I have decided to make my posts more personal. Philosophers should be concerned with the personal as well as the great things in the world.
My brother, Mark, tells me that he wants to be “his own hero.”
What does it mean to be “my own hero”? A hero is someone who saves somebody else. Is somebody who saves only their own self really a hero?
We think of people who are heroes as people who sacrifice themselves for other people. They give up something of their own to help others.
To be your own hero is to put your self and your needs before all others and to help your self before others. But isn’t that exactly what a villain does? A villain puts their own needs, wants, and desires before others. To be “your own hero” is to be a villain to everybody else.
If the self is a creation of what others see in us, then others will see a person who is a villain when they see a person who is “their own hero.” They will see a personal who sacrifices and gives nothing.
We love people who are true heroes and sacrifice for others. We do not and cannot love people who sacrifice only for themselves. Ultimately, what they sacrifice is the other or “other people.” Ultimately, they sacrifice their humanity and their humanness.
Humanness is what the Chinese philosopher Confucius talked about when he talked about “Jen.” This is a discussion of “Jen” from an online course in Oriental philosophy at Lander University in South Carolina.
1. The virtue of virtues; Confucius said he never really saw it full expressed. The other virtues follow from it. He never gives and defends a definition of it although he does characterize it.
2. It is dearer than life itself–the man of jen will sacrifice his life to preserve jen, and conversely it is what makes life worth living.
3. Jen is a sense for the dignity of human life–a feeling of humanity towards others and self-esteem for yourself.
a. Such feeling applies to all men–not just one nation or race. It is the foundation of all human relationships.
b. There is the belief that jen can be obtained; indeed, there is the belief in the natural perfectibility of man. Hence, he rejects the way of human action where one satisfies likes and avoids dislikes.
c. The first principle of Confucianism is to act according to jen: it is the ultimate guide to human action.
4. We should seek to extend jen to others.
Ultimately, it is by what we do for others that we will be remembered by. In the here and now, it is what we do for others that really makes us feel good.