Tag: Excellence

  • 2023-08-25 The Virtue of Orderliness

    Orderliness is the first of the cultured virtues because the development of all the others presupposes an orderly way of life. The disorderly person might strike upon something, from time to time, that looks like elegance or intelligence, but such happy coincidence does not proceed from virtue because it does not proceed from deliberate cultivation.

  • 2023-08-11 The Idea of a Canon

    How do I know what to read? If I have not read a book before, how do I know whether it will be any good? After all, reading a book, especially if I read it well, is a significant investment of hours. Every time I commit to reading one book, I am simultaneously choosing, by implication, not to read a functionally infinite array of other books that may be just as good---or better. In reality, of course, this isn't how it works. When I sit down to read a book, even one I have never cracked open before, I usually have a pretty good idea whether it will be worth my time. I know this because the book has a reputation.

  • 2023-08-04 Aesthetic Conservatism

    Do you want to lose a culture war? Here is a simple recipe. Start by conceding to the radicals all the taste-making venues, the salons, the cafes, and the galleries. Next, concede all the educational institutions, the museums, and the endowments. Then conclude that, since the arts are now dominated by radical politics, there must be something suspicious about high culture itself.

  • 2023-07-28 The Cultured Virtues

    While paling in comparison to the achievement moral virtue, the refinement of a cultured life is nevertheless a worthy pursuit. By contrast with the moral virtues, the cultured virtues cannot be required of every man because they contain in their very essence a cultural inheritance that not everyone is fortunate enough to have and for which he cannot be held responsible.

  • 2023-06-16 Teaching Virtue

    We all want our children to become virtuous, so we naturally shop around for the schools and communities that have the best results. Upon inspection, however, we find that the graduating classes at even the best schools are not infallibly filled with saints. Parents eventually complain. Teachers complain too.

  • 2023-05-26 Constrained Goods

    Sometimes we cherish things that we would not wish upon our own children. Isn't this a puzzle? If such things are so good, why would we strive to eliminate the conditions that make them possible? I propose a basic distinction between constrained goods and liberal goods that will help to solve the puzzle.

  • 2023-04-21 The Abdication of Ethics

    Self-help literature has come to fill the void left in contemporary ethics by the abdication of wisdom. Ancient ethics concerned itself with providing real guidance toward living a good life. Modern ethics concerns itself with large-scale social questions or abstract thought-experiments. The result is that people turn to self-improvement literature for concrete guidance, a genre that studiously avoids broaching the hard questions.

  • 2023-04-07 The Cost of Beauty

    With an excess of wealth, one can afford the uselessness of finer things. It helps that this uselessness signals to everyone else just how much you can afford. Rich or poor, however, there is one splendid reality that confronts us all every single day and gives the lie to the idea that beautiful things must be expensive. Every morning the sky shows its face, smiling simply in bright blues or flirting coyly in wisps of white. Sometimes it downright sulks in gloomy greys, or blasts its anger in overwhelming tempest blacks.

  • 2023-03-24 In Defense of the Non-Moral

    Of course we aim at virtue, and of course the pursuit of virtue should take pride of place in everything we do. But the truth is that we should also educate our children in non-moral excellencies that are intrinsically valuable and choiceworthy for their own sake. It is simply a beautiful thing to learn history well whether or not it makes you a better person morally.

  • 2023-03-03 Asceticisms

    The whole ethos of asceticism, with its valorization of difficulty, can obscure the radically different motives for which ascetic practices might be adopted, and in the literature of these religious orders, one sometimes meets with a rhetorical excess, which, if we are not careful, threatens to undermine the philosophical foundations of our most basic thinking about goodness.

  • 2023-02-24 Wrong-Headed Charity

    Christians sometimes think—or talk as though—any glorification of excellence signals a hostility toward everyone who has failed to achieve it, that genuine love for the least of these requires the denigration of excellence. The only issue with this line of thinking is its utter incoherence. The very idea of charity presupposes the goodness of that which is given and the badness of the recipient's condition.

  • 2023-02-17 False Humility

    A man who looks for excellence, it is thought, must surely be both proud and judgmental. In some circles, one gets the impression that the good news of the Gospel is that human beings will always and forever be terrible at everything they do, so we can all breathe a sigh of relief and stop trying. If some trouble-maker comes in and suggests that we can do better at this or that, such exhortation is interpreted as a case of 'human striving.'

  • 2023-02-10 Self-Acceptance

    It is no surprise that a whole self-help industry has sprung up centered around the notion that we have no real inadequacies or failures: You are perfect and beautiful just the way you are. After all, there is a large, highly-motivated, paying audience who desperately wants just this message.

  • 2023-02-03 Inclusivity

    No one likes to be left out of the club, but every club can only exist by making a distinction between those who are members and those who are not. If everyone is part of the club, then there is no club.

  • 2023-01-27 Egalitarianism

    All discussion of excellence rests on a rejection of universal unqualified egalitarianism. Excellence in any field requires a scale of better and worse, and this scale of better and worse rests on the inequality of whatever things are on that scale.

  • 2023-01-20 Individual Relativism

    Individual relativism can often come from both conflict avoidance and antipathy toward authority. We should acknowledge that both of these emotional reactions do give us some insights into the truth, but they do not give us any reason to think that excellence is not objective.

  • 2023-01-13 Cultural Relativism

    Apart from the cheap points we can score by pointing out the internal contradictions of cultural relativism, a much deeper critique can be leveled against the assumption that there is widespread cultural disagreement about core values.

  • 2023-01-06 Luxury Beliefs

    Enemies of Excellence Part 2. Luxury beliefs are those beliefs that one can only afford to hold once sufficient material and cultural wealth guarantees that the implications of those beliefs need never be faced.

  • 2022-12-30 Enemies of Excellence - Intro

    Introduction to the Enemies of Excellence series of posts. What are the mindsets that hold us back from excellence or from valuing a philosophy of excellence? Where do they come from and why do they sometimes have such a visceral force behind them?

  • 2022-12-02 In Praise of Pretension

    We should not use 'pretentious' as a sneering word. One must, after all, pretend to be something before becoming it. That's how aspiration works.

  • 2022-11-11 The Varieties of Excellence

    We can observe the profound inseparability of moral and non-moral excellence. In the sweetest times, I cannot disentangle the aesthetic from the virtuous, the contemplative from the useful, and I would not wish to do so if I could. Doing so would be like disentangling a tapestry or dissecting a living thing.