Saturday, March 23, 2019

Post 6100 - The Seven Deadlies Inside Out

In a group discussion about Gluttony having a hidden version in its reverse, that is, Delicacy or excessive fussiness about food, Tim King noted that the same is true for Sloth.  Being a workaholic is the same sin expressed in its opposite.  He claims the idea is straight from Aquinas's Summa. In my commenting that CS Lewis had mentioned excessive delicacy in Chapter XVII of Screwtape, the patient's mother saying "Oh please, please...all I want is a cup of tea, weak but not too weak, and the teeniest weeniest bit of really crisp toast" as an example of real gluttony, it occurred to me that this might be true for all sins.  As Maimonides said "Perhaps the opposite is also true." The heart is deceitful in all things.

So that is two of the Seven Deadly Sins - I will bet the others have their reverses as well.

Lust - It is our sexually-obsessed age that makes this only about sex, but let us go with that for the moment anyway.  We all know there is a prudery that cannot stop talking about sex. I knew a girl at college who was very vocal about all those other girls who weren't virgins, but was also convinced that she had had previous lives, and had been a courtesan in one of them. She mentioned it a couple of times.

Greed - Too easy. There are a few. People who are ostentatious in bragging about their eschewing of mere material goods in order to score virtue points or gain status as Common Folk, or Preferring The Life of the Mind. Beware of those who insist they don't care about money. They are greedy for something else.

Wrath - I had a post on people who sign off using "Peace," and explained in the comments that they are often the meanest people in the joint. I have listened to people aggressively talk about how their meditating has made them calmer, and everyone should, too. The problem with the world is that there aren't enough people who do the good spiritually healthy things they do. I can't recall hearing a Christian use prayer aggressively, but I'll bet it happens. We have also the people in America who claim to be antiwar but are mostly just on the other side.  Beware those who want to convince you that they are peaceful.

Envy - I'm having more trouble with this one.  Maybe that means I've got it bad.  Help me out, here. I suppose there are ways of praising others that make you look better than them, but no one can call you on it.

Pride -  There is an art to the humblebrag, or making a show of martyrdom.  Because pride is the deadliest and most deceitful, there are many of these.  We probably all have acouple, they are so legion.Lewis again has the right quote.  "She was the sort of woman who lived for others.  You could tell the others by their hunted look."


james said...

Not sure about envy, but acedia's twin might be the frenetic effort to try new stuff, because the old doesn't satisfy, and they half know the new won't either.

Grim said...

I'll be glad to acknowledge that I'm wrong, without worrying quite so much about how the wrong is classified. Surely that's God's business more than mine; I'm as well educated in moral philosophy as most, but that only highlights how much we don't quite understand about the ultimate truth of right and wrong.

I hope that seeking forgiveness, and trusting the higher authority to know just why I need forgiveness, might be enough. If we're not quite able to make it out, well, the Maker made us this way. Hopefully he knew what he was doing, because I sure don't.

Donna B. said...

When all else fails, ask the internet.

I liked the first answer - that it is pity. Or empathy, sympathy, compassion. So those, given or expressed without sincerity?

Jonathan Smith said...

I take envy to be the same as covetousness, and covetousness to be misplaced (and often impossible) desire. It's opposite is "sour grapes," which is denying that one desires what one cannot have. "Sour grapes" also draws on pride, since I am ashamed to admit my inability to take what I want, but it is ultimately a convoluted form of envy.

Jealousy is a special case of envy in which the jealous man desires something he cannot have because it has been stollen from him. The stealing is, at lease, his construction. It's opposite is an affected openhandedness that denies one desires what one cannot hold. We of course also use the word jealous to name a lively fear that something precious will be stollen from us. In the sexual sphere especially, a jealous man is ridiculous or contemptible, since his wife's seduction (prospective or accomplished) indicates sexual inadequacy on his part. Thus pride comes in here as well, since I am ashamed to admit my inability to hold what I desire.

When a bridegroom is given his bride "to have and to hold," the words legitimate and secure his desire. If she is particularly lovely, there will almost certainly be men who envy the bridegroom. And if he has won her away from another man, at least one man will be jealous. But, if my experience at wedding receptions is any guide, there will also be any number of bachelors (invariably the drunkest guests, the jealous man excepted) who are just a little too loud in complimenting themselves for avoiding marriage.

Laura said...

Tim King is right, this does come from St. Thomas Aquinas, the Summa Theologica. Here's a link to that section:

And, of course, he also covers envy:

In STA's thought, gluttony has two "species", but he breaks this down into an excessive concern for the food itself, whether by quantity, quality, or costliness; or in excessive concern for the actual eating and the physical enjoyment of the eating (unwillingness to wait, gorging, etc.). He doesn't break envy down into multiple species, but he does note that it, and gluttony, both have "daughters", that is, a sequence of bad consequences that they engender.

RTWT, as the kids say. Contrary to common belief, STA is in fact both concise and precise in his writing; he's very easy to read and understand (modulo a few technical philosophical terms, which a good philosophical dictionary should resolve for you). Unlike so many modern philosophers, he was writing with the intent of making you fully understand what he was thinking. The Summa is actually a textbook, intended for priests who would go out in the world and have to have the care of souls. Knowing what is envy, at its root, why it's wrong, what it does to people, gives you a huge leg up on how to correctly diagnose it and cure it.

Korora said...

And I suppose despair's twin would be a dishonest fool's hope, where someone deceives themself into thinking they will surely prevail in their harebrained scheme?

james said...

How the wrong is classified might matter when you're trying to track down the source of its power.

Texan99 said...

I make generosity the opposite of envy: the ability to be glad that someone else has something good, even if we suffer from the lack of it ourselves.

As for aggressive use of prayer, surely you've seen it? "Lord, we just ask that you come in to the hearts of these elected officials present today and inspire them to do the right things about proposal X." I hear a prayer like that before every single county commissioner's meeting, though the guy delivering it is one of the nicest and most sincere people I know.

engineerlite said...

For those who enjoy the Seven Deadly Sins, I would recommend a book by Rebecca DeYoung, Glittering Vices: a new look at the seven deadly sins and their remedies. She does an excellent job of presenting the thinking of the earliest authors: Aquinas, Aristotle, Augustine, Athanasius, and the Desert Fathers. In exploring the original meaning of the vices, and their subtleties, she unearths many of the contrasts previously observed her, and others. She also proposes exercises for recognizing the presence of the vices in oneself (even better, in others!), and proposes classic disciplines to address them.

bs king said...

Opposite of envy - not quite opposite, but the two sides are probably wanting what someone else has OR wanting them to not have something they do. I had a rather sociopathic coworker once who someone else described as "hating unexplained happiness". She always strove to make sure you couldn't get anything you expressed a particular interest in, regardless of what it was.