by Luigi Amato Kunst
The philosophical idea of changing life should move from the perspective that life in the western world seems to be structured around a rectilinear trend.
Rectilinear stands for out-of-fluctuations, out –of-unpredictable. In this process of repetitive and predictable stability, men have lost some surviving skills, self-adapting abilities, and connection with the natural oscillation and recurrence. A philosophical response should be about finding and skills for the man to survive “the voyage on an uncertain sea” (Nicolas de Staël) inside the cyclical course of the nature.
Rectilinear means, in modern society, the conflict between the Natural world that is indifferent to our wishes, a world of resistance, and the world of Technique, which pretends to be so responsive to our wishes as to be a mere extension of the self, (see Franzen p.6).
Thus, a real change in life only takes place if this world of technique (techne), (in the sense of approaching life exclusively by relying on responsiveness), is abandoned.
The Myth of the rectilinear linear trend, constant and predictable, in Western society, roots into quite an ambivalent notion of immortality. Immortality means endurance in time, deathless life on this earth as it was given to nature and the Olympian gods. Mortality became the hallmark of human existence. Aristotle says in Economics, that nature guarantees to the species their being forever through recurrence (periods). But this mortality of men lies in individual life, which rises out of biological life. Mortality is then to move along a rectilinear line in a universe where everything if it moves at all, moves in cyclical order (see Hanna Arendt 1958, pp. 18-19).
The paradox lies in the fact that, from the advent of labor as a notion of the Wealth of Nations (1776) this moving along a rectilinear line does not represent the individual existence anymore, but, on the contrary, is the hallmark of artificial life.
Artificial life is the detachment between thought and work. Taylor’s Principle of Scientific Management (1910) approximates to zero the margins of creativity and decision-making. In spite of several successive theories about the importance of the individual at work, (Friedman, Walther, Gillespie, Maslow, McGregor, Herzberg, Likert) the notion of labor was permanently detached from the notion of human action.
Human action, in the highest sense, is the only activity that goes on directly between men without the intermediary of things or matter, since action corresponds to the human condition of a plurality (see Arendt 1959, p.8).
With the industrial age, the man was asked to behave according to endless reproducible repetition. The man’s action became a nonsensical reproducible movement, and this endless reproducible repetition of the same model needed a predictable society.
Predictable society substituted human action as an activity between men without the intermediary of things of matter. Acting is the capacity of beginning something anew. Accordingly, action in the sense of the highest political sense of inter homines esse, became a truly capricious interference with general laws of behavior.
This rhythmic, cadenced sound of the machine became the men’s life pacemaker. The artificial life heart beating. This human artifice of the world separates human existence from all mere animal environment, “but life itself is outside this artificial world” (Arendt 1958, p.2). In fact, man remains related to all others living organisms through life. Furthermore, this rectilinear line movement has become the hallmark of artificial as alienation, rather than as the existence as opposing against nature as cyclical.
It is pretty obvious that with the advent of the globalized world, unemployment’s problems, migration waves and integration’s problems, light and volatile economy, bitcoins, cyber work and deteritorialazation, the way we were used living so far, cannot remain the same. Changing life keeps the meaning of getting out of this alleged linear, constant, artificial trend of life.
Existence is no more the individual life that rises out of biological life and therefore moving along a rectilinear trend. It is rather a rectilinear project, a rectilinear path of evolution that rises out of biological life but keeping in mind the notion of nature as cyclical.
A blacksmith in the middle age was making swords during wars, shoeing horses during peace. When his work as a blacksmith was not enough to feed his family, he was used to moving, maybe working as a bricklayer or stonemason. It was normal to change work and it was normal to move and find another place.
In issues like changing life issue, it is possible to spot the difference between philosophy and psychotherapy. Psychoanalysis is based on looking after a psychic trauma, an unsolved conflict that turns into a physical symptom.
Philosophical “therapy” is not based on psychic traumas. It is rather based on routes. To track the best route according to a consistent pattern.
The oversight is not a moral error but rather an inauthentic episode, an illusion, something not truly experienced. An inauthentic life is a life where the consciousness of its vocation is absent.
Arendt H, 1958, The Human Condition, University of Chicago Press, (1958).
Franzen, J. Farther Away: Essays (p. 6). Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. Kindle Edition.
Friedman M. Capitalism and Freedom 1962, University of Chicago Press.
Herzberg F. 1971, Work and the Nature of Man, 1971, London.
Likert R. 1961, The Patterns of Management, New York.
Maslow, H.A, Motivation and Personality, New York 1954.
McGregor D, 1960, The Human Side of Enterprise, New York-Toronto London.
Smith A, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776)
Taylor F.W, The Principles of Scientific Management (1910)