Thursday, March 30, 2017

I am my gut

I know, that's asking for it. The nasty putdowns write themselves.

Actually, it was a cheap putdown that inspired me to write this. I saw this in Facebook the other day: "Don't trust your gut; it's literally full of shit." Ha ha. And then, not wanting to be humiliated by any more such wit, we abandon our views out of fear.

And, you may think, my gut instincts are often wrong. That's true but they are also often right. So, what do you do?

I'd suggest not thinking about the issue in terms of right and wrong. Think instead that you are your gut.

Good Cartesian dualists that we are, we tend to think of thought as something that happens in the brain. Many of our ancestors imagined thought happened in their bowels or in their chests. The Psalms were all written by people who imagined thought happened in the heart. (As a consequence, we misread them: when we read that we should keep the LORD in our hearts, we imagine that to call for an emotional commitment when it actually calls for an intellectual one.)

Let me give you a sports metaphor. A good male athlete can throw a feint with his shoulders or his hips. He can't throw a fake with is gut. Wherever his gut goes he has to go too. Our gut feelings are like that. They are the accumulation of a lifetime of emotional and mental development. That gut feeling you get tells you that a proposed action either is or is not in your comfort zone. If you feel a vague uneasiness about something, that is telling you that this isn't something you feel comfortable about. When people say, "Trust your gut," they mean that your instincts are a good indicator of what you should and shouldn't do.

I'll go out on a limb and say, without having any evidence, that even if it feels that your gut is often wrong that you would find, if you chose to keep a tally, you'd find your gut is right far more often than it's wrong.

And I'd go further and say, trust your gut because it's you. It's your moral centre of gravity.

Let's ask a different question. How do you get a better gut? Or, to put it another way, how do I get better moral instincts? And here, having put it the way we have, the answer becomes obvious: by developing a better character. Push yourself to improve in small ways that you can clearly see and your gut will get better.

We could turn that around: if it feel like your moral instincts are bad—which is how I felt fifteen years ago when I started this quest—the solution is not to stop trusting your moral instincts. They are, good or bad, the foundation of your moral life. What you need to do is to change what you do. You will become what you do.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

There's no such thing as society

"I think we've been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it's the government's job to cope with it. 'I have a problem, I'll get a grant.' 'I'm homeless, the government must house me.' They're casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It's our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There's no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation." Margaret Thatcher

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Punishment as kind of love

If we accept, as I argued yesterday, that it sometimes makes sense to treat failure as a sin, we should also accept that God will punish some our failures and that he will do so even when we don't reject him in failing. That he might punish us for failing when we are "doing our best".

Yesterday, I argued that the mother who punishes her child for failing does harm when she wrongly assesses the child's abilities and the challenges they are facing. You should be able to pass in Math and History but it is not reasonable to expect you to be the most popular kid in your class. That said, some kids could reasonably aspire to be the most popular in their class, in which case we would have to ask whether this is a good goal when it is achievable.

God, being God, would seem to be the one most qualified for punishing our failings for he could make these judgments correctly.

In the end, we have to trust that he loves us.
We have come to believe in God's love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. (Benedict XVI)
Living morally, then, is a matter of establishing within ourselves the disposition that goes with that encounter.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Overly critical maternal superego

One of my favourite blogs is The Last Psychiatrist. He writes long posts and uses a style of analysis favoured by Wittgenstein that not everyone likes. What that means is that he tends to analyze by circling around and trying out different perspectives rather than dissecting the subject. I find he's worth reading and can almost always find a gem in his pieces.

Like this one:
... an "overly critical maternal superego" which is different than a paternal superego because it yells at you not when you sin but when you fail. This is the mom who doesn't want you to have premarital sex, of course, but a girl like you should be dating the captain of the football team.
We were discussing narcissistic parenting styles on Facebook the other day and I wish I had this quote at my fingertips at the time. I leave it to readers to decide if it sounds like anyone they know.

Here’s a puzzle: when is it reasonable to treat poor performance on a math exam as a moral failure Perhaps the relationship is not clear?

On one level, doing well at arithmetic is simply a matter of skills accumulated. You learn to do the mental math, which consists of memorizing addition from 1+1 to 9+9 and multiplication tables from 1x1 to 9x9. Then you learn a series of steps to follow when doing more complex operations in addition and multiplication. At the same time you learn how to do it backwards so you can do subtraction and division.

But it’s also a moral task because learning how to do these things is a matter of self discipline. Assuming you don’t have to deal with special mental challenges, it’s expected that you will “get” arithmetic. That’s a moral expectation and your mother and father will see it as a moral failure if you don’t.

