“This is How we Create Values”

In his efforts to move the practice of ethics and friendship from the abstract to the concrete, Michel Onfray says:

There is no such thing as Friendship, but only proofs of friendship; no Love, but only proofs of love; no Hate, but only proofs of hate; and so on.

The same goes for all the virtues: we must create tokens, proofs, instances. This resonates with the materialist theory of identity (as tied to habit) that I’ve discussed before. In this way, by manifesting tokens of one’s values, one makes real and concrete one’s ethics.

Platonic friendship does not exist, only its incarnations. Proofs of friendship bring people together, and expressions of enmity push people apart …

Politeness offers a way to realize morality … It tells the other that one has seen them … Holding a door, practicing formulaic rituals, carrying on the logic of good manners, knowing how to say thank you and you’re welcome, giving, being cheerful in lackluster company: that is how to do ethics, create morality, embody values.

Nominalist Ethics

Onfray identifies this migration from the abstract to the concrete as one of the great intellectual, behavioral, and philosophical tasks that the Epicureans must carry out individually and collectively, and he cites nominalist ethics as a front from which we can argue the importance of making philosophy tangible. Here is what Wikipedia says about nominalism:

There are at least two main versions of nominalism. One version denies the existence of universals – things that can be instantiated or exemplified by many particular things (e.g., strength, humanity). The other version specifically denies the existence of abstract objects – objects that do not exist in space and time.

One technique used by Epicureans to go from the abstract to the concrete is to speak in plural form: to speak of individuals instead of “man”, to speak of specific acts of kindness or heroism instead of “virtue”, to refer to our choices and avoidances instead of “morality”, and so on.

One side benefit to this migration from the abstract to the concrete is the ability to think (and speak) clearly, which we can cultivate with the help of philosophy. Philodemus’ Rhetorica contains an entire section against obscurity of speech, which is a huge problem in many of the other lineages and schools of philosophy.

Obscurity is of two kinds: intentional and unintentional. It is intentional when one has nothing to say and conceals the poverty of his thought by obscure language that he may seem to say something useful. Connected with this is the use of many digressions, poetic images, recondite allusions and archaic language. Solecisms prevent the hearer from understanding many things. Only the true philosopher is free from these faults …

One should use ordinary expressions appropriately, and not express oneself inaccurately, nor vaguely, nor use expressions with double meaning.

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About hiramcrespo

Hiram Crespo is the author of 'Tending the Epicurean Garden' and founder of societyofepicurus.com. He's also written for The Humanist, Eidolon, Occupy, The New Humanism, The Secular Web, Europa Laica, AteístasPR, and many other outlets.
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One Response to “This is How we Create Values”

  1. Pingback: Reasonings on Michel Onfray’s Hedonist Manifesto – Epicurean Database

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