Sunday, November 10, 2013

Objectivism vs. Communitarianism

"Angels Who Have Pruned on High!"
As part of our LDS Ward Fall Clean-up, our Bishop and others help take down a threatening tree limb before it falls.
I mostly worked on the leaf-raking crews as I have few heavy-equipment or chain-saw skills.
More philosophical than political today, although I'm far from being an intellectual philosopher. And for today we will just leave aside the devil's purpose regarding free agency (you can see my view here). And I relate personal experience only to say that I attempt to walk the communitarian walk.

Yesterday, I went out to help the neighborhood in our Fall clean-up project. Most of it was yard cleaning for widows and the elderly. Our Priesthood and Women's Relief Society under the direction of our bishopric prepared a list of people to visit with the needs they had. As we went around, we hit a few other homes that needed some work - those of new move-ins, less-active members of the church, even non-members. The best part of all is that some of the less-actives and a great new move-in family came out to help and then went along with us to other houses.

Was it something that I really wanted to do? Sort of. My motivations were mixed. I'm not one who enjoys yard work for yard-work's sake. Still, due to some recent personal, institutional, and spiritual experiences with my church, I felt a positive obligation to do good. With no hope of manipulating Divine influence in a magical sense, I felt a debt of gratitude and love to do good for others. I do have spiritual needs, and they seemed to be met by this kind of activity.

I like this definition of Communitarianism found online at Encyclopedia Britannica:
Social and political philosophy that emphasizes the importance of community in the functioning of political life, in the analysis and evaluation of political institutions, and in understanding human identity and well-being. It arose in the 1980s as a critique of two prominent philosophical schools: contemporary liberalism, which seeks to protect and enhance personal autonomy and individual rights in part through the activity of government, and libertarianism, a form of liberalism (sometimes called “classical liberalism”) that aims to protect individual rights—especially the rights to liberty and property—through strict limits on governmental power.
Sounds like a moderately passionate approach.

I do have sympathy for the "liberal" view "to protect and enhance personal autonomy and individual rights in part through the activity of government." That is based on the experience of American History particularly with Lincoln and the freeing of the Slaves and the Civil Rights Movement. But it still relies on a community of We the People - all the People.

And I'll admit that my main problem with Libertarianism is the modern emphasis on Ayn-Randian Objectivism - free and open markets with little or no regulation and individual pursuits of happiness as the highest good. Maybe she's my straw woman. Yet political leaders at the highest levels claim to be fans of her philosophy.

Communitarianism as political philosophy seems to be a merging of pursuits of happiness with the interests of a group. The intrinsic human attribute of altruism is good for the individual as well as the group. And it can be nurtured or diminished by the group that influences the individual.

In political philosophy, the documents of our foundation emphasize both individual rights but in the context of community as in "We the People" or "We hold these truths . . . ." I sincerely believe that we need more of a concept of "We" in our national affairs - not divided by class, race, religion, or just the sense expressed by some of wanting their country back - from whom?

In LDS belief and practice the ultimate good is the law of consecration, a covenant we make to give our all, even our lives if necessary, to the building of the Kingdom of God. Such concepts can be easily abused as with medieval oaths of similar nature or even in certain meadows in the mountains. All I can rely on is the recognition of the harvest of good fruits to know the doctrine is the Lord's. So far, so good.

It did get a little political, but at least we kept the devil out of it.

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