This requires that they make accurate assessments of what it is reasonable to expect from you. At some point, after passing calculus and linear algebra in my case, you’re allowed to stop. No more is expected of you unless you really want to do it. If you decide you want to do more, then it is reasonable to expect that you do it well.

There is classic child-parent encounter on the front of “I can’t do any more”. It starts with a walk in the park perhaps and the three-year-old says, “I can’t go on” and the parent either picks them up and carries them or insist that they keep pushing. The parent has no strict calculus to make this determination. They simply judge the child based on their experience.

And the parent might well fail morally here. She might cruelly drive the child to the point of injury but that is extremely unlikely. The more common occurrence is she will think it easier to just give in and carry the child rather than help them develop self-discipline. And so children grow up to be weaklings.

And what of the failure of the mother in the example above? The problem is not that she criticizes her daughter for failure rather than sin for failure can be a sin. No, what she has done is to establish an unrealistic explanation. She has failed to assess the situation.

The captain of the senior football team gets sex from the girl he dates. Perhaps not at a strict Christian high school but any other high school he does and no sex means you aren’t his girlfriend. To expect a daughter to meet both conditions of no premarital sex and captain of the football team is impossible and the mother who pushes for such a thing is cruel and heartless.

You could put together a whole list of such statements:
“Just stand up to bully, he’ll back down.” 
“When I was your age I was slim without ever dieting or exercising.” 
“Your cousin Archibald plays the piano beautifully and he never took a lesson.”
A parent who’d say such things does incredible damage to her children.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

When your illusions are shattered ...

... the thing to remember is that they were your illusions. You didn't think of them yourself; you simply chose them from the available options. Maybe you didn't even find them yourself but had to wait out until some seemingly helpful person showed them to you. If so, that seemingly helpful person may even be the one who later shattered them. But they were your illusions because you embraced them.

File that under the heading of "advice I really could have used back in 1983".

What I'm wondering about now is revisiting them. The illusions. What was it that swept me up sometime in the 1970s and made me so vulnerable to those pedlars of illusions who were such a big part of my life. There is no point in blaming them—I think they were just as vulnerable to those illusions themselves, which is why they were so effective at selling them—but the illusions themselves should be scrutinized.

The final episode of Mad Men end with "I'd like to teach the world to sing". I'm three years younger than Bobby Draper and seven years older than Matthew Weiner. There was a recited word hit of a poem called Desiderata maybe a year or two later than the supposed end of Mad Men. It's the sort of thing you don't publicly admit to liking but it was in high rotation on all the radio stations the year I was twelve and that sort of thing can make a really deep impression on a boy.

I have reservations about it now but there is also some good advice in that poem. That said, even at twelve, I only turned it up when I was the only person in the room. But that kind of thinking was much in the air then. And that is the atmosphere that led Matthew Weiner to create this.

Okay, but is that an illusion? The temptation is to say yes but I think it's just a hope. Even the people who embrace stuff like this know the world isn't really like that.

This, on the other hand, is illusion. It's also much better art and I can't help but wish that the series had ended here instead of as above. More interestingly, for my purposes, it almost exactly mirrors the ending above only with a seemingly more cynical ending. I say seemingly because this is what illusions look like.

If you want to sell someone, like yourself, a whole boatload of illusions, the way to do it is to make it look like you're a cynic dismantling illusions. And that was the kind of illusion I grew up with: the illusion of being above illusions. One of the options on the table, I can't say whether it was the only one, but one of the things I was taught from an early age I was taught to cynically doubt not only other people's motives but also their hopes and dreams. As I say, I embraced these illusions so I don't blame others.

Monday, March 13, 2017

When people close to you attack you

Here's how Thomas Friedman began his column a little more than a year ago:
I find this election bizarre for many reasons but none more than this: If I were given a blank sheet of paper and told to write down America’s three greatest sources of strength, they would be “a culture of entrepreneurship,” “an ethic of pluralism” and the “quality of our governing institutions.” And yet I look at the campaign so far and I hear leading candidates trashing all of them.  
Donald Trump is running against pluralism. Bernie Sanders shows zero interest in entrepreneurship and says the Wall Street banks that provide capital to risk-takers are involved in “fraud,” and Ted Cruz speaks of our government in the same way as the anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist, who says we should shrink government “to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” (Am I a bad person if I hope that when Norquist slips in that bathtub and has to call 911, no one answers?)
Now, there is a tremendous problem with sloppy logic here. Donald Trump is running against pluralism? Not exactly. We wouldn't say that someone who opposes a certain kind of exercise is opposed to physical fitness. But there is a deeper problem than that and it's in the last line. Grover Norquist wants government to have much less influence over our lives and he used a colourful metaphor to describe that. Friedman wants Norquist to suffer.

