William James once argued that every philosophic system sets out to conceal, first of all, the philosopher’s own temperament: that pre-rational bundle of preferences that urges him to hop on whatever logic-train seems to be already heading in his general direction. This creates, as James put it, “a certain insincerity in our philosophic discussions: the potentest of all our premises is never mentioned … What the system pretends to be is a picture of the great universe of God. What it is—and oh so flagrantly!—is the revelation of how intensely odd the personal flavor of some fellow creature is.”It was in an article about Ayn Rand, of all places, in New York Magazine. In any case, it got me wondering what my temperamental prejudices are; what I think gives me my intensely odd personal flavour. Not things that I believe based on argument or logic or could in any way hope to adequately defend, but the things I believe because I want to believe them. Here is what I think they are:
- I resist any attempt to treat purity as a moral concept.
- I have a deep prejudice against religious and moral promotion of asceticism. No, damnit, I will not give up long hot showers to save the planet or my soul!
- I always prefer bourgeois moral values. For me, a world of Elinor Dashwoods is infinitely preferable to a world of Holden Caulfields.
- I believe that there is nothing necessarily ennobling about poverty and suffering. Suffering is an opportunity to build character but a lot of people just become even more petty, mean and selfish than they otherwise would be.
- I resolutely believe that God loves us and wants the best for us. I appreciate that tragedies happen and that they are often beyond the control of the people they happen to but I believe that God wants us to be comfortable and content. The normal human life is comedic not tragic. In fact, I believe that if we are not currently happy, we have a moral obligation to work towards being happy.
- I believe foolish people are foolish, mad people are mad and children are childish. They do not go around spouting deep truths that no one else can see and I get very impatient with people who try to make it seem like foolish and mad characters or children have profound lessons to teach us. They do not.