Ka Hulikanaka a me Ka Hoʻokūʻonoʻono: Davida Malo and Richard Armstrong on Being Human and Living Well
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This article thinks through the work of Kanaka (Native Hawaiian) philosopher Davida Malo (1795–1853) and puts it in dialogue with the work of Richard Armstrong (1805–1860). It argues that Malo offers an account of being human that entails the proper management of impulses (makemake) and intentions (manaʻo) in ways that lead to flourishing (hoʻokūʻonoʻono) in complex communities (kauhale) overseen by leaders (aliʻi) that are informed by the examples of leaders from the past. Standards for proper living, in this setting, are constructed by the community, the members of which are informed by their own experiences and the experiences of their ancestors (kūpuna) as the latter sought to ease the burdens (kaumaha) they confronted in daily life. Armstrong offers a similar picture of human beings as creatures that must learn to observe their intentions and to cultivate intentions that foster proper communal living—a community that Armstrong conceptualizes as a single family (hoʻokahiʻohana). Unlike Malo’s description, however, the standards of this family construct are based on universal laws of right and wrong that only pertain to humans and their standing before a divine figure understood as the Biblical God. The significance of this piece is not only to show how Malo and Armstrong may have conversed over the question of how to live well, but also to begin a conversation in the field of world philosophies about the viability of Kanaka ways of life.
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