We will begin with the production process of anything and move into the production process of beautiful soul-art specifically.
Production requires material (material cause). The material is not feeling as much as that which is the source of the shape of feeling. This is character.
Production requires a producer (efficient cause). The efficient cause of the shape is the self and will of the self.
Production requires an end (final cause). The end is the beautiful soul, enlightened, blessed, happy.
Production requires an understanding of that which is to be produced (formal cause). We submit that the form of happiness is the properly related prudential measuring, temperate and courageous feeling and just action.
Then, we can get down to the dirty economics and engineering of production. The “how to”, the strategy, the steps, the way.
Comments on the way. First, back to Aristotle. Virtue is the way to happiness. But lacking virtue, we must back up and ask how do we get virtue? “But the virtues we get by first practicing them, as we do in the arts…People become temperate and gentle, others licentious and passionate, by behaving in one or the other way in particular circumstances. In a word, moral states are the results of activities like the states themselves.”
Dear reader, do you believe Aristotle? The claim is the easiest to understand and the hardest to put in practice. The only way to effect the soul-shape is to will the actions that would be the product of the soul-shape! I cannot reach in directly and shape my soul. But I can indirectly effect action regardless of the shape of my soul which Aristotle says will shape my soul.
All you know about practice can be employed here. And if you know not practice yet, it is the easiest thing in the world to begin and the hardest to maintain. To my mind the heart of practice is faith (do not be offended by the outer sound or spelling of words). And the heart of faith is repetition.
Why faith? When embarking for the first time on choosing in away not before chosen and which runs counter to current soul-shape there will be little evidence that you can do it or that it is worth it. Soul will express that the worthwhileness is all in the old way. Past evidence will all be in the old way. What desirability or reasonability will the new way hold? Nothing unless the bare fact of the new way being NOT the old way is evidence of anything. And while it might be evidence of something, the NOT category is purely negative and so an infinite range of choices is NOT the old way. There will be no reason specifically in this new way. You will be required to walk not by sight.
What does it mean to have faith or to not walk by sight? It means, in the case of soul-shaping, to act in a direction regardless of the dislike by the soul that is still aiming toward the old way. It means, in the case of soul-shaping, to continually, repetitiously, regardless of feeling, choose in the direction of the new way though that part of the soul that loved the old way screams in starvation or the whispers of doubt spread their lies that it is not worth it, that you will never again feel good, that failure is around the corner.
Let us focus on temperance and courage. To my mind both prudence and justice are subjectively supported by the good feeling produced by temperance and courage. The prudential clarity with which porn or marijuana is weighed, and the justice which the responsive action embodies will very much hinge on how the soul feels in the presence of porn or marijuana. Let us focus on training feeling. It is both the most subjectively influential and the the subjective condition of prudence and justice which are in a sense more objectively important.
As in any training you neither want to take on too little or too much. But you are the expert on your relations to the appearance of what is good (pleasurable) or evil (painful). You are the expert. Don’t prefer the current feeling response you have to an appearance of good or evil? Want to change the appearance of good and evil in your environment? Does marijuana look one way to you but you’d rather it look another?
Aristotle recommends training through acting the way a person would act who feels the way you want to feel. The Puritanical Libertarian wants to emphasize the most important part of training-repetition. And this is everything. You be faithful in action regardless of how it feels. And, from faith and the walk through the valley of the shadow of death will come hope, and from hope love!
How long will it take before the transformation of character such that not my willed response but my feeling response to the part of the world I am focused on takes place? A warning: human expectation is impatient. Double your best estimate. A measuring suggestion: how many times did you choose in action to build the feeling? Let us assume that at least an equal number of choices in the opposite direction would be required to return to neutrality and then some number in addition to begin to build the virtuous power. The best thing to do is to stay at it until you hunger and thirst for virtue. Don’t let anything less satisfy. Refuse to accept anything less.
A final word on what it is like to choose in the opposite direction. It feels like hell. Maybe it is hell if there are different kinds. It feels like death. In a metaphorical sense it is. The old you suffers. The new you (who still feels with the feeling of the old you) must walk into death voluntarily repeatedly. The seed that will grow the new plant must first die. The sperm that joins egg mus cease being sperm and let go of identity as sperm to become embryo. The new you, in seed form must endure something similarly–the loss of identity, the confusion of not knowing where or what for, and the faith of a determined will with its choosing set on enlightenment and blessedness set on the alteration of feeling as a first step.
Sound like too much? Costs and benefits are all around. The cost of pursuing blessedness and enlightenment is the metaphorical valley of the shadow of death. Every plant endured it. The cost of not pursuing blessedness and enlightenment? Living with the feeling that is the you that you are in the process of growing in whatever direction you are choosing. The Puritanical Libertarian welcomes you to the choice.