Thursday, June 14, 2018

Mailvox: righteousness and virtue

A reader asks about a distinction:
I have recently been reading Aristotle to get my head around many of the arguments you make against Jordan Peterson. As such, I am curious about what you see being the difference between acting righteously and virtuously, or are they one and the same to you.
Acting righteously: acting in accordance with God's Will. Only God can determine this, Man can only make the attempt without full knowledge of whether he is doing so successfully or not.

Acting virtuously: acting in accordance with a specified virtue. These are mostly defined and determined by Man, so one can behave virtuously and know that one is doing so, except in the cases where virtue and righteousness happen to overlap. But one can act in a virtuous manner that is unrighteous; not all Satanists are cowardly and even a murderous thief can be charitable with his ill-gotten gains.

Aristotelian moral virtue falls somewhere in between virtue and righteousness. It is more akin to what I would describe as eucivicism, or civic virtue. Due to his philosophy being pre-Christian, I tend to be more influenced by Aristotle's thinking on intellectual virtue than on moral virtue, although eucivicism is definitely desirable from both worldly and philosophical perspectives.

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Blogger The Kurgan June 14, 2018 8:11 AM  


Blogger YclepedBobAli June 14, 2018 8:29 AM  

This was just marvellously lucid. Beautifully stated Vox.

Blogger Porky Ellitinik June 14, 2018 8:34 AM  

'Due to his philosophy being pre-Christian, I tend to be more influenced by his thinking on intellectual virtue than moral virtue.'

Do you think that Pre-christian philosophy in the world is somewhat immoral or not as refined?

Blogger VD June 14, 2018 9:12 AM  

Do you think that Pre-christian philosophy in the world is somewhat immoral or not as refined?

I see it as being necessarily unrefined.

Blogger Dirk Manly June 14, 2018 9:18 AM  


"Do you think that Pre-christian philosophy in the world is somewhat immoral or not as refined?"

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Simple, Pure, and really lacking in contradictions.

Blogger Dirk Manly June 14, 2018 9:20 AM  

I took a college-level ethics class, and all of the philosophers we studied... they're system of ethics always, when carried out logically, would end up in a contradiction.

Of course, we didn't study the Bible.

Blogger Peaceful Poster June 14, 2018 9:42 AM  

Aristotle > Plato

Blogger tz June 14, 2018 9:52 AM  

I think the overlap is more profound as CS Lewis Abolition of Man notes. There is a Tao, some built in governor that identifies virtues, but it also requires training the passions, "the Chest", in order for the will to be able to choose virtue over vice. Reason comes in to enlighten the details, like when you think you are doing good but causing harm, but reason is not the will, and is actually the servant when it seeks better ways to do evil, or rationalizes it.

God is also just, and has given us large volumes of information on what he considers righteousness. Go back and just read the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7, and a shorter version in Luke). In his Justice, he can't say we got the exam wrong if the lesson has never been presented. But we have both the natural law, which is more than just eucivics - the first principle is subsidiarity, where not the individual but the Family - blood and adopted relatives - are to be respected and taken care of, both elderly and toddlers. Then comes the village and county (note the only proper Law Enforcement is an elected County Sheriff and those he deputizes), then the province or state, then the Nation. We have different responsibilities to each.

Beyond that, the glaring neon sign is that too many people are either cowards, or have some kind of culpable ignorance or uncharity. Fortitude is the foundational virtue because you can't ACT on the other virtues, only talk. Even the truth when it is ugly. That I think is the problem with the Civic Nationalists, they wish genetics and evolution to not be true even though they profess it, and even YECs understand that Chihuahuas are not Great Danes. Babel divided the nations for Mankind's good, and Nations are distinct in more things than their flags. Or you wish to make the ideology the identity? Then you need to imprison or deport people based on their dissenting thoughts. Tolerance can't allow the intolerant, Egalitarians can't allow those who celebrate inequality. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity! and the guillotine.

Even the American Revolution and Constitution is based on natural law and assumes fallen corrupt and corruptible men. This is the equality we are created with. We have rights, but they must be asserted against other men and their collectives like Government who would violate those rights. But the devil found that when violence doesn't work - and even creates saints - seductive corruption does. Terrorists create fear, but I'll protect you. Or the EBT card. Or fear of drunk drivers. Or Social Security and Medicare.

CS Lewis Talks about Democracy and Equality and makes several thoughtful points which we are now living.

Blogger JohnG June 14, 2018 10:22 AM  

Can you have one without the other?

Blogger Dirk Manly June 14, 2018 10:34 AM  

@9 JohnG

Ethics is not the same as morals

In fact, "do as thou wilt" is an ethical system which is completely devoid of morality.

