By Richard Schmitt
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Additional info for Alienation And Freedom
One ﬂoats along on the stream of life, paddling to get to pleasant spots and to avoid the occasional rocks under the surface of the water. One allows contingency full reign. One makes a virtue out of alienation. Utilitarianism is the ideology of the alienated. Kierkegaard’s insight, that human life is inherently disturbed by acute tensions, is of enormous importance for an understanding of alienation, but his account of the underlying tensions in human life is very schematic. He also did not pay sufﬁcient attention to the effect of society on our ability to make something of our life.
The calm performance of duty is said to be “boring” and the faithful cleaving to loved ones and friends only a sign of lack of imagination. Only rigid persons afraid of spontaneity would follow a life plan religiously. Only persons incapable of boredom would do the same sort of work year in and year out with unwavering faithfulness. That opinion, too, cannot be shown to be wrong; it cannot be refuted. The pursuit of pleasure easily ends in a depression. Critics of alienation will argue that different persons have very different desires.
Writers about alienation are also critical of utilitarian doctrines, but for a different reason: In the course of a lifetime we do many good things and many good things happen to us, but it is a terrible mistake to call every one of these goods “pleasures” because our goods are of very different kinds and so are our experiences of them. It is impossible to think well about one’s life or about the lives of others, if “pleasure” is the name of all the many different values we pursue. A good meal, good sex gives me pleasure.