Matt Perryman

How to want the finer things in life

By Matt Perryman

If you’ve got a gutter-mind, as many do today, the word desire may as well mean lust.

If it isn’t about lust, it’s about food.

Food, or status, or money.

What do you want?

If there’s no barriers to a good answer, then there can no surprises. What you want is whatever depravities the darkest, nastiest parts of the Id can cough up. The basements of the human mind are dirty, filthy places.

But that’s not really true, is it? Nobody with a healthy, sane, adjusted mind truly wants all the stinking phlegm coughed up from the unconscious.

Darker thoughts are held in check by an innate sense of right and wrong.

Does that irritate you? Does it set off your skeptical alarm?

It ought to.

Our declining civilization doesn’t think too well of words like “moral” or “ethical”. When it does talk about these matters, moral goodness comes off as stupid, blind, often self-destructive altruism.

The right thing to do is cut off your own arm and sacrifice your first-born to appear nice in front of strangers.

It’s no wonder Nietzsche rubbished the whole thing as a scam enacted by hordes of fake virtue signalers.

There’s a difference between real virtue and mere signaling, though.

The ancients knew this. They didn’t have a concept of “morality” like we do. The used the virtues to judge a person’s character and actions in many different ways.

Courage, self-control, justice, and practical wisdom were the big four.

It’s interesting that there’s nothing there about “being nice” or “kindness”. That came centuries later with the Christian theologians and philosophers.

As in many things, St. Thomas Aquinas captured a powerful idea when he wrote that mercy without justice is idiocy, and justice without mercy is cruelty.

He didn’t phrase it exactly like that. I’m taking liberties. That’s the key idea.

The thing about the virtues which makes them so different from today’s “be good” morality is that there are many of them, representing different types of excellence.

It is entirely possible for someone to be so giving and so kind that their altruism becomes a problem.

Likewise, somebody addicted to obeying the law, with no feel for the situation, can become a cruel SOB.

What do you want?

Better yet, how do you want the fine, noble, and excellent things?

Humans are wired to want lots of things.

Some of those wants aim at higher goods like mercy and justice.

Some of them are base animal appetites.

And the catch is, you can’t live them all. Even the virtues are often incompatible in any situation.

The point is not to “be moral”.

It’s also not, “do whatever you want”.

The way to do good things is to value fine things — such as making excellent decisions about what to do, right here and now.

Matt Perryman

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