The Federalist published an essay today trying to reinvent, no doubt for the ten millionth time in human history, a reason for reading the classics. Why Reading Jane Austen is Essential to Understanding Virtue and Vice, is a new iteration on this old trope and useful since “virtue” and “vice” seem to have gone the way of the IBM Selectric. Utility and advancement, getting yours, grinding till you own it, as Beyonce says, is pretty much the dominant philosophy sold by popular culture.
I’ve tried living for pleasure and utility. It sucked. It hurt me. It hurt other people. So I returned to the sterner path a couple decades ago and it served me well. I notice among my women friends that feminism has served them ill, in telling them their deepest impulses are good and to be celebrated because all hell is brought by the patriarchy. I watch them tormented by greed and envy, lust and pride, inevitably followed by self-hatred and depression. It is a hell of a trap, and one can say nothing that wouldn’t be received as invasive and judgmental.
“Virtues like courage and moderation are character traits that reveal themselves when one is faced with great adversity or great pleasure. When one reacts courageously to the circumstances one might face or when behaves moderately in the face of great pleasure, one exercises virtue.”
Behaving moderately in the face of great pleasure, however, that I have yet to master. I’d love to try again.