Blogger Avalanche June 14, 2018 10:52 AM  

OT, but horrifying?
The Southern Baptist Convention voted UNANIMOUSLY (literally thousands of "messengers" from most of the Baptist churches in the country) to endorse amnesty.

Now the Roman Catholics - apparently with no dissent - decide that it is a sin for a public official to adopt the position that the U.S. is not required to grant residence status to any woman who shows up with a story claiming her husband is abusive.

Common sense tells you that if America follows a policy of offering citizenship to anyone who says she is a battered wife (something that's virtually always a "he said/she said" matter that is incapable of proof),
then we will have achieved open borders and hundreds of millions of people will flood the country from places like Haiti, Mexico, Egypt,Nigeria, Pakistan, China). Such a policy is a death knell for America.

The Baptists are more of a shock than the Roman Catholics, since they are overwhelming White, Anglo and have many blue collar members who are paying the heavy price for liberal immigration laws.

But these 2 events show an inconceivable divorce between the leadership of Christian churches and the members.

P.S. What is a "canonical penalty" that the Bishops threaten against Roman Catholics who work for the Immigration Service in enforcing the immigration laws? Are people who are opposed to immigration to be excommunicated like the Southern Baptists have done to James Edwards?

Blogger Ominous Cowherd June 14, 2018 11:11 AM  

Avalanche, read Dalrock. The Southern Baptist denomination is apostate, headed down the same feminist road to hell so many denominations have followed.

Blogger Mark Stoval June 14, 2018 11:23 AM  

I have a question.

How can one explain to a normal person what "justice" is, and how that is not "social justice".

The term "social justice" originated with a Catholic as I understand but he did not mean what the SJWs mean today by "social justice".

So, how to explain it to normal people? Can one even try to deprogram a lefty with an explanation?

Blogger Edward Isaacs June 14, 2018 12:10 PM  

A "canon" is a law of the Catholic Church. So a canonical penalty is a church-legal penalty. This can be anything from a stern talking-to up.

Excommunication is an extremely hard penalty to incur, and the USCCB has been a joke for decades anyway, so I wouldn't worry too much about anything they threaten.

Also, they are correct that forcibly separating families is, objectively, immoral. They all have to go back together.

Blogger Peter Gent June 14, 2018 1:05 PM  

tz wrote:CS Lewis Talks about Democracy and Equality and makes several thoughtful points which we are now living.

That was an excellent presentation of his thoughts. Truly outstanding!

Blogger Solon June 14, 2018 1:21 PM  

The problem with Justice as a concept is that it inherently implies a logical fallacy: argumentum ad verecundiam, appeal to authority.

The term itself suggests that there is a higher power or authority that is meteing out the punishment/reward of Justice: a king executes a traitor, God punishes a blasphemer, a boss gives a bonus to a hard working employee, etc.

For the justice to be viewed as just, both parties have to agree that the higher authority is legitimate. A Jew could scold someone for being out in public on the Sabbath, but if that person is not a Jew, it's hardly able to be considered a just scolding, is it?

You'll never be able to "deprogram" a lefty by explaining why the things they are doing aren't justice because, to them, they are. You are not in agreement with them as to whether starving immigrants deserve more welfare than starving whites.

Incidentally, this is why many on the alt-right suggest you just ignore lefties, or punch them if you're more violently inclined. The right and the left disagree on a fundamental level and no amount of logic or appealing to reason will coerce them. Violence, however, physical, emotional, verbal, whatever, is a medium which everyone understands: "Me have bigger stick. You do what I say."

Blogger Durandel June 14, 2018 1:37 PM  

@ Mark Stoval - actually, our host has shown the first coining ofvthe term “social justice” was done by the father of utilitarianism, John S. Mills. In the Catholic Church, social justice was imported in by socialists / communists. Some of the said socialists really converted but never gave up on socialism, even though it was stated by good pope’s that one cannout be a Catholic in good standing and a socialist at the same time. These are your Dorothy Day types. Other socialists masqueraded as Catholics for the purpose of subversion (see Bella Dodd’s testimony of getting 1200 men into the Catholic seminaries of the USA and starting that at least 4 cardinals were Commies) and they too pushed the social justice crap in the Church. Some Catholics have tried to massage the meaning but it’s a lost cause. The poison in baked right in to the essence of SocJus.

Blogger SciVo June 14, 2018 1:48 PM  

One of the (many, many) things that infuriate me about our self-styled Moral Superiors is that they're by and large partially-educated dullards. I would be skeptical if one claimed to have read the Cliff's Notes of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, let alone the real thing. It is not easy, and that is precisely why simply reading it and talking it over with someone can produce genuine intellectual moral authority. And you can get it for free, since it is far out of copyright (and so are some of its translations).

