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Living for Today

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A brief comment, if I may, on bromides like that expressed in the cursive writing here. Are they worthless? Are they deep? A bit of both, perhaps?

Human beings (and other self-aware beings as well) undergo a range of experiences, and the having of certain of these experiences is good. There is no single type of good experience: the best we can do is settle for a short list. My list, which I have discussed here before, runs as follows: it is good that we enjoy social relationships with those near and dear to ourselves; it is good that we enjoy the sublimity of nature; it is good that we enjoy both the creation and the contemplation of works of art.

Everything else that we may consider good is instrumental: that is, in support of the creation and preservation of those good experiences. For example, a prosperous economy is good because it enables the leisure that itself assists in the enjoyment of those intrinsic goods.

Two principles for action present themselves: act so as to enjoy the intrinsic goods yourself. Also, act so as to support their enjoyment later, by yourself and others. This means that rational moralists will understand the appeal of the frequent injunction "live for today," or "live as if this were you last day on earth."  That is, to the extent such injunctions focus us on the intrinsic goods, those here-and-now sorts of enjoyment listed above, they are valuable. BUT....

It probably isn't your last day. It certainly isn't everybody's last day. The instrumental work has to go on. So live for yourself, but not solely. Live for today, but not solely.

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