Commitment : Art of Living
What does it mean when you say you are “committed” to something, whether it’s to a partner, a vocation, a political belief, or a religion? On what basis do we make commitments? Do they matter? Or are we better off avoiding them?
Drawing on his own struggles with commitment, the philosopher Piers Benn explores the notion of commitment and tries to unpick what it is and why it might be valuable to a life lived well. He focuses on the commitments we have to one another – contractual, erotic, parental – the commitments we have with respect to work and vocation, and those we have to political and religious creeds or ways of life. He explores the many obstacles to commitment, in particular boredom and acedia – the failure to take an interest in the world, or to care about anything much.
Although Benn shows commitment to be a central ingredient in the meaning of life, he suggests it is better to risk a sense of lack of meaning and some unhappiness than to make false or frivolous commitments. The tension between the urge to commit and grounds for resisting is a theme running throughout the book.
As community values and the idea of a common good have been replaced with the rootless goals of individuals and corporate entities, marriage has been superseded by “partnerhood”, and commitment to a career has been undermined by the disappearance of the job for life, are we in an age, as some social commentators have claimed, where there is a crisis of commitment? Piers Benn brings a much-needed clarity to the subject and offers some welcome advice to all those who have wrestled with the failure, falsehood or futility of their commitments.
Piers Benn has lectured in philosophy at the universities of St Andrews and Leeds, and in medical ethics and law at Imperial College London.
Introduction: The Problems
2. Meaningful work
3. Faith, chance and the ethics of belief
4. Boredom and acedia
5. Commitment, life and meaning