A common type of nonproductive activity is the reaction to anxiety, whether acute or chronic, conscious or unconscious, which is frequently at the root of the frantic preoccupations of men today. Different from anxiety-motivated activity, though often blended with it, is the type of activity based on submission to or dependence on an authority. The authority may be feared, admired, or “loved” – usually all three are mixed – but the cause of the activity is the command of the authority, both in a formal way and with regard to its contents. The person is active because the authority wants him to do. This kind of activity is found in the authoritarian character. To him activity means to act in the name of something higher than his own self. He can act in the name of God, the past, or duty, but not in the name of himself. The authoritarian character receives the impulse to act from a superior power which is neither assailable nor changeable, and is consequently unable to heed spontaneous impulses from within himself.
Resembling submissive activity is automaton activity. Here we do not find dependence on overt authority, but rather on anonymous authority as it is represented by public opinion, culture patterns, common sense, or “science.” The person feels or does what he is supposed to feel or do; his activity lacks spontaneity in the sense that it does not originate from his own mental or emotional experience but from an outside source.
Among the most powerful sources of activity are irrational passions. The person who is driven by stinginess, masochism, envy, jealousy, and all other forms of greed is compelled to act; yet his actions are neither free nor rational but in opposition to reason and to his interests as a human being. A person so obsessed repeats himself, becoming more and more inflexible, more and more stereotyped. He is active, but he is not productive.
Although the source of these activities is irrational and the acting persons are neither free nor rational, there can be important practical results, often leading to material success. In the concept of productiveness we are not concerned with activity necessarily leading to practical results but with an attitude, with a mode of reaction and orientation toward the world and oneself in the process of living. We are concerned with man’s character, not with his success.
excerpt from Erich Fromm (1947) Man for Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics
Productiveness is man’s realization of the potentialities characteristic of him, the use of his powers. But what is “power”? It is rather ironical that this word denotes two contradictory concepts: power of = capacity and power over = domination. This contradiction, however, is of a particular kind. Power = domination results from the paralysis of power = capacity. “Power over” is the perversion of “power to.” The ability of man to make productive use of his powers is his potency; the inability is his impotence. With his power of reason he can penetrate the surface of phenomenon and understand their essence. With his power of love he can break through the wall which separates one person from another. With his power of imagination he can visualize things not yet existing; he can plan and thus begin to create. Where potency is lacking, man’s relatedness to the world is perverted into a desire to dominate, to exert power over others as though they were things. Domination is coupled with death, potency with life. Domination springs from impotence and in turn reinforces it, for if an individual can force somebody else to serve him, his own need to be productive is increasingly paralyzed….
The crippling of productive activity results in either inactivity or over-activity….
Productive activity is characterized by the rhythmic change of activity and repose. Productive work, love, and thought are possible only if a person can be, when necessary, quiet and alone with himself. To be able to listen to oneself is a prerequisite for the ability to listen to others; to be at home with oneself is the necessary condition for relating oneself to others.
excerpt from Erich Fromm (1947) Man for Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics
…Tocqueville marveled at the way Americans – in contrast, he thought, to continental Europeans – participated in countless associations and thereby breathed life into their democracy. Instead of appealing to a state authority to solve their problems, Americans founded an association, taking their lives into their own hands and working for the common good. For these reasons, freedom of association, even more than freedom of the press, was, for Tocqueville, one of the most important political rights. It is the practical advantage an active citizenry brings to a polity – in addition to the freedom of commerce and the press and the right to property and free elections – that contemporary political theorists attribute to ‘civil society’.
But Tocqueville was interested in more than the associations’ purely practical significance. Tocqueville continued the tradition in classical political theory that investigates the impact a form of government has on its citizens and their virtue and measures the quality of the government accordingly. His primary concern was not just the political constitution of a polity, but rather the ‘constitution of the souls’ the polity produces. In other words, he was concerned with the social and moral basis of politics and, hence, of democratic governance.
Tocqueville considered human feelings and the process of their formation more significant for politics than rationally thought-out rights and interests. He was convinced that ‘state were not defined by their laws, but rather from their origins by the feelings, thought processes, ideas, and hearts and minds of their inhabitants’. As an ‘aristocratic liberal’, Tocqueville shared scepticism about the coming democratic age with his contemporaries John Stuart Mill and Jacob Burckhardt. He considered himself, in the words of Wilhelm Hennis, an ‘historian of the soul’, an analyst of the order and disorder of human souls in the age of democracy. The decisive question for Tocqueville was how to avoid, particularly in a democracy, the impoverishment of citizens’ souls that would lead to despotism. The Terror of the French Revolution was never far from his thoughts.
