7 Aug 2010

Right states of mind

Ethics and morality are always a difficult subject, as is the question about the real meaning of life. It is therefore interesting to see what creative people thought about these issues. The famous British Bloomsbury Group and the Cambridge Apostles were guided in terms of their ontology / morality by a lesser known philosopher (lesser known perhaps because he died at a rather young age) called E.G. Moore. Moore argued that nothing else is important in life other than "right states of mind and beautiful objects". Long term social goals and ideolofies are false, since the individual can do very little to attain them in reality, and they are mostly about self-importance rather than real social virtue.
Now that is an interesting proposition. Right states of mind. It resonates well with Buddhism and Eastern ideas that everything seems to be in our minds. It can be pleasant ideas, conversation, art, love, happiness, etc. It is also the avoidance of wrong states of mind, such as sad thoughts, worries, depression, fear, hate, etc.
What caused some debate amongst these British intellectuals was of course the issue of responsibility. Does the 'right state of mind' idea mean that one should not be engaged in any form of social activity. Some of them argues yes, and this of course led to the rather elitist and eccentrist life that they lived (particularly the artists amongst the Bloomsbury Group). They were the last generation who believed they had the class based rather than a meritocratic right to lead British morality and estethic taste. Others, however, argued that social responsibility comes into the picture through the idea that we are one with the world (once again, quite Eastern). Rather than separating ourselves off from the rest of the society and the world as individuals, we must understand that we are one with the world. This brings in an element of empathy. In order to experience right states of mind, we must make sure that others can be able to do so as much as possible, and the physical world around us is not destroyed.