Tag Archives: Virtue

The Virtue of Charity

Reagan charityIt’s Christmas Season and for me this seems to be a good time to discuss the virtue of charity (also because I’m trying to head off some objections to the last blog on the evils of liberalism even before they’re made).

In my previous blogs I have made the point that claiming we have a responsibility to help “those in need” is evil because it denigrates those supposedly in need because it says that they are not responsible for their situation, that their need is not a result of their actions, that they do not have free will, and reduces them to something less than human…and I still stand by all of this.

Now some may claim, incorrectly that this excludes the virtue of charity.But it does not.

So the easiest way I can start here is to begin with what is charity, and more importantly, what it is not.

Charity, as defined by Merriam-Webster is:

1: benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity
  2 a: generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering; also: aid given to those in need b: an institution engaged in relief of the poor c: public provision for the relief of the needy  
3 a: a gift for public benevolent purposes b: an institution (as a hospital) founded by such a gift

Now in common usage we’re probably more concerned with definitions 2 and 3, but in reality these are your usual corruptions of language that we see in a bastard language like English.I want to focus primarily on definition 1 for the moment.

Benevolence–goodwill–love.

Where do we find this in human relations?

Well, for a minute I want you to think about the ways you can deal with another person.There are only three ways you can deal with anyone: force, reason and love.You can deal with them through force either because you are a brute or they are a brute and incapable of being dealt with in either of the other ways; in either case you are assuming the person you are dealing with is inferior to you (usually because they are incapable or unwilling to use reason, which does make them less than human and more like an animal). Obviously this would seemingly have nothing to do with charity, but sadly this is the way most people view charity, especially the evil that is modern liberalism. Liberals, and government in general, say “you are incapable of raising yourself out of whatever problems ails you without our help, you are inferior to us, and no amount of education or good luck will ever get you out of your problems on your own.You NEED our help, and will die without it.You are less than human.”As such, liberal charity given without regard to who receives it, and welfare especially, is quite like violence, although probably not as honest as bloodshed.

Then as suggested by the previous statement you can deal with people through reason. Reason is a faculty of being human and to use reason suggests that the person you are dealing with is reasonable, thus human, and thus reason is an expression of ‘I view you as an equal.’Now a reasonable person can be foolish and not recognize that the person they are dealing with is incapable of reason (for instance Neville Chamberlain or U.S. foreign policy of wanting to “talk” to Iran) and a reasonable person can also act through violence when confronting someone who is unreasonable because that is the only logical answer (for instance there was no way to deal with the Nazi’s or Iran in a reasonable way that doesn’t involve a massive tonnage of high explosives). Just because someone is reasonable does not mean they are always logical, it just means that more often or not they are willing to listen to reason.But the main point I want to make sure you get here is that reason is a meeting between equals, between two humans who are capable of reason.This area too has no true place for charity, because we have a word for dealing with people who use reason: capitalism. Every one gives and receives in terms of equal value and the true beauty of capitalism is that everyone comes out a winner (so long as the government enforces rules and doesn’t encourage theft and fraud like it’s now doing).

So where is charity?

Now if you were Ayn Rand you would say that these two ways (force and reason) are the only ways to deal with people. But there is actually a third way to deal with people: through, getting back to that first definition of charity, benevolence, goodwill, friendship and love. Love and friendship are neither violent nor are they completely reasonable. Another way to look at it is that if reason is a function of the mind, then love is the function of the soul.But isn’t it also between equals, just like with reason?It may seem odd but it isn’t quite a recognition of equality…and no it isn’t saying that the person you feel love to is superior to you either.So what is it?Well, there is this great word in Sanskrit “Namaste” it means “the spark of the divine (Christians may feel free to use “piece of the Holy Spirit”) within me recognizes the spark of the divine within you.”Love is the recognition that there is something superior to just your human nature in both you and the person you love, it means you are willing to honor that better part of both of you and see only that perfection.

As such true charity is not about helping the “needy” as the incorrect 2nd definition above claims.Rather it is giving to help to those who may be suffering at the present, but to whom you recognize have not need but potential and divinity.

Think about it this way.Giving to that bum on the corner everyday isn’t charity. It’s done to boost your own rather insecure ego. Giving welfare checks to someone who would rather sit on their ass all day and do nothing isn’t charity because it is given on the belief that they can’t do better than that kind of life and would fail without your help. It’s more arrogance on the part of the giver and is closer philosophically to violence than it is to love and charity.Charity is giving to someone to help them get over the temporary problems in life: to provide education, to give money to a friend who has fallen on hard times and just needs a little to get through the next month but will be fine in the long run, to give advice, to show basic kindness, giving to an organization that promotes the best not helps the worst. This is true charity and this is the basis for the Christmas season, giving to those whom we recognize something better in, and whom we want to honor that better part. And this is what individuals need to strive to achieve in their lives, for it is only this kind of charity that betters the lives of the giver and receiver.

But notice that this is a virtue that any organization (and especially government) is incapable of reaching, because organizations do not have the spark of the divine within them (again especially government), thus they cannot recognize it in others. Charity should be individual. Short of that it should be an organization that is voluntary and freely given. But the enforced nature of government falls short on every level.

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Is Capitalism Humane?

The great Milton Friedman on the ethics of capitalism.

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The Core Values of True Conservative Belief

“We ought not to listen to those who exhort us, because we are human, to think of human things.…We ought rather to take on immortality as much as possible, and do all that we can to live in accordance with the highest element within us; for even if its bulk is small, in its power and value it far exceeds everything.” — Aristotle

Knowledge of Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; and to know what he ought to do. – St. Thomas Aquinas, Two Precepts of Charity.

So I have been looking for the core of conservative belief lately.  What is conservative, what isn’t.