Mark Stoval wrote:How can one explain to a normal person what "justice" is, and how that is not "social justice".

"Justice" is blind, and bestows consequences that you have personally earned by your actions. "Social justice" has keen eyesight and sees kinds, bestowing privileges that you "deserve" for belonging to an identity group, so the adjective negates the noun.

Blogger Mark Stoval June 14, 2018 2:13 PM  

@16 @17 @18

There were 3 very fine posts in a row. I thank each and every one of you for taking the time to offer your take on a very contentious issue.

I am surrounded by SJ types and their use of the word "justice" grates on my last nerve, so thanks indeed.

Blogger Snidely Whiplash June 14, 2018 2:52 PM  

Solon wrote:The term itself suggests that there is a higher power or authority that is meteing out the punishment/reward of Justice: a king executes a traitor, God punishes a blasphemer, a boss gives a bonus to a hard working employee, etc.

This is false.
Justice merely means "everybody gets what's coming to him."

Blogger Azure Amaranthine June 14, 2018 4:02 PM  

I'm not following your logic, Snidely. As far as I can see, you need some arbiter of morality. In our case that is God. In the absence of any such authority -- or authority that is ingrained in the nature and physical laws of the universe -- there is not necessarily anything that needs reciprocity.

There would be no positive or negative value of "what's coming to him" if there were no rules. Objectively evil actions would be subjective in the absence of an ultimate authority.

Blogger Azure Amaranthine June 14, 2018 4:04 PM  

Something is objective because the natural world -- as created by God -- maintains that it is so.

Blogger JohnG June 14, 2018 4:06 PM  

@10 I should have put Righteousness and Virtue. It would seem virtue would follow righteousness.

Blogger Snidely Whiplash June 14, 2018 4:16 PM  

Morality and justice are disjoint. They overlap, but are separate topics.
The law of dharma is perfectly just. Who would be arbiter of dharma?

Blogger Azure Amaranthine June 14, 2018 4:59 PM  

That's why I said "authority that is ingrained in the nature and physical laws of the universe".

Presumably, whoever created the universe.

I agree that morality and justice are different topics. I do not agree that they are disjoint. They are necessarily connected. Morality deals with what one should do. Justice deals with what should be done to one consequently, be it by man or nature.

Blogger Azure Amaranthine June 14, 2018 5:05 PM  

I should also note that Dharma is more akin to positive morality (do this), where Adharma is akin to negative morality (don't do this).

Neither is precisely justice.

If on the other hand you are referring to the humanly explicate aspects of Dharma rather than the innate, natural ones, whoever related them is the arbiter, and not necessarily objective.

Blogger tz June 14, 2018 6:33 PM  

Meanwhile, US Jews shoah their hand

Idea: send the intact families to Israel.

Blogger Snidely Whiplash June 14, 2018 6:46 PM  

"authority that is ingrained in the nature and physical laws of the universe" is not an arbiter.
An arbiter is necessarily an actor, and hence a person.

Blogger Jack June 14, 2018 9:00 PM  

Excellent, thanks for this. Vox's philosophical clarifications are always extremely useful. The heuristic for evil that he dropped a month or so ago looked silly on its face, until you realize that it's actually a very accurate method. I was disturbed when I applied it to various world religions and saw how many of them fail.

Proverbs 28:1 "The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion." You're not going to get that kind of boldness from moral virtue. God will either give it to you or He won't.

Blogger Ahärôwn June 14, 2018 10:30 PM  

Thanks for this clear distinction, Vox.

I'll be using it myself in my own thinking and discussions from now on.

Blogger Azure Amaranthine June 15, 2018 6:13 AM  

"An arbiter is necessarily an actor, and hence a person."

So which do you disagree with, that God created nature, or is a being capable of judgement?

If you mean from the (quasi-atheistic) perspective of Buddhism, your response is insensible. If the universe itself is capable of executing justice, the universe is therefore at least partially capable as an arbiter. Justice by definition requires a determination of what is right and what is not, be it living or mechanical or some combination.


Definition one: "Acting or being in conformity with what is morally upright or good."

Definition two: "Having a basis in or conforming to fact or reason." -- this is simply a single remove from "truth" to allow for understanding subjective (and thus potentially false) use of the word.

Justice itself is defined as either maintaining or administering that which is just, the state of being just, or conforming to truth.

It is nice to think that persons are the only actors, but in the absence of a god determining or maintaining the universe, such could clearly not be true. Certainly nature acts upon men; it kills them all the time with neither their approval nor action.

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