Round-Up: Non-Dead-Weeds Edition
Posted by Joseph Moore on October 9, 2013
1. So, have added several more drafts to the pile, things that need just a little more research, just a bit more tweaking, before they’re ready. If drafts were firewood, it would look as if I were preparing to immolate a Homeric hero or two. And, been busy and exhausting at work. Yea, yea, cry me a river.
2. Darwin Catholic has written on something I’d noticed as well: the modern presumption that, because someone is a ‘good person’ (however that’s defined) whatever it is that they do must not be bad. I’m reminded of the Flannery O’Connor story A Good Man is Hard to Find, wherein a sunny matriarch continues to rely on the fundamental niceness of the polite and well-mannered gangster she and her family have fallen in with – right up until the moment he has them all executed (gangland style, one presumes). Exterminating families on vacation can’t be bad, after all, if nice people do it.
3. I could link to Dr. Boli pretty much daily:
Diversity, used in this way, is the mirror image of discrimination: not all diversity is good, just as not all discrimination is bad. Harrison Bergeron, and all that.
4. Mike Flynn posted links to his series on Hypatia that he did a few years ago – one of my favorites, and a gateway drug to history and the subsequent questioning of Modernity and its foundational myths. I just reread it – please, do so, you’ll thank me a little and Mr. Flynn much.
5. Been pondering the eternal verity of Calicles’s definition of virtue (at least, as it applies to politicians such as himself), and how, 2500 years later, it still so perfectly describes politicians, most especially those that might be described as being of the Chicago School.
Virtue comes from the Latin ‘vir’, a manly-man – so, virtue is what makes one a manly man. In Greek, the word is ἀρετή, (arete) which means excellence. The Greek idea is a bit broader than the Roman, in that everything has an excellence against which it might be measured, while one suspects the Romans saw a virtuous man as the apex, that against which all that is excellent in human life should be measured. Be that as it may, it is good to contemplate how, to a Roman, a man needed to be virtuous in order to be a real man – brave, honorable, strong, and so forth. There’s not the slightest hint of weakness to Roman virtue. This has carried down to the present day in the Church’s prayers for the feasts of women martyrs, wherein they are praised for their manly virtue. This is not to suggest that heroism and bravery are not a part of being an excellent women, but rather that the kind of heroism displayed in martyrdom is more properly the excellence of a man – the willingness to face death rather than accept dishonor.
Back to Calicles, who was an up and coming Athenian politician when he locked horns with Socrates in the Gorgias. He states that virtue – excellence – is the ability to reward your friends, punish your enemies, and indulge your every desire. I think here of, for example, the consummate politician LBJ. He was famous for keeping exact score – of knowing who owed him, who he owed, and who needed to be punished. Our entire hope, when one such as this comes to power (as they almost invariably do) is that their desires are not too destructive. Yet, even such as LBJ, a man who did, after all, spend his political capital on getting the Civil Rights Act passed* could be remarkably petty in making people pay for crossing him.
New standards in petty seem to get set every day.
* over the vigorous opposition of those in his own party, meaning, at the end, he was in a terrible position of owing his ‘friends’ – something Calicles would recognize as essentially precarious. An excellent politician should always be owed, and seek to never owe – that’s political freedom and power.