Thursday, March 9, 2017

Temperance and courage

Temperance: curbing the passions Courage: strengthening the passions against fear.
Those are Thomistic definitions cribbed from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. I'm an Aquinas neophyte so I can't vouch for how good they are (I'm inclined to trust the source though).

From the same source, chastity, sobriety and abstinence are parts of temperance, as you would expect. But so is humility along with meekness, clemency and studiousness. Studiousness!?

One of the big challenges reading Thomas and Aristotle is that so much of it seems so sensible that you can just read it and nod along because everything you see seems easy to accept. I find I need to stop myself and force myself to see the weirdness: Why is "studiousness" a form of temperance?

Here is a list that goes with courage: endurance, confidence, magnanimity, patience and perseverance. We need to not nod along but see how some of those are weird enough that we need to think how they fit in.
Occasionally, the difficulty in achieving or avoiding certain objects can give rise to various degrees of fear and, in turn, discourage us from adhering to reason’s instruction. In these cases we may refuse to endure the pain or discomfort required for achieving our proper human good. Note here that fear is not innately contrary to reason. After all, there are some things that we should fear, like an untimely death or a bad reputation. Only when fear prevents us from facing what we ought to endure does it become inimical to reason.
Sometimes, however, we should risk death or loss of reputation. It's not an easy calculation to determine what circumstances merit that.

As I've noted before, there is something masculine about courage. That isn't to say that there aren't courageous women or cowardly men but there is a natural link in the mind. Some would think me sexist for saying so but I don't think so.

Looking back on my life, I grew up in a female dominated household and studied at female-dominated schools. Of the four cardinal virtues—prudence, temperance, courage and justice—the first two tended to get the most emphasis.

You see everywhere this in our culture. There are a whole lot of people out there who call themselves "social justice warriors" but they are really about controlling other people not about being just to other people. Their morality is the morality of the pack. And we can see this in how they stampede one way and then another. There is something pathetically cowardly about them, the way they shout down and attack in groups. It's really an attempt to shame others into conforming.

The problem here is not that they are "womanly" so much that there is a lack of balance. We need more courage and justice in our systems and our fathers didn't help us to acquire that. 

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