Why is this even an important question?  Well because the conservative movement is overly obsessed with the idea of what a true conservative is (it doesn’t help when your main opposition is a bunch of blind followers in the Democrat party who will kneel before anyone who promises them more shit, and libertarians* who will promise them pot).  Paeloconservatives.  Neoconservatives.  Fiscal conservatives.  Social Conservatives.  Compassionate Conservatives.  (Hint I consider only two of these terms not be contradictions).  It’s a wide range.

And there is no big help when looking to intellectuals.  Sure there is Russell Kirk’s famous list of highly dense academic speak, I even used it in Republicans and Reincarnation, but over the course of his career he kept changing the last few points, making it more and more isolationist, and it’s so complicated as to be useless.

The Wizard's Rules Sword of Truth

Meanwhile, while I love Goodkind’s eleven wizard’s rules, and think them an excellent companion to Aristotelian philosophy, they’re not all that specific.

Then of course you could name certain policies…but that doesn’t work because what is conservative today isn’t conservative tomorrow.  Facts of reality change, priorities get shifted…for instance every conservative needs to be a fiscal conservative, however one can still be a conservative and willing to make a deal to that would raise deficit spending when a more important goal is present, say, toppling an evil empire.  And real conservatives, love the nature of America to take pieces of every culture and incorporate them into the melting pot of this nation…but right now reality and sanity dictate we need to concentrate on border control and being a little more picky about who gets in.

So the problem I’ve had for nearly a year is to find something that is accessible, adaptable, and always accurate in describing the core beliefs of conservatism.  And I just realized it was so bluntly obvious that I didn’t see it (but then again I haven’t seen anyone else talk about it all this time either)..I’ve even stated it, it’s just always been implied.

What are the core values of conservatism that remain the core values at any time any place any situation? The thing that binds Aristotle to Cicero to Aquinas to Locke to Burke to Smith to Adams to Goldwater to Reagan?

The Four Cardinal Virtues and the Three Theological Virtues.

Four Cardinal Virtues
Temperance, Prudence, Fortitude, Justice

Prudence

Temperance

Fortitude

Justice

Faith
Hope

Love

The first four come from Aristotle, the last three from Paul (although I would argue they are implicit in Aristotle if you read all of his works) and they are the basis for the most perfect system of ethics ever created.

Think about it.   Liberals only care about results, damn what rights or means you have to violate to create your Utopia (and that’s even before you consider they lack the follow through to do anything); the crazier members of the Libertarian party only care about means and an absolutist idea of right, to hell if you need some minor infringement to make a society properly function or to secure the vast majority of your rights.  Only the virtue based ethics of Aristotle deal in the reality of needing to consider ends and means.  And this refusal to look at only ends or means is one of the first reasons why the virtue ethics are inherently conservative—conservatives by nature see the whole.

Now let’s look at the virtues themselves.

Yes, Aristotle listed a lot of other virtues,

Sense of Shame

Pride

Wit

Proper Ambition

Truthfulness

Righteous Indignation

Generosity

Friendliness

Magnificence

Good Temper

But all of these are natural extensions of the other seven.  So let’s go over them and show why they are at the heart of conservatism.

In the order which most highlights the political aspects.

Cardinal Virtues
Justice.  Conservatives believe in the concept of Justice, that people should be rewarded and/or punished by what they deserve.  Merit.  Earning.  The basis of meritocracy of free market capitalism.  This is of course opposed to the liberal obsession with fair. It’s not fair.  Things should be fair.  Life’s not fair.  And of course whereas Justice requires the equality of opportunity and equality before the law, liberals want the equality of fairness where everyone has equal results.

Prudence.  While a highly complex concept that the word prudence doesn’t quite convey the complexity for the classical concept, it might be best defined as the knowledge of what should be valued.  With Prudence comes the understanding that the only truly valuable thing is Happiness (again I’m using the classical definition of a life lived well) and to value all the subordinate good that are required for Happiness.  This includes liberty, because Happiness cannot be achieved without free will, actual achievement.  Liberalism values material things and sees no higher point to life other than living, social conservatives only value society and some perverted view of God and not the individual or their happiness

Temperance.  Often mistaken for moderation, Temperance is taking the knowledge of what to value from Prudence, and deciding how much you should value it, at what time, in what place and in what manner.  In very simple terms this is the pragmatism of what works so clearly Keynesian economic and the libertarian desire to wipe everything out in one fell swoop without letting society adjust are right out.

Fortitude.  Again often misunderstood to just be courage, it is more tied into the previous three virtues as the will to do what you know to be right.  This throws out RINOs who stand for nothing, and worst of all the politically apathetic who seem to feel that there is no value in anything and nothing worth fighting for.

For purposes here, I am going to take Faith and Hope together because this is the primary difference between paleo and neoconservatives.  Paleoconservatives with their isolationist ways at their core are only looking out for themselves (clearly also lacking in that last virtue) but this is also because they do not have any faith in humanity or hope in the inevitability that republicanism and capitalism will spread to everyone.

Love, the last of the theological virtues and what must be required for all stable society. It is the belief that other humans have value and worth, and must be respected and helped when possible. This is actually the basis for capitalism, democratic-republics, friendship and all progress.  The belief that human beings are worth it (it’s a belief you don’t find in many political beliefs).

I have no doubt that I will come back to this theme over and over…but it has become clear to me that one or all of these virtues is missing in every political philosophy other than true conservatism.

(This will be the first post in an ongoing series on these virtues.)

*Not that all libertarians are this bad, but you have to admit there is a disturbing high number of single issue voters in your party…and their single issue is one that is really dumb. Of course Republicans have social conservatives who are just as stupid.

**I’m just going to gloss over these for now, don’t worry I’ll eventually have numerous blogs dedicated to this now that I’ve figured this out.

 

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