Peak Virtue

What does it mean to be virtuous? What does the end-game look like?

It’s a weird question, sure. But it seems to be a question not too many speak about.

Here’s what I mean: If you’re a Christian, “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:38-40, Luke 6:28-30) has probably been said to you by people who hate Christianity–and likely other Christians!–to discourage you from fighting back against anything, ever.

But this is silly, right? That’s not what God wants, to let us be patsies and doormats and get rolled by any evildoer whoever happens to come along with ill-intent towards us.

After all, what’s more virtuous: To stand up and fight against those would world enslave or exterminate you, or keep you from proper worship of God? Or to refuse to fight until your enemy runs the world, and you and your children and grandchildren are in abject misery but at least you can say “Man, I turned the other cheek like a goddamn champ!

See what I mean?

This isn’t going to be a verse-slinging post, or a theological one. But I think this example makes a good point out of pinning down what is virtue and how does one practice virtue?

I’ve presented a little bit of an unfair binary question here, but let’s play it out for a bit. Virtue is either:

  1. Standing by your principles, even if it means you and your loved ones die; or
  2. Occasionally violating a principle or principles now in order to prevent ruin and damnation for future generations.

I think it’s pretty clear that this is a difficult choice to make, one that will make the principled feel “icky” (a technical term). But it might be the most difficult choice a man faced in his life.

What would a deontologist do? If you “always do what is right,” do you aid the wounded man you know for certain was about to rape and murder your wife because “it’s the right thing to do” (give aid to the wounded) even though that man will resume trying to rape and murder your wife, or do you let the attempted rapist/murderer die?

Which is objectively better? Which is right? Which is virtuous? Continue reading “Peak Virtue”

Everyone Must Be Right: Why You’ll Never Change Minds

Lately I’ve been fascinated with why people so rarely ever change their minds.

First, the undeniable truth is that if you want to change the world, go into entertainment. 

That said, since most of us won’t, we’re stuck with arguing over the Internet or at a bar. 

When it comes to things like religion, political affiliation, or even who’s the best basketball player ever, we all think we’re right. This is obvious; if we didn’t, why ever hold any opinion?

But suppose everything is not subjective. Suppose there is discoverable, proveable fact and reality.

Let’s define “truth” simply as something that undeniably is. Gravity, for example, and not something being true just because a judge says it is

If you’re presented with undeniable evidence to the contrary of what you believe, wouldn’t you change your mind?
The answer, of course, is no.

Let me rephrase that: the answer, of course, is hell no! 

But why? This is what’s been bugging me lately. 

We so seldom can change other people’s minds, no matter how good we are at persuasion. Now, we have to make a distinction between different conclusions based on the same facts, and situations where the facts only point in one direction.

If someone has a gun pointed at you and says, “I want to kill you,” you reach a different conclusion at your own peril. Yet even impending death isn’t enough to change minds, as we see again and again. 

We all know America is divided; it’s a boring cliché at this point. But surely we could agree on existential threats and how to keep ourselves safe from them?

Again, say it with me now: hell no!

The recent mass murder in Orlando at the Pulse gay club, perpetrated by at least one militant Islamic barbarian, really got to me. It bothered me more than other terror attacks. After some contemplation, I think I know why: 15 years on, and with all of the warning signs, people literally shouting from the mountaintops that they want to kill us, and our leaders still can’t keep us safe.

Even more distressing, about half the country thinks said leadership is doing a wonderful job! These monsters want to throw gays off of buildings and many Americans are arguing in favor of throwing our borders open even wider.

How? Why? How can rational, good, decent people think this way? Are they simply not rational, good, or decent people? Or is their sense of self-worth really that bound up in their politics? If you’re wrong, you’re wrong, right? What’s the big deal?

It can’t be that easy. But I can only conclude that there are only two types of people:

  1. Those who have some objective standard against which they measure their behavior in reality.
  2. Those who think that they create their own objective standard.
  3. Continue reading “Everyone Must Be Right: Why You’ll Never Change Minds”