An Elucidation of 'Live and Let Live'


In ‘Contemplationam, Leven en Laten Leven’ [in English ‘Contemplationam, ‘Live and Let Live’’] it was concluded that the saying ‘live and let live’ actually calls for acting according to choice (‘live’) without hindering (‘let live’), or to act unhindered hinderlessly.1

It could be objected that when the saying is applied to a situation in which someone who complains to another about hindrance the complainer doesn’t ‘let’ the hinderer ‘live’. However it must be clear that this situation came to being after the hinderer did not ‘let’ the complainer ‘live’. It is only after the complainer is hindered in his choice of action that he discusses the acting of the hinderer. It must also be clear that the complaining of the hinderer subsequently may also be interpreted by the complainer as complaining, wherewith the about the complainer complaining hinderer subsequently according to his own principle also can be seen as a complainer who doesn’t ‘let live’. And this can be extended endlessly. This has to do with a certain self-reflexivity which must be avoided.2 The call that by the complainer is made upon the hinderer in the context of ‘live and let live’ should not self-reflexively be exposed to a call in that same context. Further it is so that the hinder which for the complainer in his choice of action is caused makes that for him the part ‘live’ in the saying ‘live and let live’ cannot even be applied. From these considerations it can be concluded that the saying ‘live and let live’ should actually not be used as a reaction to a complaint about hinder.

Now of course it is so that choices of actions of different persons may thwart each other. The choice of action of someone to in silence read philosophical literature may be thwarted by the choice of action of for instance his neighbour to play hard rock melodies on his electric guitar. Because both examples regard choices of actions, and not reactions to choices of actions, both choices of actions may be tested by the saying ‘live and let live’. For the reader here counts that he ‘lives and let live’, for he acts according to choice without hindering. For the guitar player however counts that he may act according to choice but that he does hinder with that. According to the saying ‘live and let live’ the silence of the reader would thus have to prevail here. The objection that the guitar player is hindered in his choice by the aforementioned prevalence is not valid because the saying ‘live and let live’ is then again applied self-reflexively, namely on the saying itself that lead to the prevalence.

The above is all based upon the interpretations of the terms ‘live’ and ‘let live’ in the saying ‘live and let live’. ‘Live’ therein was interpreted as ‘acting according to choice’ and ‘let live’ as ‘acting without hindering’. Now actions can be interpreted very concrete and very abstract. The concrete action of the reading of philosophical literature may be part of the more abstract action of the following of a philosophy study. And the concrete action of the playing of hard rock on an electric guitar may be part of the more abstract action of the mastering of melodies for a planned performance. Both persons in this example are busy with the realizing of a goal that they have set for themselves.

Now it can be attested that the realization of a larger goal deserves the qualification of ‘life’ more than an isolated concrete action. For a human life is not defined by one isolated action, but rather by the whole of goals for which he has worked through countless concrete actions, from birth to passing away. A human life consists of projects and projects consist of actions. Actions form projects and projects form life. Therefore; the larger and more expansive the project whereon a human works, the more it may carry the qualification ‘live’ in the context of the saying ‘live and let live’. Specifically terminologically here one could speak of ‘isolated life’ (actions), ‘related life’ (projects) and ‘full life’ (life from birth until passing away). Let us now use the earlier mentioned example again in our consideration, whereby we presume that the reader is not following a philosophy study but actually uninterested is browsing a philosophical book, while the neighbouring guitar player practises for an exam at the conservatorium. It shall be clear that the silence which the reader needs to execute unhindered his action of choice cannot be matched by the practise of the guitar player, and that the guitar playing here needs to prevail. This order can only be brought back to the previous mentioned relation when the reader for instance is studying for an exam for his philosophy study.

For the saying ‘live and let live’ here counts that the term ‘live’ has to be elevated to its most meaningful and expanded level. When the saying is applied to two conflicting parties with regards to their isolated life (the concrete actions), then the saying ‘live isolated and let live isolated’ goes. However when with only one of the involved parties a related life (a project) is at stake, then the saying must be interpreted as ‘live related and let live related’. And this goes mutatis mutandis also for a full life where, when somewhere a full life is at stake, the saying must be interpreted as ‘live fully and let live fully’.

May thus our actions be chosen in the context of our full, but at least related, life.

  1. ‘Contemplationam, ‘Leven en Laten Leven’’, Index: 202001111.
  2. ‘Contemplationam, Zelfreflexiviteit’, Index: 201608221.
  • ‘Contemplationam, ‘Leven en Laten Leven’’, Index: 202001111.
  • ‘Contemplationam, Zelfreflexiviteit’, Index: 201608221.