Monday, February 14, 2005

Ideals

Not only do we fail to live up to the ideals we have, we fail to have the ideals we ought to have. There are two problems here, the first pertaining more to the will, the second more to the intellect, or else to a faculty of moral discernment.

It is not enough to have ideals, one must have the right ideals. This is why being idealistic, contrary to common opinion, is not always good. Idealism ran high among the members of the Sturmabteilung (SA) and the Schuetzstaffel (SS). But it would have been better had the members of these organizations been cynics and slackers. It is arguably better to have no ideals than to have the wrong ones.

What is worse, to pay mere lip service to the right ideals without making any attempt at living up to them, or to have no ideals at all? The former is a hypocrite, but the latter is even worse. Lip service is better than no service. It follows that there is a right way and a wrong way to avoid hypocrisy. The right way is to make an effort to live up to the right ideals. The wrong way is to have no ideals.

But one must understand what hypocrisy is. Hypocrisy is not moral failure. Only the moral striver can morally fail. The hypocrite, however, does not strive.