Inspiring Enchantment & Illumination with Tarot & Intuitive Guidance

Being Reasonable

Virtue does not come from wealth, but…wealth,
and every other good thing which men have…comes from virtue.

— Socrates

The matter of Virtue – what it is, and how it may be able to help humans make sound decisions and live good, fulfilling lives, has been a central premise in religious and philosophical traditions for thousands of years.

As was noted yesterday, much of our modern world has been built on the elevation of rational, logical thought as being a foolproof guiding principle. By our great human gift of reasoning, the assumption goes, we can clearly distinguish between right and wrong, value and vice. Living a virtuous life is the rational choice, and the reasonable person is bound to automatically be a good person.

While it was, I believe, a step forward to discard the belief that humanity is intrinsically sinful, evil, cursed or “fallen,” the belief that sheer rationale alone will make us virtuous ignores the fact that for many people, their appetites, greed, and desires are not controlled by reason at all.

And furthermore, history is riddled with the sorry results of people completely ignoring logic and objective evidence, and acting against their own best interests. From going to war under dubious circumstances to the women who rallied around Phyllis Schlafly and defeated the Equal Rights Amendment, such behavior is all too common. In all fairness, of course, such behaviors are often (but not always) the consequence of being manipulated as pawns in some grander strategy, by forces we do not always fully comprehend.

As Matthew Pianalto writes in Philosophy Now, “The Greeks recognized that it takes more than a sound argument to get people to do the right thing. People need to be trained to desire and be motivated by the right kinds of things, beginning in childhood.

Aristotle’s basic insight regarding moral education is that people don’t learn how to live virtuously in a classroom or a weekend seminar, because virtue requires not good lecture notes, but practice. Good arguments might be necessary for justifying our actions or for understanding why our actions are right, but they are certainly not sufficient to transform us into moral people.”

If you have ever tried to use logic and argument with a usually reasonable nine year old about why he must not climb up on top of the roof, or with a loaded adult who is dead certain she can drive just fine, you know all about this.

So what, exactly, would the ancient Greeks, and other ancestors suggest, in order to undersand and to live a virtuous life?

Stay tuned for more tomorrow.

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  • October 9, 2008, 10:54 am ARIE

    Hi Beth,
    I have problems with the word virtue, and for me it is not quite clear.
    If I look at the definition at:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtue
    I come up with “good” or “moral”.
    But what is good or moral?
    There is no general morality. What is moral in China is immoral in Europe and vice-versa. It consists of various restrictions and various demands. As per Gurdjieff, what is necessary is conscience and taking off all masks. The more moral a man is the more immoral does he think of other moral people. A subjective man can have no general concept of good or evil.
    For a subjective man, evil is everything that is opposed to his desires or interests or to his conception of good. Everything that helps one to awake will be good and everything that prolongs his sleep will be evil.
    So for me, it all comes down to conciousness and awareness. Then I can connect to the Divine. Then there is no Me anymore. Then I am the Divine and the Divine is me. Then information comes through, not by words but by insight.
    Love
    Arie

  • October 9, 2008, 11:31 am Beth Owl's Daughter

    I know, you are so right.. And I think this is really a contributing factor to why many of us have shied away from it for lo! these several centuries..

    Which is why I am thinking of Virtue as something richer and more human than “moral.” Stay tuned, because my own take is leading us straight down the winding path of Witchcraft. 🙂