Nancy Huntting, Aesthetic Realism consultant, writes:
“The Need to Love Justice” is about the power and beauty of ethics. Does a fight about ethics go on in everyone? And what is that fight? The fight has not been understood, and the wrong choices people make about it are causing everyday pain—and literally threatening our democracy. There’s a true and thrilling understanding of everyone’s ethical battle and how to resolve it in “The Need to Love Justice”—the great, new issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known.
The commentary by Ellen Reiss begins:
Dear Unknown Friends:
We are serializing Eli Siegel’s magnificent 1974 lecture Where Ethics Is. And Aesthetic Realism is the philosophy that shows that where ethics is is everywhere—from a kiss to the US Constitution; from a child’s ability to learn the alphabet, to the matter of who should really own America—a few people or all its people?
In this lecture Mr. Siegel is looking at statements about ethics that are of the history of philosophy. And he shows that ethics is always aesthetics too: it has what every instance of beauty has, a oneness of opposites—centrally, our very particular cherished self and the wide outside world. “To be ethical,” he wrote, “is to give oneself what is coming to one by giving what is coming to other things” (Self and World, p. 243).
Among the passages he speaks of here is one by Aristotle, who says in it that a person is not ethical, not just, unless he or she takes pleasure in doing justice. Mainly, people have not seen justice that way—at least they haven’t seen the justice due from themselves that way. Aesthetic Realism, however, agrees with Aristotle here. Mr. Siegel once defined ethics informally as “the art of enjoying justice.” In fact, Aesthetic Realism is the philosophy that shows being just is not only pleasurable but thrilling, self-preserving, confidence-giving, romantic, ever so happiness-making, as well as being sensible, the greatest practicality, the most urgent need.
The Division & Battle in Each of Us
Mr. Siegel speaks here too about the biggest rift in the self of everyone. In Aesthetic Realism, he has shown what that rift is and means. And in doing so, he has explained what no other philosopher saw, including the lovable and mighty Aristotle. The rift is between care for oneself and justice to other things, and it is the very basis of the most hurtful thing in us: contempt. Contempt is “the addition to self through the lessening of something else.” And even as it’s very ordinary, contempt is also humanity’s greatest danger and ugliness, the biggest weakener in self, the source of every human cruelty.
How urgently do people need to understand contempt, including one’s own? The urgency is tremendous, both for everyone’s personal life and for our nation. And with that urgency is the need to learn from Aesthetic Realism why being just is pleasure and one’s true importance.
Let us imagine a person (and for the moment, we’ll make the imagined person a man). If this person does not feel that being just will take care of himself—if he feels that being just to something or someone will jeopardize his own comfort or importance—he will see possible justice as an enemy and he will want to be unjust. (Of course, he won’t call what he’s after injustice; he’ll give it some noble-seeming name.)
We have seen in America in recent months and years a tremendous playing out, in high places, of the rift between what will make oneself important and what other things deserve—and those other things include the American people, the Constitution, and truth itself. There has been on a stunning and massive scale something human beings have used for millennia: lying. And lying comes from only one thing: a rift between care for self and what the world is—between what pleases me and what’s true. Lying comes from contempt, which says, “I have the right to do whatever I choose with what, in the outside world, doesn’t make much of me, doesn’t give me my way. I have the right to change any fact I want about that outside-world thing or person. (I also have the right to punish it, him, her.)”
This way of mind, this rift between care for self and what the world deserves, this desire to change the facts about anything one takes as lessening oneself, can be present in relation to thousands of aspects of life—including elections….Read more