Unfiltered isn’t the Same as Authentic

moral fic

Given my love of the anti-entropic call to arms of Diane Duane's So You Want to be a Wizard, I guess I'm an easy mark for John Gardner's description of good art in On Moral Fiction: But trivial art has no meaning or value except in the shadow of more serious art, the kind of art that beats back the monsters and, if you will, makes the world safe for triviality. That art which tends toward destruction, the art of nihilists, cynics, and merdistes, is not properly art at all. Art is essentially s … [Read more...]

Using Goodhart’s Law to Find Happiness

Early metal detector / Wikimedia commons

My parish kicked off its Adult Sunday School (taught by Dominican friars) this past week with a class on happiness. We started off going through a discussion of all the things happiness is not (wealth, power, fame, honor, etc) and I liked some of the reasoning given about how you could recognize these as not quite the answer to "What will make me happy?"I already knew the way the answer worked for things like wealth, power, influence, etc -- these are instrumental goods.  People only want … [Read more...]

The People I Don’t Learn to Love


After reading my essay on "Both/And Philanthropy," one of my friends told me that there was something I was leaving out of my hybrid approach.  Here's how I said that I balance attentiveness to material and spiritual goods: And when it comes to the fundamental divide between Beer and MacAskill, for my own part, I like to hybridize their global vs local approaches. When I have the opportunity to do something for someone close to me (e.g. defraying a friend-of-a-friend’s medical costs, donating to … [Read more...]

Building a Both/And Philanthropy

charity books

Over at Fare Forward, I'm doing a paired review of Jeremy Beer's The Philanthropic Revolution: An Alternative History of American Charity and Will MacAskill's Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Make a Difference and talking about how to balance the spiritual and material goals of charity.Reading the two books side by side, it’s clear MacAskill wouldn’t dispute some of the charges that Beer lays to his account. Beer endorses local charities, which can best further what he s … [Read more...]

How Do You Lance A Festering Resentment?


I'm curious what readers (religious or not) wind up doing when you're frustrated by/or angry at someone.  I've just been reading Letters to a Beginner: On Giving One's Life To God by Abbess Thaisia of Leushino and she writes sharply against idle talk and gossip: It begins under the pretext of conversing, of discussing some business, but then we proceed imperceptibly to an altogether unnecessary, empty, and sinful conversation.  Like a deeply-rooted infection, this sickness does not easily sub … [Read more...]

Ridiculously Over-Engineered Approaches To Empathy


When I was complaining about a plane delay on facebook, a friend of mine generously bought me a kindle copy of Margaret Drabble's The Millstone, and told me that I might particularly enjoy it as a recovering Stoic and Kantian.  She was right.I also liked how much it reminded me of Ben Hoffman's recent post on "Werewolf Feelings" but let's address Drabble first.  Here's a scene where the protagonist carefully doesn't overreach with a lover. And even then, at that moment, I did not have the co … [Read more...]

Gateway Drugs to More Ethical Lives

(roujo / flickr)

A while ago, I mentioned that I'd found [X]-adjacent to be a helpful category when the X in question was bad.  E.g. rape-adjacent sex (unclear consent) may not break any laws or result in anyone feeling violated, but it makes it harder to identify predators, and it's good to avoid sex that falls in this grey area.  Catherine Addington extended the idea to brutality-adjacent policing in an essay at AmCon.And I wondered whether there was a flip side of [Y]-adjacent actions, where Y was a good t … [Read more...]