And note that wanting smaller government is taken as being identical to wanting to shut down emergency services. Is Friedman actually so stupid as to believe that? Think carefully about your answer because if he isn't stupid then he is dishonest and manipulative.

I suspect that a big part of what motivates Friedman is fear. He can't imagine life without big government and so he engages in vicious and unfair attacks on people who think otherwise. A consequence of this way of thinking and behaving, however, is to shrink our sense of community. In Friedman's world there are good people who believe in big government (and Friedman can't imagine quality government being anything other than big government) and there are people he wishes would suffer because they have the wrong beliefs. That doesn't leave a lot of common ground.

Social psychologists have long known that we present different faces to different people. We do this based on the level of commitment. Friedman may well wish Norquist, whom he doesn't know or care about, dead for simply having the wrong opinions but he is unlikely (I hope) to think the same thing if his wife or one of his children became a libertarian. He might wish that they didn't think this way and may even have heated arguments with them about it. But he'd still love them. If, on the other hand, he meets someone on the bus and they express such a view, he might decide to change seats. The degree of commitment to the person matters.

For that reason, we can usually be more open with the people closest to us. We can say what we really think and not worry that they are suddenly going to start yelling and screaming at us or that they will stop speaking with us. But what if they do just that?

Facebook is a particularly interesting test case for this. You present more or less the same face to everyone on Facebook. What does it mean if people who are supposed to be in your core group of close friends and family respond to your opinions with anger and threats to cut you off while others calmly accept your right to have these opinions? It means they aren't really your close friends or family anymore. They may even be your enemies now. It's nothing you did. They chose this. You don't have to do anything about that. I'd argue that you shouldn't do anything about it. I mean, you shouldn't retaliate or try to convince them to change their minds.

Friday, March 10, 2017

On loving your enemies

The Office of Readings for today has a great reading on loving your enemies by Saint Aelred, abbot. I've always had great difficulty with the notion of loving your enemy.

As I was reading it, it suddenly hit me that two people I have lately had trouble with are, in fact, enemies. They are not enemies by my choice but by their choice. They have attacked me for years now and, a few months after each attack, come back and re-established "friendship". And I, like Charlie Brown when Lucy offers t hold the football, have cheerfully readmitted them. That won't happen again.

I'll forgive them and do my best to forget this latest affront. But I'll have nothing more to do with them. They aren't friends because they don't act like friends even when they aren't being jerks.

Not surprisingly, Aelred gives Jesus as the exemplar of how to love your enemies. I won't pretend to even come close to him in terms of forgiveness but it struck me as I read the piece that Jesus never made the mistake of thinking his enemies to be friends. He asked that they be forgiven and even suggested that they only did what they did because of a misunderstanding but nowhere in the gospels does he pretend they are his friends.

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. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Jane Austen and fortitude

After yesterday's post, I think I am prepared to answer a question that has long puzzled me: Why did Jane Austen rate constancy so high? It was, for her, the supreme virtue. That is to say, of the virtues a human being could develop by themselves, constancy was the highest and the most important. It was the virtue that made all the other virtues work together.

That's worth lingering on for a moment to remind ourselves of a really basic point. Honesty and patience are both virtues but even a person possessed of these needs to have a higher virtue directing them to be virtuous in a general sense. It wouldn't do to be honest with Nazis nor does it make sense to be patient with them, except as a ruse to save your life right now and, ideally, set them up so you can defeat them in other ways later.

For Jane Austen then, constancy was the virtue that pulled the others into line. That is interesting in that it conflicts with the standard order which tends to place prudence and justice above constancy. For example,  the Catholic church, following Aquinas, prudence is the supreme virtue. Aquinas said that justice serves prudence because prudence was the greatest human virtue. Constancy was a product of fortitude and it, third on the list, served both justice and prudence. Now, there was no good reason for Austen to accept Catholic morality but she would not reject it out of hand either.

I think the way to answer the question is to approach it from another angle because it's a bit easier to figure out why she didn't simply take fortitude in preference to constancy. Fortitude or courage were too much associated with masculinity for Austen's purposes. Jane Austen was not a feminist, at least not in the modern sense, but she was very much concerned with women and that was a decidedly rebellious thing to do in her era. We might call her a more prudent rebel than, to pick the obvious example, Mary Wollstonecraft.

