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Lecture

Wolf (Lecture Schemata 13)

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Department
Philosophy
Course
PHIL 1200
Professor
David Matheson
Semester
Winter

Description
13   Wolf:  Fitting  fulfillment     Wolf’s  fitting  fulfillment  view     Is  objective  worth  really  necessary?     Applying  the  view     Is  this  immanentism?     Susan  Wolf  proposes  what  we  may  call  (and  what  she  herself  calls,  in  later  writings)  a   “fitting  fulfillment”  view  of  what  it  is  for  life  to  have  a  meaning:     Wolf's  fitting  fulfillment  view:  ___________________________________________________________________   active engagement with projects of worth. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________     ________________________________________________________________________________________________________.       To  understand  this  view  better,  we  must  get  clear  about  two  of  its  core  notions:  the  notion   of  active  engagement,  and  the  notion  of  projects  of  worth.     To  say  that  one  is  actively  engaged  in  an  activity  is  to  say  that  one  has  a  feeling  of   fulfillment  in  doing  it;  that  is,  one  is  enthusiastic  or  passionate  about  doing  it.  Thus:     Active  engagement:  _______________________________________________________________________________     enthused or passionate about those activities. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________.     We  can  contrast  active  engagement  with  doing  things  that  one  has  a  detached,  uninvolved   attitude  about,  where  one  does  them  merely  out  of  a  sense  of  duty  or  because  one  feels  one   has  to,  not  because  one  really  wants  to.     Wolf  notes  that  active  engagement  is  not  quite  the  same  thing  as  finding  the  activities  one   is  doing  pleasurable  is  a  straightforward  sense:     A  person  is  actively  engaged  by  something  if  she  is  gripped,  excited,  involved  by  it.  Most   obviously,  we  are  actively  engaged  by  the  things  and  people  about  which  and  whom  we   are  passionate.  To  be  actively  engaged  in  something  is  not  always  pleasant  in  the   ordinary  sense  of  the  word.  Activities  in  which  people  are  actively  engaged  frequently   involve  stress,  danger,  exertion,  or  sorrow  (consider,  for  example:  writing  a  book,   climbing  a  mountain,  training  for  a  marathon,  caring  for  an  ailing  friend).  However,   there  is  something  good  about  the  feeling  of  engagement:  one  feels  (typically  without   thinking  about  it)  especially  alive.  (232-­‐3)     So  much  for  the  notion  of  active  engagement.  What  about  the  notion  of  projects  of  worth?   What  does  Wolf  mean  by  that?       2   Essentially  she  means  activities  (endeavors,  pursuits,  etc.)  that  have  __________________________  ignificant   _________________________________________________________.         activities / endeavours / pursuits that have objective worth. Projects  of  worth:  __________________________________________________________________________________     ________________________________________________________________________________________________________.       When  Wolf  speaks  of  objective  worth,  she  means  some  sort  of  worth  that  does  not       derive  simply  from  ________________________________________________________________________________.   Thus,  she  writes:     That  a  meaningful  life  must  involve  “projects  of  worth”  will,  I  expect,  be  more   controversial,  for  the  phrase  hints  of  a  commitment  to  some  sort  of  objective  value.  This   is  not  accidental,  for  I  believe  that  the  idea  of  meaningfulness,  and  the  concern  that  our   lives  possess  it,  are  conceptually  linked  to  such  a  commitment.  […]  What  is  clear  to  me  is   that  there  can  be  no  sense  to  the  idea  of  meaningfulness  without  a  distinction  between   more  and  less  worthwhile  ways  to  spend  one’s  time,  where  the  test  of  worth  is  at  least   partly  independent  of  the  subject’s  ungrounded  preferences  or  enjoyment.  (233)       Notice,  then,  that  with  her  view,  Wolf  is  taking  us  beyond  the  immanentist  accounts  of   Camus,  Taylor,  and  Feinberg.  At  the  end  of  the  day,  they  all  suggested  that  a  meaning  of  life   can  be  derived  simply  from  activities  that  have  subjective  worth-­‐-­‐activities  toward  which   we  have  the  right  sort  of  positive,  subjective  attitudes.  Thus,  with  Camus  and  Taylor,  all   that's  required  for  meaning  is  that  we  find  ways  to  appreciate  (or  want  to  do)  the  activities   in  our  lives;  with  Feinberg,  all  that's  required  is  that  we  do  activities  that  flow  from  and   develop  our  distinctly  human  dispositions,  but  these  activities,  of  course,  are  bound  to  be   activities  that  give  us  a  subjective  sense  of  fulfillment.     And  notice  that  the  appeal  to  objective  worth  makes  sense  of  why  Wolf's  view  is  called  a   "fitting  fulfillment"  view:  the  objective  worth  of  meaningful  activities  means  that  the   subjective  worth  they  have-­‐-­‐the  fulfillment  we  get  from  them-­‐-­‐is  "fitting."     Recall  the  distinction  between  an  objective  meaning  of  life  and  a  subjective  meaning  of  life,   which  we  encountered  in  our  look  at  Taylor.  We  can  put  the  matter  this  way:  whereas   Camus,  Taylor,  and  Feinberg  all  attempt  to  ground  the  meaning  of  life  merely  in  subjective   meaning,  Wolf  is  suggesting  that  the  meaning  of  life  involves  both  subjective  meaning  (this   is  what  the  notion  of  active  engagement  gives  us)  and  objective  meaning  (this  is  what  the   notion  of  projects  of  worth  gives  us).     As  Wolf  acknowledges,  it’s  the  objective  worth  aspect  of  her  view  that  is  likely  to  be  the   controversial  one.  And,  indeed,  the  immanentists  we've  looked  at  so  far  shy  away  from  it.   So  why  include  an  appeal  to  objective  worth,  to  “projects  of  worth,”  in  an  account  of  the   3   meaning  of  life?  Why  not  just  stick  with  subjective  worth  or  subjective  meaning  as  the  sole   basis,  from  an  immanentist  point  of  view,  of  the  meaning  of  life?     Wolf  provides  two  reasons  for  why  we  need  objective  worth  in  our  view  of  the  meaning  of   life:     1.  An  appeal  to  objective  worth  allows  us  to  make  sense  of  why  individuals       sometimes  __________________________________________________________________________________________     ________________________________________________________________________________________________________.     That  is,
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