternative: “the imperial self.” The imperial self is based on the notion that morality is ultimately grounded in the voice of nature in us. External sources of morality are rejected in favor of a sovereign self that decides by itself and for itself. Rousseau, who was perhaps the founder of the imperial self, praised self-determination in this sense as a form of being “true to oneself.”

One problem with the imperial self is that it is the self that cannot give an account of its origins. Who put it there? The imperial self has no answer to this question. Moreover, although intended as an alternative to the diminishing self, the imperial self is allied with the diminishing self in its rejection of an external moral order. In addition, the imperial self is always in danger of pride and selfishness. Following Rousseau’s lead, it presumes the inherent goodness of human nature—the incorruptibility of the “voice within”—but it forgets that the passions of greed, lust, and ambition can easily conspire to promote selfishness in the name of morality. “Yes, I am leaving my wife and children to live with my girlfriend, but that doesn’t make me a selfish jerk. Rather, I have to do this, I feel called to do this, because my life would be a waste if I didn’t.” Am I responding to the inner voice of conscience, or only to a certain stiffness in my pants?

We would do well to reject the diminishing self and the imperial self in favor of the responsible self. The responsible self is the self that is cognizant of itself, that understands that it cannot be reduced to molecules, that possesses (and knows that it possesses) free will, that can make decisions, and that takes responsibility for those decisions.

The responsible self is not vulnerable to the scientific critique because part of its operations (such as free will and freedom of action) are not susceptible to the laws of science. Quite literally, they are outside the physical world.

Here’s what I mean by this. Everything that science knows is restricted to the physical world and obeys physical laws. But if I throw a ball, while the arc at which it flies can be determined by physical laws, my decision to throw the ball or not to throw it is not determined by physical laws. Whatever the scientists say, looking at me from the outside, I know that I am “free to choose.” I know this because, unlike the outside observers, I have “inside information.” I am the only being that understands myself “from within.” One of the most remarkable feature of my life is that it has a dimension that escapes scientific or material necessity.

At the same time, the responsible self resists the arrogant temptation to proclaim its absolute sovereignty. It refuses to be an imperial self because it knows that it did not create itself. When we listen to the “voice of nature” in us we are listening to a voice that is “in us” but we are also listening to a voice that we didn’t put there. The church father Augustine, who agreed with Rousseau about the importance of the “inner voice,” disagreed with him about the source of that voice. Augustine insisted that the inner voice is the voice of the divine. It is God who is the lamp that illuminates our soul.

But one doesn’t have to be a Christian to appreciate that the responsible self is the “good citizen,” i.e. the self that views itself not in isolation but in community. We develop our identity in relationship with others. We flourish best through our relationships with nature and family and community. In other words, the responsible self recognizes that it is an embedded self, and it derives its significance in large part from the way in which it coexists with, and affirms, the natural and moral ecosystem in which it thrives.

“Self fulfillment” is an important and legitimate goal, but we find the highest fulfillment when we exercise responsibility: both individual responsibility and social responsibility. It is responsibility that validates the secret aspiration of the self to be more than a self, to rise “above” the self, to foster the good and to experience the sublime. By striving to have responsible selves, we can live fully in the modern world while rejecting the basest and least ennobling aspects of modernity.

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RE: 自由意味着个体责任 The Responsible Self

in 陈凯论坛 Kai Chen Forum 不自由,毋宁死! Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death! Sat Oct 15, 2011 1:12 pm
by fountainheadkc • 1.385 Posts

Thankful To Be An American
新移民 - 自豪的美国人

Dinesh D'Souza came to the U.S. on a high school Rotary Scholarship 27 years ago. Today, a scholar at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University, he is one of America's foremost cultural commentators. tothesource asked Dinesh why he decided to stay and make America his home.

