Sunday, June 22, 2014

Thoughts on "Moby Dick"

The writing is excellent prose, excellent vocabulary and, of course, what is constantly clamoring for diagnosis is the meaning of the whale and the epistemology involved. Internet says

Subjectivity of perception

Chief among the thematic content are Melville's epistemological views. The American edition has Ahab "discover no sign" (Ch, 133) of the whale when he is staring in the deep. In fact, Moby Dick is then swimming up at him. In the British edition, Melville changed the word "discover" to "perceive." And with good reason, for "discovery" means finding what is already there, but "perceiving," or better still, perception is "a matter of shaping what exists by the way in which we see it."[39] The point is not that Ahab would discover the whale as an object, but that he would perceive it as a symbol of his making.[39] This theme pervades the whole book, perhaps never so emphatically as in "The Doubloon" (Ch. 99), where each crewmember perceives the coin in a way shaped by his own personality.

* * * * *   

 I think that the above is heading in the right direction. The way you perceive the "value" of the other is the way you experience yourself. The depths of this are the following: Since only God is good (Mk 10.), we perceive the value "good" from the experience of ourselves when we act out imaging God (i.e. as self-gift or self-referential). If we are self-referential and turned back on self, we experience evil and not good, and are able to perceive others and the world as evil and not good. Value is not a subjectivism of consciousness but experiential objectivity of experiencing self as either gift (good) or non-gift (bad).
   I take this from Wojtyla's Person and Community (Peter Lang (1993), "The problem of the theory of morality," 158-160. It is phenomenological and a departure from Aristotelian-thomistic (Stoic) moral realism. It is phenomenological realism - deeper and truer than Aristotle and Thomas. It works off the immediate experience of the self in act and not off the mediate experience of external reality through sensation. It is not about ends, but about the experience and consciousness of the ontological "I" as gift or not gift. He says:

"I am focusing on morality as a reality given in experience - and attempting to understand and interpret it in the deepest possible way. I maintain that morality as a value has objective meaning in and through the human being and that there is not way to apprehend this meaning apart from the cagegories of being and becoing: esse and fieri. In other words, moral good is thathtoruhg which the human being as a human being becomes and is good, and moral evil that through which the human being as a human being becomes and is evil. This becoming (fieri) resides in the dynamism of human action (actus humanus); it cannot be properly objectified onthe basis of consciousness alone, but only on the basis of the human being as a conscious being. It follows, too, that tood aor evil as a property of a conscious being is itself also a being and not just a content of consciousness. This does not, however, obscure the fact that it - good or evil - is, at the same time, a content of consciousness, that it is given in lived experience as aspecific value, najmely, moral value. Proceeding from the two different orientationsw in philosophy, it seems that we can arrive in the theory of morality at a complementary view of this same reality. Moral value points directly to that through whcih the human being as a human being is good or evil... The fact, in turn, that the human being experiences this good or evil, that the human being experience himself or herelf as the author of moral value and as its synamic subject, is simply the experiential and conscious confirmation of this reality, which we can objectify in a completely adquate way only in the categories of being and becoing: esse and fieri."

* * * * * 
The greatness of this is that Wojtyla solves the conundrum of all modern philosophy within the very subjectivity of modern philosophy which turns out to be objective because of the experience of the "I" as being and becoming.
   I don't know exactly what I am saying re: Moby Dick, but the evil objectified in the whale is the very self of Ahab that he relentlessly pursues while it destroys him. Actually, he is pursuing himself. In the end, he destroys himself. The only way out is conversion away from self -  precisely to get out of self and permit being forgiven... and then, begin again with service and humility (the good). Fr. Bob

No comments: