Thursday, April 03, 2008

Virtue and goodness

Cross-posted from another blog:
I think it was Law & Order:Criminal Intent where the Dentist was found dead and the kids rifled through his stuff. They saw the deaceased or dying DDS, went through his stuff and left. In the interrogation the mother of one of the boys claimed that "they were good boys". Then the detective pointed out if they were good boys they would have called 9-1-1 instead of doing what they did.

To me this pointed out our definition of 'good' is completely messed up. I understand the mother's definition of good, as in lack of doing incredibly evil things and the detective's definition as proactive goodness. This made me think of something I read from the Eastern Orthodox tradition in trying to make a point distinguishing themselves from the Roman Catholics, about it's not the avoidance of evil but the pursuit of virtue that we should concern ourselves with.
The minor characters (the boys) should have chosen the more virtuous path, trying to help the dentist, or calling the cops, or reporting it to an adult.

We blame the citizenry of a country or state or city for tragedies and injustices when that citizenry stands back and does nothing. Even if they did not elect the monsters in power, or even if they did not participate actively or passively in the wrong doing, they are blamed. Because they did not pursue the virtuous path.

So what if our judgement stands on what we have done, and not what we haven't done? Like some standard college test where the right (virtuous) answer gives you points, the wrong answer subtracts points, and no answer neither adds or takes away.

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