Logical Life Skills, Rational Cardinal Virtues

Many who make New Year’s resolutions of the “less vice, more virtue” variety might benefit from some background on the history and logic of certain skills that flourishing depends on. 


Here’s a higher-resolution picture of the history, logic, and language of New Year’s resolutions of the “less vice, more virtue” variety.

1. Certain virtues and vices are neither religious relics, nor irrational; their logic is biologically warranted.

2. The “cardinal virtues” predate cardinals and Christianity. Cardinal means chief priest (cardo, Latin “hinge, chief”). “Cardinal virtues” are those life chiefly hinges on.

3. “Virtues” (virtus, Latin “manly strength”) are praiseworthy behaviors, or strengths or skills.

4. The four “cardinal virtues” — justice, temperance, prudence, and courage — were imported into Christianity from rational Greek philosophy.

5. Thomas Aquinas (13th C) contrasted the natural cardinal virtues with the supernatural “theological” virtues — faith, hope, charity. Even for Aquinas cardinal virtues weren't for the afterlife, but for a better after-in-life.

6. Cardinal virtues = rational life skills.

7. Take temperance = self-command of appetites = moderation (not abstinence). Intemperance (overindulgence or addiction) is punished not supernaturally, but scientifically — biochemical karma guarantees it.

8. Likewise, life without justice isn’t rationally desirable (as every un-short-lived culture’s mythology shows, e.g., Greek Oresteia, American Westerns). Meanwhile, courage prevents inertia in a risky world. And prudence is but reason enacted.

9. Whatever your supernatural inclinations, how on earth is that logic ignorable? Nature’s logic, i.e., evolution, built us with capacities for self-control, social rules (aka morals), and justice.

10. Certain vices are deemed “deadly” — sixth century on = lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. Gluttony and sloth aren’t Ten Commandments inspired (originally “Ten Sayings,” christened commandments in 1590).

11. Aristotle believed every virtue had two related vices, contextual deficiency or excess.

12. Whatever else religions do, they transmit norms and promote life skills. What are our secular equivalents? Self-help? The norms of the arts? The norms of economics (promoting envy and greed, chasing the ethical alchemy of private vices becoming public virtues)?

The freer we are, the more vital key virtues or logical life skills become. Only unskilled reasoning ignores those vices that enable common empirical imprudence,

Here’s hoping you and your logical life skills flourish in 2016.

 

See also:

Plato’s pastry fixes scientific happiness confusion.

Our evolved rational self-command scripts and habits.

Better Behaved Behavioral Models

Illustration by Julia SuitsThe New Yorker cartoonist & author of The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions

Befriend your ideological opposite. It’s fun.

Step inside the unlikely friendship of a former ACLU president and an ultra-conservative Supreme Court Justice.

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Former president of the ACLU Nadine Strossen and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia were unlikely friends. They debated each other at events all over the world, and because of that developed a deep and rewarding friendship – despite their immense differences.
  • Scalia, a famous conservative, was invited to circles that were not his "home territory", such as the ACLU, to debate his views. Here, Strossen expresses her gratitude and respect for his commitment to the exchange of ideas.
  • "It's really sad that people seem to think that if you disagree with somebody on some issues you can't be mutually respectful, you can't enjoy each other's company, you can't learn from each other and grow in yourself," says Strossen.
  • The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
Keep reading Show less

3 ways to find a meaningful job, or find purpose in the job you already have

Learn how to redesign your job for maximum reward.

Videos
  • Broaching the question "What is my purpose?" is daunting – it's a grandiose idea, but research can make it a little more approachable if work is where you find your meaning. It turns out you can redesign your job to have maximum purpose.
  • There are 3 ways people find meaning at work, what Aaron Hurst calls the three elevations of impact. About a third of the population finds meaning at an individual level, from seeing the direct impact of their work on other people. Another third of people find their purpose at an organizational level. And the last third of people find meaning at a social level.
  • "What's interesting about these three elevations of impact is they enable us to find meaning in any job if we approach it the right way. And it shows how accessible purpose can be when we take responsibility for it in our work," says Hurst.
Keep reading Show less

Physicist advances a radical theory of gravity

Erik Verlinde has been compared to Einstein for completely rethinking the nature of gravity.

Photo by Willeke Duijvekam
Surprising Science
  • The Dutch physicist Erik Verlinde's hypothesis describes gravity as an "emergent" force not fundamental.
  • The scientist thinks his ideas describe the universe better than existing models, without resorting to "dark matter".
  • While some question his previous papers, Verlinde is reworking his ideas as a full-fledged theory.
Keep reading Show less

UPS has been discreetly using self-driving trucks to deliver cargo

TuSimple, an autonomous trucking company, has also engaged in test programs with the United States Postal Service and Amazon.


PAUL RATJE / Contributor
Technology & Innovation
  • This week, UPS announced that it's working with autonomous trucking startup TuSimple on a pilot project to deliver cargo in Arizona using self-driving trucks.
  • UPS has also acquired a minority stake in TuSimple.
  • TuSimple hopes its trucks will be fully autonomous — without a human driver — by late 2020, though regulatory questions remain.
Keep reading Show less