THE MYTH OF THE GIVEN and the three maxims of gratitude

In his posts on How do you make a decision and on Ontological gratitude Sean Kelly puts forth a number of radical polytheist maxims concerning decision, understanding, the gift and gratitude. I wish to consider three of these maxims:

1) A decision is given

A decision is a gift. It is given to us. And a gift requires gratitude.

2) An understanding is given

we should be grateful whenever we are given some new understanding of ourselves and the world.

3) An understanding and a decision are given together

« To make a decision, to make a genuine decision, is to be moved within to an understanding of yourself that is unshakeable and true”.

In Sean Kelly’s texts these four notions (decision, understanding, the gift and gratitude) are tightly bound together, but they have different statuses of logical priority.

The dominant notion is that of the gift. As human beings, in our standing openness we are given gifts, in particular we are given understandings and decisions, we are not their source or origin. We can receive these gifts with various attitudes. For Kelly the proper attitude is gratitude.  Yet, he implies, other attitudes are possible, only less appropriate.

This seems to be the explicit, I am tempted to say « official » sequence: understandings and decisions, givens, gifts, gratitude. In effect I have been arguing that « gratitude » itself can be seen as being given, and not just an attitude we may take up at will. This would mean that other attitudes may also be given, such giving its due to, or careful attention. This sequence corresponds to the logic of exposition.

There is a blockage in the dialogue on this point. I suggest that the problem arises from the existence of a second, presupposed logical sequence. On my hypothesis this « second » order is in fact primary for Kelly: gratitude, givings, gifts, understandings and decisions. This sequence corresponds to the logic of presupposition.

I call this primary order one of « presupposition » because the starting point, « gratitude », is not one that is shared by everyone in the discussion. Some participants (including Kelly himself) share it, and see nothing problematic. Others (including myself) find the notion lacking in self-evidence and laden with unnecessary, even undesirable, connotations.

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2 commentaires pour THE MYTH OF THE GIVEN and the three maxims of gratitude

  1. landzek dit :

    Today is the present. 😁


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