Austen was well aware that physical fortitude and moral fortitude (which is another way of saying constancy) were related and even knew that moral fortitude was impossible without physical fortitude. Fanny's success is very much a product of her physical fitness and Marianne Dashwood's near disaster is very much a product of her failing to take care of her body. But Austen saw physical fitness as something that was not wholly in a woman's ability to control herself. Fanny's fitness depends on Edmund Bertram standing up for her and making sure she gets opportunity to exercise.

Now we might condemn Austen for not being feminist enough on this point but her attitudes are probably the result of her recognizing the grim realities of her time. Women simply were dependent on men for protection to a degree that we find it hard to imagine.

The more difficult question is why Austen emphasized constancy while recognizing that physical fortitude was a necessary but not sufficient condition for it. Why not, as tradition had, embrace a more general virtue that included both physical and moral fortitude? The answer to that, I think, is that she did so precisely because a woman's physical health was not under her control, which is to say her body was not under her control. And, in the late 18th and early 19th century, it was not. That is hard for us to grasp because a woman's right to control her own body is the starting point for feminism.

And we can carry that logic on to see that prudence and justice were also matters that were largely outside a woman's control. In a rigidly controlled class structure such as existed at the time, what counted as justice would have been fixed items for most people. Likewise, being prudent is less important when most of your fate is contingent on matters you could not hope to control. The very richest would have been able to get away with things that others could not, and we see that reflected in a characters such as Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice but Austen grasped that for women of her class, that is to say, the lower gentry, "prudence" and "justice" meant no more than conforming to what was expected of you.

Constancy becomes the supreme virtue because it was the most important virtue that is mostly within a woman's control. It is there that a woman can succeed as a woman to the degree that success is possible. And we read Austen incorrectly if we fail to see how much of Elinor's, Elizabeth's and Fanny's fate is beyond their control; things could have gone very, very wrong for any of them even had they always behaved absolutely impeccably. In fact, we can see that Fanny had far less leeway than Elinor and Elinor had less than Elizabeth. Emma, on the other hand, is rich enough that she could be far stupider and still get away with it, as she did.

Austen's position on the virtues is, for the above reasons, very much like that of the Roman stoics. They were also writing in a rigid society where what counted as justice was largely given and where prudence was likely to be over-shadowed by reversals of fortune you could not hope to control. They, however, emphasized courage and believed that human beings should be indifferent to their emotions. Austen recognized that emotions could be channeled—that a moral life required us to bot nurture and control our feelings. That makes her one of the most important writers on morality of the modern era.

I think it also, and I'll come back to this, makes her worthy of being called not just romantic but the greatest of the romantics.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Some stuff I'm just working out

In theological parlance faith, hope and love are known as the theological virtues. Faith is especially related to the intellect and its pursuit of truth, hope to the memory and its experience of beauty and love to the will and its appetite for goodness. (from Benedict XVI: A Guide for the Perplexed)
Hope is related to memory and its experience of beauty! That is fascinating. I don't much about all this as the medieval accounts of the virtues are new to me.

The text goes on to say,
The theological virtues are also related to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit with wisdom, understanding and knowledge having a particular association with faith, fortitude with hope, and fear of the Lord and piety with love.
Why does fortitude go with hope?

Fortitude is a cardinal virtue. That means a lot of stuff but the thing that I'm thinking about now is that it is one of the virtues that you can cultivate on your own. That is unlike the theological virtues which only come with grace. On the other hand, how do "gifts of the Holy Spirit" work? Is the fortitude that comes as a gift of the Holy Spirit a special variety of fortitude that cannot be had through conscientious habit formation alone? Probably.

Fortitude, in Catholic moral thinking, is what gives us constancy. Is that constancy the same as what Jane Austen understood as constancy? It gets tricky here because the vocabulary is fluid.

In the medieval discussion of the virtues, "fortitude" replaces the classical virtue of "courage". Fortitude is understood to be more than courage. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1809) says,
Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause.
For Jane Austen, the supreme examples of Constancy are Fanny Price in Mansfield Park and Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility. We see it most impressively when Sir Thomas, irked at Fanny for refusing the marriage proposal of Henry Crawford, sends her home to endure the squalor of poverty in the hopes that this will make her change her mind. Fanny holds out even though it becomes painfully obvious to both her and us that she may live a horrible life as a price of her constancy. So, yes, I'd say that Austen means the same thing by constancy as the Catholic church does by fortitude.

And that's all I'll say for now.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Is narcissism really THE problem?

Up until a week ago, I would have said it was.

I've tended to buy into the claim that narcissism is the major problem in our culture but I've always had problems spelling it out. A while back, Amy asked me to spell out what I understood to be narcissism and why it was a social problem. Not for the first time, I found that what seemed clear when I didn't have to explain it, suddenly became murky when I did.

