gall and gumption

Monday, January 07, 2008

Is It Like Being in Love?

I got a comment from kmcleod in response to that post on Montaigne, and then I had another bout of insomnia. No cause and effect implied: but once awake I had the choice of thinking about some stuff I really don't like to think about, or keeping this topic going a little longer by responding to this interesting comment.

I believe that one does the right thing because it’s the right thing. No reward or pleasure is guaranteed, so satisfaction shouldn’t be a motivation. Of course I’m saying this because this week I’ve repeatedly done the right thing and as a result have experienced one of my lousier weeks. Opportunities to do so can’t be predicted, any more than the effects. I can’t even come into work this morn without two cars crashing together in front of me. Anyway, since the human race has its own fate in its hands, little acts of constructive behavior contribute to our survival, as if one was adding a rivet, a brick or a seed. Maybe I don’t believe in a personal karma but in a moral ecology instead. That’s what I don’t understand about Huckabee, Romney and their followers. Doing the right thing shouldn’t just be a side effect of faith. If it’s simply an act of obedience, where’s the morality?


I don't think you're in disagreement with Montaigne. He's not suggesting that the pleasure of goodness is a reward that comes along with the unpleasant act of doing the right thing, but that it is inherent in the act. Your doing the right thing didn't prevent unpleasant things from happening but if you hadn't done the right thing you would probably have felt worse. So let's set that as the baseline minimum of pleasure you get out of doing the right thing: "At least I won't wake up in the middle of the night feeling like an asshole. This time." Because I certainly miss my fair number of shots at the right thing. Montaigne's idea is that the desire for good, the appetite for it, feels like being in love: it's inspiring, it's energizing, it's empowering, it's all sorts of prospects of pleasure that change the face of the world. Montaigne is saying that you can have a vision, an idea of good, that can have that effect on you, and working your way towards acting and living it (you'll never completely get there) is itself pleasure, because the thing itself -- virtue for its own sake -- is so beautiful. I mean, when you’re in love with someone, even a little thing like when they give you their phone number on a piece of paper, or leave their voice on a voicemail, these things are precious.

Montaigne is drawing this idea from the Epicureans basically, even though he's Catholic. The idea of "rewards" for spiritual acts seems very Christian to me, by contrast, and, of course, it's ingrained in our culture, as is the idea that we ought to do right for more magnanimous reasons than the hope of a reward (here or in the afterlife). OK, and look at that comparison: between "it's the right thing" and "for a reward." You have a definite preference for "it's the right thing" and so do I. I think that preference is related to a sense of rightness: that magnanimity is uh, well, more beautiful. You know that your unpleasant experiences won't put you off doing the right thing next time, and then, not only that, you offer up this neat image of what it means to you:

ittle acts of constructive behavior contribute to our survival, as if one was adding a rivet, a brick or a seed.

Yeah. Well, Montaigne would only add to this the power of the heroic example. You know, the reason why all those smart, talented young officers stuck with George Washington as he lost battle after battle after battle. They adored him. Or why people were galvanized into action behind Martin Luther King, Jr. Love was a big part of it.

But I’ll tell you: we need another Nathaniel Hawthorne to describe to the world how the devil walks around dressed as a fundy preacher in our time, preaching degraded Calvinism that translates into “unpleasant experience is virtue for the Less Fortunate,” and offering an almost bottomless narcissism, narcissism bordering on crazy, for the Chosen. Hume wrote about it in his History of England; it really didn’t take long before the Puritans who took over the government showed a remarkable disposition for greed, corruption, vindictiveness, abuse of power, and other depravities big and small. The same attitudes, of exceptionalism based on what you believe and not on how you treat others, the sense of unrestrained entitlement that goes with it, they brought here with them and it is like Dracula, it just will not die. It’s just beaming out of Huckabee’s face, isn’t it? And he’s got all the loot to show for it, not to mention that houseful of hearty eaters. And Romney sincerely telling a different lie every week, trying to hit on the secret magical formula of words that will release all those fundy votes: it’s like watching a man trying to sell the devil his soul and the devil isn’t interested, and finally the devil looks up from cutting his toenails and says, “I’ll take it, for nothing,” and Mitt replies promptly with a handshake and a big grin, “You got a deal, Mister!” It’s a freak show, it’s a farce, and no, there is no morality there.

10 Comments:

At 12:20 PM, Blogger L7 said...

This is so interesting to me, that we do the right thing because it is the right thing, and--even though it might mean inconvenience or sacrifice--it does grant us this sense of grace and even pleasure, not the least of which being the pleasure of self-respect, that luxury of having a mind at ease because how can you possibly live with yourself if you do otherwise? (Which is why I try to encourage my daughters to do what is right without contaminating their motive with bribery.)
I guess those who've sold their soul get used to looking at the asshole in the mirror and pretending he is the fairest of them all.

 
At 4:54 PM, Anonymous Andrew said...

Maybe add Hogg's The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner to the Hawthorne.

 
At 1:06 PM, Blogger kmcleod said...

This hits another good point:

"Your doing the right thing didn't prevent unpleasant things from happening but if you hadn't done the right thing you would probably have felt worse. So let's set that as the baseline minimum of pleasure you get out of doing the right thing: "At least I won't wake up in the middle of the night feeling like an asshole. This time." "

Since you can’t live a life without causing some inadvertent damage, not only does it help to do the right thing, it also helps to do as little damage as possible.

As far as ‘is it like being in love?’ is concerned, when I read this:
"Montaigne's idea is that the desire for good, the appetite for it, feels like being in love: it's inspiring, it's energizing, it's empowering, it's all sorts of prospects of pleasure that change the face of the world. "

--I thought of Obama’s followers.

