Human PredicamentsAnd What to Do about Them

Human PredicamentsAnd What to Do about Them

John Kekes

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9780226359458

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


This book is about understanding and coping with exceptionally difficult problems that stand in the way of living as we think we should. Living that way depends on pursuing possibilities that unavoidably conflict in our evaluative framework. We must evaluate them and that requires deciding what our priorities should be. Such decisions are very difficult because we value the conflicting possibilities and have strong reasons both for and against them. By opting for one, we must opt against the conflicting one we also value. The problems of life are difficult because by saying yes to a possibility we reasonably value, we must say no to a conflicting possibility we also reasonably value. A deeper understanding shows that life without loss is impossible and conflicts between possibilities are unavoidable parts of life so long as we are committed to the economic, legal, moral, personal, political, and religious modes of evaluation of our evaluative framework. Essential to coping with such problems is a comparative approach to understanding and evaluating the available possibilities. Each chapter considers an anthropological, historical, or literary case in order to illuminate a particular problem in our evaluative framework by comparing it with another that is very different indeed. The point is not to criticize or justify either, but to understand better our possibilities and problems, and to come to see that the available possibilities are much richer than we commonly suppose. We enrich our understanding of the possibilities of life by learning from how others live.