November 23, 2004

[size=18]Dear Concerned Citizen, by Dinesh D'Souza [/size]

The conventional wisdom is that immigrants come to America for one reason: to make money. It is endlessly conveyed in the "rags to riches" literature on immigrants, and it is reinforced by America's critics, who think America buys the affection of immigrants by promising to make them filthy rich. But this Horatio Alger narrative is woefully incomplete; indeed, it misses the real attraction of America to immigrants, and to people around the world. It misses why the pilgrims came here nearly four hundred years ago, and why we celebrate Thanksgiving each year.

There is enough truth in the conventional account to give it a surface plausibility. Certainly America offers a degree of mobility and opportunity unavailable elsewhere, not even in Europe. Only in America could Vinod Khosla, the son of an Indian army officer, become a shaper of the technology industry and a billionaire to boot. America's greatness is that it has extended the benefits of affluence, traditionally available to the privileged few, to a large segment in society. America is a country where "poor" people have television sets and microwave ovens, where maids drive rather nice cars, where plumbers take their families on vacation to Europe.

In India, I was accustomed to mind-numbing inefficiency, and multi-layered corruption. I arrived in America to discover, to my wonder and delight, that everything works! The roads are clean and paper smooth, the highway signs are clear and accurate, the public toilets function properly, and when I picked up the telephone I got a dial tone. I could even buy things from the store and then take them back. I found America full of numerous unappreciated inventions; quilted toilet paper, fabric softener, cordless phones, disposable diapers, and roll-on luggage.

So, yes, in material terms America offers the newcomer such as myself a better life. Still, the material allure of America does not capture the deepest source of its appeal. Recently I asked myself how my life would have been if I had not come to America. I was raised in a middle-class family in India. I didn't have luxuries, but I didn't lack necessities. Materially, my life is better in the US, but it is not a fundamental difference. My life has changed far more dramatically in other ways.

Had I remained in India, I would probably live my entire existence within a five-mile radius of where I was born. I would undoubtedly have married a woman of my identical religious and socioeconomic background. I would face relentless pressure to become an engineer, a doctor, or a computer programmer. My socialization would have been almost entirely within my ethnic community. I world have a whole set of opinions that could be predicted in advance. In sum, my destiny would, to a large degree, have been given to me.

In America, my life has broken free of these traditional confines. At Dartmouth College, I became interested in literature and switched my major to the humanities. Soon I developed a fascination with politics, and resolved to become a writer, which is something you can make a living doing in America, and which is not easy to do in India. I married a woman of English, Scotch-Irish, French and German ancestry. Eventually I found myself working in the White House, even though I was not an American citizen. I cannot imagine any other country allowing a non-citizen to work in its inner citadel of government.

In most of the world, even today, your identity and your fate are largely handed to you. This is not to say that you have no choice, but it is choice within given parameters. In America, by contrast, you write the script of your own life: what to be, where to live, whom to love, whom to marry, what to believe, what religion to practice.

Some critics, both in America and abroad, have noted that this freedom to shape one's own life is a mixed blessing. Freedom can be used well or badly. Some Americans do indeed make mistakes with freedom as the country's high divorce and illegitimacy rates suggest. These are unfortunate social trends, but we should remember that while freedom allows vice its scope, it also gives greater luster to virtue.

Those who have tasted the exhilaration of freedom - which entails responsibility for one's own choices and one's own life - can hardly imagine living in any other system. The core American idea is the "pursuit of happiness", which means that happiness is not a guarantee, but that in America you have a chance to find it for yourself. No wonder that so many young people through out the world are magnetically attracted to what America represents: they find irresistible the prospect of being in the driver's seat of their lives.

Like the pilgrims, the immigrant discovers that America permits him to break free of the constraints that have him captive, so that the future becomes a landscape of his own choosing. For this freedom, I am truly grateful.

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陈凯博客 Kai Chen Blog: www.kaichenblog.blogspot.com 陈凯电邮 Kai Chen Email: elecshadow@aol.com 陈凯电话 Kai Chen Telephone: 661-367-7556
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