Tocqueville saw an answer to this danger in voluntary associations. According to Tocqueville, only in sociable interaction could people develop their ideas and enlarge their hearts. This interaction, which was subordinated to strict rules in corporate societies, had to be brought to life voluntarily in a democracy – something only associations could bring about. Tocqueville believed that the most significant associations in this regard are those that remain purely sociable and exist to improve their member’s mores and manners and to enrich their emotional lives. Such associations are much more significant than those that promoted explicitly political or commercial purposes. Only those associations that are – at least at first glance – non-political and above special interests can free their members from selfishness and create new bonds in modern, egalitarian societies. These are precisely the bonds that play such an important role in Tocqueville’s political thought. ‘Among the laws that rule human societies’. Writes Tocqueville, ’there is one that seems more precise and clearer than all others. In order that men remain civilized or become so, the art of associating must be developed and perfected among them in the same ratio as equality or conditions increases’. Conversely, he thought, if the bonds between individuals loosen, democracy’s political foundation will erode. The less citizens practice the art of association, the greater the toll on their civility and the greater likelihood that equality will degenerate into despotism….
Excerpt from Steffan-Ludwig Hoffmann (2006), Civil Society.
“People feel really as if they shouldn’t have these troubles. They shouldn’t have that knee that doesn’t work right, or they shouldn’t hurt in their heart. And yet, first of all, the first thing you notice is you connect through that. What do old people do? They connect through their kidneys. They connect through their this or their that, their troubles. Number one.
Number two, other people tell each other when, as they grow into intimacy – and I don’t mean lovers, I mean just as they grow closer – they tell each other their hurts. So there must be some connection between loving connection or closeness and the need to be vulnerable, or being vulnerable. So we relate, we connect through our weakness, not through our strength. That’s an idea, anyway, that comes out of the psychologist, C.G.Jung. We connect through our weakness and not through our strength. Because when you connect through your strength, you argue. You each try to master the other or control. Connect through your weakness, you’re both helpless. So that’s one thing. So therefore, these symptoms that come along or these breakdowns or weaknesses have a secondary gain in them. They have a value. They make your more vulnerable and therefore more open to connection.
Unfortunately, in a very heroic culture such as we have where you’re supposed to do it on your own and not buckle, the moment of weakness has to be covered over, and so we get more isolated. So psychologically, what’s important is really feeling the places of weakness. ”
James Hillman, in an interview on “The Soulless Society”
…Temperament refers to the mode of reaction and is constitutional and not changeable; character is essentially formed by a person’s experiences, especially of those in early life, and changeable, to some extent, by insights and new kinds of experiences. If a person has a choleric (easily angered) temperament, for instance, his mode of reaction is “quick and strong.” But what he is quick and strong about depends on his kind of relatedness, his character. If he is a productive, just, loving person he will react quickly and strongly when he loves, when he is enraged by injustice, and when he is impressed by new idea. If he is a destructive or sadistic character he will be quick and strong in his destructiveness or in his cruelty.
The confusion between temperament and character has had serious consequences for ethical theory. Preferences with regard to differences in temperament are mere matters of subjective taste. But differences in character are ethically of the most fundamental importance…
In the application of C.G. Jung’s concepts of temperament, those of “introvert” and “extrovert,” we often find the same confusion. Those who prefer the extrovert tend to describe the introvert as inhibited and neurotic; those who prefer the introvert describe the extrovert as superficial and lacking in perseverance and depth. The fallacy is to compare a “good” person of one temperament with a “bad” person of another temperament, and to ascribe the difference in value to the difference in temperament….
Excerpt from Erich Fromm (1947) Man for Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics
日期: 2014年4月5日(六) - 第一講
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參加者請於出席前YOUTUBE自行觀看有關VIDEO。另可參考Michael Sandel的網頁及著作"正義---一場思辨之旅" 。參考: http://www.justiceharvard.org/
I appreciate very much the effort made by "idealist" to create a global platform for sharing on 11 March 2014. Clearly each one of us human being shall be connected in one way or another. Each one of us shall be supported to develop one’s potentialities. We shall be empowered through continuous training and services on mental health, communications and interpersonal relationship. Global citizenship shall be meaningful and powerful as a real and true identity of human being when individuals be supported and protected by collaborative responsibility and efforts on human rights, productivity as well as sustainable development.
Desmond, Chan Yu Tat
Collaboration Initiatives International
If ethics constitutes the body of norms for achieving excellence in performing the art of living, its most general principles must follow from the nature of life in general and of human existence in particular. In most general terms, the nature of all life is to preserve and affirm its own existence. All organisms have an inherent tendency to preserve their existence: it is from this fact that psychologists have postulated an “instinct” of self-preservation. The first “duty” of an organism is to be alive.
“To be alive” is a dynamic, not a static, concept. Existence and the unfolding of the specific powers of an organism are one and the same. All organisms have an inherent tendency to actualize their specific potentialities. The aim of man’s life, therefore, is to be understood as the unfolding of his powers according to the laws of his nature.
Man, however, does not exist “in general.” While sharing the core of human qualities with all members of his species, he is always an individual, a unique entity, different from everybody else. He differs by his particular blending of character, temperament, talents, dispositions, just as he differs at his fingertips. He can affirm his human potentialities only by realizing his individuality. The duty to be alive is the same as the duty to become oneself, to develop into the individual one potentially is.
To sum up, good in humanistic ethics is the affirmation of life, the unfolding of man’s powers. Virtue is responsibility toward his own existence. Evil constitutes the crippling of man’s powers; vice is irresponsibility toward himself.