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« The Unpardonable Sin in Academia | Main | Book guilt »

September 17, 2007

Why hate goodness?

That's a question that's been on my mind for a while now. Theodore Dalrymple, writer, former prison physician, and a man who has "spent a great deal of [his] life among the utmost ugliness, both physical and moral," takes up the question of why many people hate goodness in a fascinating article in the New English Review (hat tip to Wittingshire):

I found [another doctor's] example intimidating to me: not, of course, because of anything he said or did, but because I knew, indubitably and at once, that I should never be as good a man as he. My problem was ego: I wanted to make a mild stir in the world, and doing good for others was not enough for me, not that I was bad enough to wish them any harm (and in the event, I did my fair share of getting up in the middle of the night on their behalf). But the good of others could never be my sole motive, or entirely satisfying to me. I could never be wholly benevolent, as he was. And now I feel guilty that I, not as good a man as he, am somewhat better known than he. The judgement of the world is not infallible.

Oddly enough, I have something in common in the above respect with a man whom I do not in general find congenial, that is to say Michel Foucault. Foucault’s father was a surgeon of local renown, who gave the young Michel an example of practical compassion for others (namely, getting up in the middle of the night to save their lives) which he, Michel, knew that he would never be able to live up to because he did not care enough about their lives to do so. There was one recourse left to him, if as an egotist he was to equal or surpass his father, namely to adopt the Nietzschean position that such compassion as his father showed is really disguised weakness, contempt or drive for power, but not real compassion. Thus, everything is the opposite of what it seems, and progress, so called, is really regress, or at best sideways movement.   

Of course, long ago someone else already said much the same thing.

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Comments

Anna

Jesus talks about this in matthew 10 when He commissions the disciples. It should come as no surprise that we fallen people hate goodness.

Jason Taylor


It is curious but I find both extreme goodness and extreme evil hard to comprehend sometimes. Someone who is evil in a utilitarian sense is easier to understand then someone who is just-evil(I.E. a mobster is easier to comprehend then a Nazi).
But also someone who is a "decent, just, and honorable person" is easier to understand then someone who actually gives an air of holiness. I don't "hate" goodness. However I can sometimes be frightend by it.

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