Something inside so strong

Sometimes you run across things which just have the feeling.  The expressions of strength, of values and unity, of personal identity, and deep emotions, possible to music are just humbling.  A few perspectives:

When you come across “the feeling”, e.g. in music, writing or religion, you tend to feel that the sensations you experience are indicative of some ecstatic meaning.  The virtue of human equality; the simplicity or complexity of human suffering.  Beauty.  The banal.  Anything, something real, which can stand on its own apart from your experience.  Something which is possible to approach, in the world of the mind.  Existential, deconstructionist, and non-cognitivist philosophers have ways of explaining how this straightforward understanding of things is misleading, but even if their arguments have merit, by accepting their method you are making a trade-off between the speed and earthy satisfaction of the experiential mode of understanding of the world for a time consuming, possibly more precise understanding.  This may be the best argument for organized religion on a utilitarian basis: the rituals, dogma, and communities which bind organized religion support systems of ethics which are difficult to grasp in the pure study of philosophy.  If we want enlightened people, we should teach them philosophy.  If we want “good” people, we should spread our best understanding of ethics in the form of religion (supposing my utilitarian bias has some merit).

I came across a YouTube video of an Irish rebel singer covering this song.  Actually, this is what first spurred my thoughts on the universalism of the feeling and message of song.  Irish nationalists fight a very different conflict involving different questions of identity, human rights, and politics from anti-Apartheid activists.  Yet the same song can serve both group.  In one sense, this relativism calls into question the ability of the song to contain something in itself. Perhaps the Irish nationalist and the anti-Apartheid activist singing this song intend entirely different meanings.  Yet this plurality of perspectives is endemic to human society–in any human communication, there are already two meanings: the meaning intended by the deliverer of the message, and the message interpreted by the recipient.  Much of continental philosophy seems to tell us that meaning is not fixed, is always in play, in flux–like Einstein’s relativity in science, our understanding of meaning is not destroyed in the absence of fixed points, but refined in appreciation of the interaction of multiple parties in constructing meaning.  The power of music is its ability to connect human parties.  You didn’t need Nietzsche to tell you that.

When Goldman Sachs is in a suit for securities fraud, our financial and legal scholars jump at the opportunity to study it.  That’s understandable–these developments will define our understanding of buyers’ and sellers’ rights in securities trading and set the tone for governmental intervention in derivative markets, which is a frontier of economic and legal work in this modern society.  (There are also opportunities for compensation for studying or working in this area.)  But in this interaction of human parties, the agenda has been set by a specific set of values, namely, those implied by the unbridled pursuit of material wealth.  The scholars are only responding to that agenda.  It is worth remembering that the study of human welfare (er, utility) and our behaviors in obtaining that welfare (economics) and of the competent organ we use to maintain order in human affairs (law) are applicable, after all, to causes which give greater “feeling” than greed.  To a first approximation, I associate those matters with meaningfulness.  That’s a personal statement, not a logical conclusion.


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