A reflection on the role of expectation in the production of virtue which makes the production of goods and their preservation most probable. I keep connecting virtue and goods such that it may sound like I am trying to motivate the pursuit of virtue thru its role in the production of gold (goods). There is something to this. An explanation follows. The explanation ends with a limit to that type of reasoning. What follows is an argument that in fact virtue is inestimable and must be pursued for its own sake independent of its role in the production of goods. Must be, otherwise it will not be virtue.
Why end up at the inestimable and independent value of virtue, but begin from concern for earthly goods? I will appeal to Aquinas, but he is not alone in his assessment, and I join him here: “Now it is natural to man to attain to intellectual truths through sensible objects because all our knowledge originates from the senses.” (ST, 1.1.9). It is similar with Jesus of Nazareth who constantly speaks of seed, weeds, wine, bread, yeast, servants, managers.
The point is that it is difficult for the human animal to get at the spiritual/moral sphere. We must get to them if our lives are to be fully and really worthwhile but I am inextricably, for now, tied to body and have access to truth through body. So, the appeal to bodily life is the best way to motivate the spiritual/moral.
We have come so far as to hold up production. And then we have separated the production of spiritual (virtues) from the production of material (goods). Most recently we asserted the hierarchical superiority of virtue over goods. Now we focus, for a time, on the production of virtue. I want to highlight the role of expectation as a warning to he who goes in for the production of virtue.
In 4.2 I noted that no excess of virtue could be produced. The point is that there is a kind of inexhaustibility in the production of virtue. The capital that is produced in soul wealth (virtue) is never such that it produces obesity or other sickness. What makes for the inexhaustibility is that virtue, in its essence, is unlimited. It is, in that sense, not of this world. To the degree that an individual acquires virtue he is in but not of this world.
So, the young in virtue, of any age in time, sets out to produce virtue. He is likely, given his adjustment to temporality and limit, to expect. How much will it cost? How long will it take? What will the verification of its production be? How much of it is needed (given the above you can sense the mistake in this question)?
He embarks having made a youthful allocation of resource and time and some conception of the product that he will produce. Note, we are dealing with the praiseworthy youth (in character not in time). He is aiming, even in his immaturity, at what is best. But he has set himself up for disappointment.
How do I know? Because, dear reader, he who is worse is expecting what better will look like. How does he do so? From whence can the expectation arise but from what is worse? The subjective consciousness that has been judged inadequate and to be made better by production has expected!
This cannot be avoided. What is left? Despair? Nay, dear reader. What is left is reality. It is only expectation that has been tarnished. How about setting expectation aside? How about committing to the production of virtue with no expecation of cost, time or verification? The feral pig in me cringes. There has to be another way. This is terrifying. But in it is everything.
Given my assessment that I am judging the inadequacy of judgment, the words stop. If that subjective consciousness thinks that it can adequately judge what the costs will be of being made better it has already set itself up for serious disappointment. And what will inadequate subjective consciousness do in the face of serious disappointment? This is the real moment of despair.
He is likely to give up. He is likely, given his inadequacy, to utter the following. In fact the voices in him are legion when it comes to the following expression: “Well, you thought you knew how long it would take to overcome lust or greed or anger or sloth. But look at you. You did it again. You just proved to yourself and verified the impossibility and so the unworthiness of the pursuit of virtue. You should relax. At least you can enjoy what is obvious…that virtue is unattainable.”
What I want to do is avoid that moment or at least to produce the wherewithal to deal with the encounter with that. And what this inadequate subjective consciousness has found is that what is best is to set no finite time on how long it will take to produce virtue. There is no cost that is too great. There is no finite verification that the work is done. There is no amount of gold, no honor among men, no earthly achievement by which “enough” can be judged. That which is pursued is infinite, it is inestimable, and I (this subjective consciousness over here) have been given (gratia, kharisma) another day on which to pursue!
Unmerited. Unproduced. Time is not mine. It is a gift. Space is not mine. It is a gift. Both are given for production until production is finished. And the most important production of this life is without end. To it.