 
At 9:52 PM, Blogger oakleyses said...

christian louboutin shoes, louis vuitton outlet, true religion, coach outlet, gucci handbags, polo ralph lauren outlet, christian louboutin outlet, michael kors outlet, prada handbags, nike outlet, polo ralph lauren, ray ban outlet, nike free, michael kors outlet store, louis vuitton handbags, louis vuitton, cheap oakley sunglasses, christian louboutin, chanel handbags, tiffany and co jewelry, michael kors outlet online, ray ban sunglasses, oakley vault, prada outlet, michael kors outlet online, true religion outlet, michael kors outlet online, nike air max, coach outlet store online, oakley sunglasses, burberry outlet online, nike air max, michael kors handbags, longchamp outlet online, kate spade outlet online, burberry outlet online, longchamp handbags, kate spade outlet, jordan shoes, red bottom shoes, longchamp outlet, tory burch outlet online, coach outlet, louis vuitton outlet online, louis vuitton outlet, coach purses, tiffany jewelry

 
At 9:54 PM, Blogger oakleyses said...

louis vuitton pas cher, ralph lauren pas cher, vans pas cher, lululemon, lacoste pas cher, nike air max, air max, abercrombie and fitch, timberland, nike free pas cher, sac michael kors, louis vuitton uk, north face, new balance pas cher, barbour, north face pas cher, tn pas cher, nike roshe run, burberry pas cher, hollister, ray ban pas cher, nike air force, true religion outlet, ralph lauren, mulberry, nike air max, oakley pas cher, nike free, longchamp, chaussure louboutin, nike roshe, michael kors canada, air max pas cher, true religion jeans, sac louis vuitton, longchamp pas cher, hollister, michael kors uk, converse pas cher, air jordan, louis vuitton, scarpe hogan, ray ban uk, nike blazer pas cher, guess pas cher, sac vanessa bruno, hermes pas cher

 
At 9:58 PM, Blogger oakleyses said...

mont blanc pens, canada goose, uggs outlet, p90x workout, reebok shoes, chi flat iron, babyliss, soccer jerseys, valentino shoes, instyler ionic styler, insanity workout, bottega veneta, north face jackets, ugg soldes, canada goose outlet, beats headphones, hollister, uggs outlet, soccer shoes, new balance outlet, asics shoes, abercrombie and fitch, mcm handbags, wedding dresses, ugg boots, canada goose outlet, lululemon outlet, ugg outlet, celine handbags, birkin bag, replica watches, nike roshe, nfl jerseys, north face jackets, vans outlet, nike trainers, ugg, ghd, ferragamo shoes, canada goose outlet, mac cosmetics, ugg boots, longchamp, giuseppe zanotti, herve leger, nike huarache, uggs on sale, jimmy choo shoes, marc jacobs outlet

 
At 10:00 PM, Blogger oakleyses said...

links of london uk, swarovski jewelry, moncler, pandora uk, canada goose, supra shoes, ray ban, timberland shoes, hollister, juicy couture outlet, moncler outlet, thomas sabo uk, coach outlet, vans, gucci, hollister canada, parajumpers outlet, oakley, canada goose, moncler, swarovski uk, montre femme, louis vuitton canada, moncler, wedding dress, uggs canada, converse shoes, air max, lancel, toms outlet, juicy couture outlet, hollister clothing, moncler, baseball bats, pandora charms, louboutin, ralph lauren, replica watches, converse, ugg, moncler outlet, canada goose, karen millen, iphone 6 case, moncler, nike air max, pandora jewelry, canada goose pas cher

 
At 11:15 PM, Blogger Junda Xu said...

20151020 junda
Coach Factory Handbags Outlet Store
nfl jerseys
coach canada
Michael Kors Outlet Deals Online
Abercrombie and Fitch Outlet Sale
louis vuitton outlet
Michael Kors Outlet Real Handbags Online
Jordan 6 Rings Powder Blue
michael kors outlet
louis vuitton handbags
cheap uggs
cheap toms shoes
coach factory outlet
Louis Vuitton Outlet USA
ralph lauren uk
ugg boots
Discount Ray Ban Polarized Sunglasses
Ugg Boots,Ugg Boots Outlet,Ugg Outlet,Cheap Uggs,Uggs On Sale,Ugg Boots Clearance,Uggs For Women
ugg boots
air max 95,nike golf,nike janoski,air max 1,nike canada,nike plus,nike shox,nike factory store
coach outlet
ugg boots clearance
coach outlet online
Michael Kors Outlet Handbags Factory Price
Louis Vuitton Handbags Factory Store
Michael Kors Outlet Sale Clearance
coach factory outlet
ugg boots australia
canada goose jackets
louis vuitton outlet

 
At 12:06 AM, Blogger 柯云 said...

2015-12-28keyun
canada goose
cheap oakley sunglasses
michael kors outlet
louis vuitton bags
cheap air jordans
uggs sale
timberlands
michael kors outlet
kevin durant shoes
rolex watches
michael kors outlet store
ray ban sunglasses
michael kors outlet
ugg boots
ugg outlet store
coach factory outlet
louboutin femme
oakley sunglasses
mont blanc mountain
cheap oakley sunglasses
ugg boots sale
mulberry uk
sunglasses oakley
louis vuitton handbags
lebron 12
air max 95
ralph lauren outlet
giuseppe zanotti outlet
ugg boots sale
nike air huarache
hollister clothing
ugg australia
tory burch outlet
ralph lauren sale
louis vuitton handbags
nike running shoes for men
oakley sunglasses
ugg outlet
tiffany jewelry
louis vuitton outlet

 
At 2:23 PM, Blogger داليا said...

https://decor-ksa.com/
http://mchaabaty.com/dawadmi/
http://mchaabaty.com/templates/
http://mchaabaty.com/riyadh/

 

Post a Comment

<< Home