If you have followed this particular string of posts (1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5) you have thought through with me the worthiness of producing soul shape as beautiful art, what character is, the ideal to which we model our shaping, expectations about production process, and most recently what production should feel like. I would like to end in the weeds if we weren’t there already.
Hume famously says something like, “Reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions.” This has been often misunderstood mightily some and misused by others. The truth that is in the statement is that Reason, as we normally understand it can at best calculate and weigh. What it calculates and weighs is that which we know through feeling. Our feeling (emotion, desire, longing, aversion, preference, etc.) both gives the things around us weight and value. All Reason, as calculator and weigher, can do is to most effectively direct the pursuit of what feeling informs us about. This is undoubtedly a truth of our practical reason.
To think that it does not matter how we feel, or that anything is permissible in feeling, is the greatest of errors. Reason can just as effectively help me reach porn and marijuana and sugar and status as it can friendship, tranquility, health and strength. The Humean point is that much is in the shape of soul that feels. And that is not a point that should be forgotten. But the point only emphasizes the importance of shaping. It does not release from the weight and responsibility of shaping.
But, let us say we wish to begin this project. We begin from the undeveloped or less developed shape of soul. How from that position are we to begin well? How are we to see clearly what our misshapen feeling delivers to us? This is what I call the paradox of development. Development, I submit, from the perspective of Reason, is impossible. But this should inform us of the limits of Reason more than the worthwhileness of the work of development.
Reason says that an effect cannot be greater than its cause. Try it. Reason will reject any effect that is greater than its cause. BUT, self-development is precisely a case of the less-developed me becoming a better-developed me. So, self-development is impossible. Implication?
You and I can do the impossible! Do not let the limitation of Reason be an excuse. Do not wait for proof of possibility. Set out. Should you be ready for recalculation, revision, correction, realignment, recalibration, reparation, resetting. Of course! This is all in practice and training. It is a matter of course.
Development is from lesser to greater. And it is, dear reader, impossible. So, you and I can do the impossible. How do I know? I have much progress left dear reader, but I have made some. Is it secure? Nothing in this life is. But I have seen and tasted some progress. And it is good. First faith (walking toward better without light). Then hope (ones’ insides begin to reshape, yearn for, long for better). Then love (one gets a taste of better and becomes militantly devoted to union with better).
Body beauty fades. But we do not know the upper limit of soul beauty. We do not know how beautiful it can become or the impact it can have in this world. we have seen glimpses. But just as soul beauty is a part of the invisible soul so it may be the case that its impact is difficult to see. Think of what impact looked like to Socrates or Jesus when they awaited death. Socrates drank the hemlock with a few disciples around and had no clue that his brief time on this earth and execution by the state would turn in to thousands of years of impact. When Jesus hung on the cross all he saw was rejection (it is even suggested that he felt rejected by the god (who he called father)). He died alone and yet…the impact. We do not, we should not aim for impact. Let us aim for virtue, for righteousness, for soul beauty. Let impact bet what it is to be. It is out of our hands.