And then I saw a reworking of Waterhouse's painting of Echo and Narcissus. If you don't feel like going to the link, instead of staring down into the water, Narcissus is staring down into a smartphone whose screen is labelled "Instagram".  I saw it on Facebook and it struck me as shallow and stupid.

And then I had to figure out why I felt that way.

The painting has two figures: Echo and Narcissus. Who are we in this interaction? I'm sure we all agree that we're not Narcissus. So we're Echo then? What's she like?

I keep seeing these babe pictures on Facebook. Some woman desperate for attention posts a picture of herself in a bathing suit. We all see through the tricks she has used to make herself look better than she really does and yet all her friends click on "like". A few even write comments. And we privately call her a narcissist.

It strikes me as more like Echo and her problem is echoism, to coin a term. The person who does this desperately needs others to validate her worth. (In mythology, Echo distracted Hera with her lively chatter until Zeus and the nymphs he had been philandering with got away. Hera punished her by rendering her only capable of answering back the concluding words of what others had said to her. Those are the two poles of echoism: chattering to distract others so they don't figure out what we really are up to and feeding back what others give us.)

The true narcissist is the one who comments on her post, "Looking good".

Did you catch it? If you say, "Looking good", the flip side of that is an implication that she doesn't always look this good. The echoist reading that comment will feel happy then empty and will have to go back to the narcissist for more. When she does, the narcissist will make her earn it. The narcissist would be relatively harmless if we didn't have these weaknesses.

I think we have more to fear from the echoism than narcissism for the echoist enables the narcissist.

I had to deal with a narcissist for years. By herself, she was pathetic but her power and reach came from the forces she could draw on. She could draw on echoists, some of whom were in her own family, by simply threatening to withdraw her love, and they'd be her stormtroopers.

Today, the Prime Minister of Canada is a narcissist—a painfully shallow boy. The same was true of Obama. Neither is particularly intelligent in the normal sense of the term. What they have going for them is that they are geniuses at exploiting the weakness and insecurity of others. "Because it's 2015!" is a stupid and empty thing to say but Justin Trudeau could count on a whole lot of people cheering him for doing so because it made them feel like insiders. He knows that people will check their brains at the door for the chance to feel they are on the ride side of the joke.

There is no obvious cure for this problem. On one level it seems obvious: we need to be strong and stand up for ourselves but try spelling out what you mean by that and you run into trouble. Shouldn't you be standing up for others? Do you really want to find the meaning to your life inside yourself? Whatever that means.

In the story Ovid tells and Waterhouse painted (image above courtesy of Wikipedia), there are only two people. If Echo does not seek to fulfill her desperate need for love from Narcissus, the only person she has left to go to is herself. That isn't as crazy as it might seem. A well-regulated self love is essential to a virtuous life. But what regulates it? If the only measure of what is well-regulated is our own feedback, then we cease being Echo only to become Narcissus.

Social science only gets us so far. We need to be able to reference moral realities and not just psychological states or interpersonal relationships to get out of this trap.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Constancy 2

Some final thoughts about constancy and, for now, Elinor Dashwood.

I've been thinking about Elinor in comparison to the stoics. The stoics also believed that emotions entailed judgments. They believed we should resist emotions. When I feel passionate in response to something I see, I should resist that passion and be rational instead. They thought of emotions as passions, things that drove us, that we were being passive when we allowed our emotions to run.

And that is certainly true in some cases. If I let my anger run free, I will soon reach a point where I am a raging out of control. And Elinor, in the quote I began with, was worried about a similar process with another emotion.
She knew that what Marianne and her mother conjectured one moment, they believed the next—that with them, to wish was to hope, and to hope was to expect.
The process whereby we allow our anger to feed itself and become more and more convinced we are are entitled to lash out at others is like that.

The stoic solution, however, is very different from Elinor's. She would reign in her feelings. She is willing to let them drive her. She is Platonic in the sense that she thinks the passions are a force to drive our lives like a horse drives a chariot. They would act as if they didn't have any. They believe that by doing this, they act more rationally. Eilnor doesn't think that way. She thinks having feelings is very important; she believes that they are what drives us in helpful ways.

To do so they have to be the right sort of feelings. We have to have a fundamental disposition. If I spend a lifetime letting myself lose my temper, my fundamental disposition will be harmful. If I spend it channeling and controlling my emotions, I'm more likely to have a good fundamental disposition.

That opens up a whole lot of questions that I don't necessarily want to answer now so I'll stop here for now.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A Lenten Project

I don't own this image or the words attached. I found them on Facebook. I do mean to own them in the sense of internalizing the moral attitude expressed. (If you do own the image and/or words and object to my using them, let me know.)