Sean Kelly considers Franzen's Freedom, David Brooks' suburbs, and Nietzsche:
Has Brooks’s happy, suburban life revealed a new kind of contentment, a happiness that is possible even after the death of God? Or is the happy suburban world Brooks describes simply self-deceived in its happiness, failing to face up to the effects of the destabilizing force that Franzen and his literary compatriots feel?
Kelly finds comfort in Herman Melville:
The new possibility that Melville hoped for, therefore, is a life that steers happily between two dangers: the monotheistic aspiration to universal validity, which leads to a culture of fanaticism and self-deceit, and the atheistic descent into nihilism, which leads to a culture of purposelessness and angst. To give a name to Melville’s new possibility a name with an appropriately rich range of historical resonances we could call it polytheism. Not every life is worth living from the polytheistic point of view there are lots of lives that don’t inspire one’s admiration. But there are nevertheless many different lives of worth, and there is no single principle or source or meaning in virtue of which one properly admires them all.
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