Thursday, October 27, 2022

Our changing ends

One approach to life is to attempt to be fit for purpose - or, more specifically, fit for the purposes that are given to a creature of our kind. But this raises the critical question of what our purposes are.

A more traditional answer might be that there are many such purposes. A man, for instance, has the purpose to protect and provide; to seek God and the spiritual goods of life; to defend his people; to defend his church; to mentor his son to be fit for his adult life as a man; to raise his daughter so that she might be fit for her adult life as a woman; to be a good friend; to reach a potential of physical and intellectual development and so on.

There are barriers to following this path in modern life. A long time ago, an influential strand of philosophy rejected the idea that we are a being of a particular given kind, with attached purposes. The rejection of Aristotelian thought in the Enlightenment also dealt a blow to a teleological view of life. The prevailing idea now is that we are all uniquely individual and that our identities and purposes can and should be self-fashioned, rather than given to us as a part of our nature.

What this means is that rather than orienting ourselves to being fit for purpose, we are more likely to think that the world outside should change to fit whatever we fashion ourselves to be.

Having said this, there are still some remnants of the older view of fulfilling a telos in life. People do still speak of becoming their better self, even if the content of this is left vague. And there are assumptions of purpose even within certain strands of liberalism, particularly when these purposes can be easily measured or quantified, are materialistic and are held to be "rational".

For instance, there is the idea of Economic Man, who pursues a "rational self-interest" in the market, whether as a unit of labour, a consumer or an investor. This participation in the market is assumed to be the higher purpose of human life.

You can see this attitude clearly in a post written for Morgan Stanley back in 2019. In this post, titled "Rise of the SHEconomy", it is noted that very soon large numbers of American women aged 25 to 44 will be single - 45% by the year 2030. 

The author sees this as an encouraging development, as a single and childless woman is better able to participate in the market:
What’s driving this trend? For starters, more women are delaying marriage, choosing to stay single or divorcing in their 50s and 60s. Women are also delaying childbirth or having fewer children than in the past.

“These shifting lifestyle norms are enabling more women, with or without children, to work full time, which should continue to raise the labor force participation rate among single females,” says Zentner. Rising labor-force participation rates should put upward pressure on women’s wages and help increase overall consumer spending.

...The trend is set to boost segments of the economy where single women historically spend more, including apparel and footwear, personal care, food away from home, and luxury and electric automobiles.
Similarly, the author sees much promise in trends by which,
a growing population of prime working-age women in the U.S.—many single and focused on career—will have greater representation in the labor force, help boost wages and create potentially large tailwinds in a number of consumer products categories.

And so, for all the talk of a self-fashioning life, a woman's purposes are being determined here by the metaphysics of modernity. And it is a narrow account of purposes, one that explicitly rejects goods relating to marriage, motherhood, love and spirituality. Woman is becoming Economic Man and is being divested of those purposes that do not fit in with this view of her ends.

A note to Melbourne readers. If you are sympathetic to the ideas of this website, please visit the site of the Melbourne Traditionalists. It's important that traditionalists don't remain isolated from each other; our group provides a great opportunity for traditionalists to meet up and connect. Details at the website.