Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Of Virtues and Vices

If there was one word that described my ethical point of view, it would be balance. For me, virtues and vices are two extremes that are only differentiated by connotations people attach to them. For example, greed is a trait that we take as a negative term. Yet for me, greed can be positive--greed on a certain level can be called self-love and the desire for self-improvement. It only becomes harmful when taken to the extremes, when we neglect everything else. Similarly, humility is something that's usually associated as a compliment, but too much humility can similarly be harmful: when one doesn't take credit for one's accomplishments, when one turns down too many gifts or rewards even if they're appropriate. For me, these are all simply traits, some that have positive associations and some with negative ones.

Another thing I've observed is that we have virtues and vices for the same traits. Persistence and stubbornness pretty much mean the same thing, except the former is highly regarded, while the latter is usually mentioned as an insult or derogatory term. But they're easily the same trait.

Then there's traits that in today's modern world is seen both as positive and negative. Pride, for example, has been associated as one of the seven deadly sins yet we similarly use the word as if it were a good thing: "I still have my pride." The value of a word like pride is that we recognize and accept both of its potential: pride in the right circumstances can be good and under the wrong situations can similarly be harmful.

Love, on the other hand, is something I think we take for granted. On one hand, people usually associate love as a positive emotion. Yet love can easily cause people harm. Too much love can lead to jealousy, paranoia, selfishness, insecurity, possessiveness, and even rage. How many conflicts have arisen in the name of love? That's not to demean the value of the word however. For every negative thing I can speak about love, there's something positive I can attribute to it. But that doesn't change the duality of the emotion, of that trait.

No comments: