In a complementary relationship to Lionel Trilling‘s ideal of “the moral obligation to be intelligent” is “the expressive freedom of creative play.” It is the spirit of pluralism to affirm a variety of fulfilling human ends. Trilling’s type of pluralism focused primarily on bringing the “critical intelligence and “moral imagination” to bear upon the reading of literature , the liberal arts and and the university world where he spent his career.
But there is another kind of pluralism that celebrates the epicurean joys of nature and beauty, friendship and community, food and travel, handcrafts and hobbies, arts and entertainment, music and dance. A fully human life will surely find room for the sensory, aesthetic, creative and inter-personal joys of primary experience as well as the intellectual and moral life of the mind. The intellectual moralist who is perpetually serious and austere is taking himself too seriously and missing out on the charms and delights of daily life, the simple pleasures that come along the way. If most people tend to “under-think” life, the neurosis of intellectuals is to “over-think” life. There is a “middle way” that integrates the life of the body and the mind, the emotions and the intellect, the ethical life and the aesthetic life, the inquiring mind and enchanted soul. It must be our business to find the middle way that leads to human flourishing on all the levels of our being.