Wednesday, December 11, 2019

A decade of blogging

Yes, it's been a whole decade as of today. Here is the first post again:

Strength is a virtue

I was rereading Alasdair MacIntyre the other day and something that had never seemed terribly significant or controversial jumped out at me. This:

At least some of the items in a homeric list of the aretai would clearly not be counted by most of us as virtues at all, physical strength being the most obvious example. (After Virtue p181)
I should preface this by saying that MacIntyre is surpassed by only Jane Austen in my personal pantheon of moral thinkers.

That said, I still think he is wrong. Physical strength isn't the most significant virtue but I think it is a virtue and I think we all know it is. You can see it quite clearly where I live, and where we got a big dump of snow yesterday. A man or woman who is incapable of helping push a car out of the snow or of shoveling a driveway is morally deficient. Yes, there are legitimate excuses, old age and serious spinal injuries for example, but failing some such excuse it is a moral requirement to have a certain amount of physical strength.

This is not to say that physical strength is the most important virtue and it matters a whole lot what you use that strength to do but a virtue it is.

This comes out very clearly when I need help. If I go ask Dennis, who is much stronger than me, to help me push my car out of a snow bank, I have to treat his strength as a virtue if I am to show any moral consistency at all. If I think, “Well, you’re just a stupid bonehead Dennis but I really need your help so I am going to pretend to admire you just to get the help,” then I am treating Dennis as just a means and not as an end.

Added: I still rate MacIntyre highly but not quite so high as I did a decade ago. 

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