April 26th, 2006


Cooperative Virtue

Some kinds of virtue are best thought of as cooperative between individuals and society at large (to the extent that the latter can be thought of as a separate entity in the context of individuals). Trust of society and its institutions is an example of a virtue that is built and carefully, slowly advanced towards, slowly earned and easily lost. Principle and corruption are part of a dynamic that likewise pairs idealism and cynicism in individual and group struggles with various instincts. We cannot expect individuals to much surpass the trust/idealism level of their society, lest they be destroyed by those less virtuous and more emotional, greedy, and the like. Virtue has a cost, and before systemic changes can easily be made, the people must be raised to a level of virtue whereby there is both enough trust and enough vigilence to stabilise society at a hopefully higher level of development. This involves a focus on education, but also systemic structural changes that would affect all society. This is one reason I think protests are important -- they help build mass movements, but a spirit of volunteerism and non-self-servingness is also important to build. A note on vigilance and trust -- there may be a bit of difficulty in building both as society advances. I hope that this does not represent a built-in limit/difficulty for our advancement as a society.