Dignity Remains Steadfast

“People hate you because you proved that dignity is meaningless.” “No one needs to prove it. Everyone knows already. They just pretend not to.” – Dr. Hannibal Lecter

From the mouth of a sophisticated and esteemed psychiatrist, such a ludicrous and misleading sentiment may upon first sight carry some weight. For the naive it can become a core belief by which their world becomes transfixed. Whereas a fully formed monster may be entirely bereft of what it takes to corrupt an individual from the inside out.

You may have noticed that the second quote works to reinforce the argument; namely, that dignity is meaningless. This procedure of informal logic snaps together into a coherent whole, yet it comes apart at the seams because none of the premises stand up under the light of reason.

Nevertheless the words come together ever so eloquently. Its cunning intrigue can be used to lead others in a nonchalant sort of way. After all the road to hell is paved with good intentions; a trite and over used saying, yes, but nonetheless effective should the author wish to guide your attention in a direction that serves his ends.

So what are my ends you might ask; why take the time to reveal the vicious nature of vice? Because it negatively affects the way we orient ourselves in the world; in particular, it possesses a harmful influence on the quality of our mental, emotional, social and physical health.

Like an actual clamp that can be used to permanently fix things in place, vice has a way of entrapping us by pinching off or twisting the truth out of context. Just as the arteries of a gluttonous man gradually becomes blocked through poor nutritional habits, so does vice undermine our wellbeing without the individual being all that aware of its grip.

Such grasping can take many forms when it comes to vice. Lust, gluttony, pride, sloth, wrath, greed and envy can be counted among them. Yet craving, aversion and delusion seem to be at its very root. Kid yourself not; the cunning, baffling and powerful nature of vice can derail the best of us.

Vice erodes the common threads of human decency by which dignity remains steadfast, so does this mean people will consequently embrace the law of liberty in light of my ability to reason? In other words, just because the writer can argue for the advantages of removing the rotting effect of neglectfulness, does that mean others will accept the truth of his stance?

The bitter sweetness of a candy dissolves ever so slowly in the mouth. Its lure resides in its immense pleasure but it’s not until later on that the teeth become brittle. That which lacks immediate recognition and effect, but requires a thorough and considerate understanding, will be lost on those who are fixated on the present, which doesn’t lead to enlightenment but to additional and unnecessary suffering through a web of urgency that remains fatten through the masses of mindless wannabe zombies.

About Philosopher Muse

An explorer of volition and soul, a song under a night sky and a dream that forever yearns to be.
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8 Responses to Dignity Remains Steadfast

  1. Shawn says:

    Interesting perspective, and I particularly enjoy the last paragraph and the comparison of vice to the sweetness of candy and the damage being in the long term due to rotting teeth. I think it’s fitting.

    One thought I’ve always had on vice, is how does it fit in the perspective of someone who is unaware of it? For example, if a person grew up in a household where there was no faith-based upbringing, are they genuinely guilty of vice? What does sin mean to someone who knows nothing of it? I think that perhaps some vices (not all) may not be viewed as such to certain people, depending on their circumstances. Some vices should just be common sense; rudeness and criminal behaviour should be a given, and every person should know to avoid them, regardless of upbringing, faith or education. But such is what makes these things a vice in the first place: the fact that people don’t acknowledge them as common sense.

    Obviously, there are some vices that are effectively harmless. After all, a vice can easily be defined as a bad character trait or habit. So biting one’s nails can easily be referred to as a vice, but really hurts no one but the person tearing apart the flesh on their cuticles. However, some vices that people think only harm themselves can have lasting effects in the short and long term. Smoking is a great example. One may easily assume that he or she is only harming themselves, but the eventual health complications place an unnecessary burden on the health care system and the smoker’s family and loved ones. And the prospect of an early death will certainly leave an impact on all of the above.

    Vice is certainly discussed in many Buddhist scriptures, where anger and jealousy have been the consistent ones that appear regardless of sect. But this is why the study of Buddhism focuses on the purity of one’s existence through the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path, which includes Right View, Right Aspiration, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.

    At the end of the day, I believe we are al guilty of vice in one form or another. There would be no suffering in the world if we didn’t. The key is being mindful enough to recognize one’s vices and see them for what they are. I can provide a personal example in my own life, which is my love for red wine. Although not a drunk, my purchase and consumption of wine drains financial resources, affects my blood sugars and clouds my mind (during the consumption, anyway), which leaves me open to a host of issues. Sometimes it becomes important to take an objective look at one’s life and make a concerted effort to recognize what we can change and improve. After all, the only way to move in life is forward.

    • In order for one to be guilty in the eyes of the law, there has to be intent and an action, so if someone commits an offence without knowing and/or willingly doing so, that person may not be guilty in our Courts. However, there are all kinds of legalities that come into play that can confirm or negate a criminal offence if one can demonstrate that the person ought to have known the difference. For example, if a person lies on their insurance policy by saying (and believing) they are fit, even though they are clearly not, why should that person go scot-free if it can be shown that the person was intelligent enough at the time of filling out the paper work, regardless of their erroneous belief. Just because we believe in something, doesn’t excuse us from the consequences of our actions. Neither can we put our heads in the soil, and expect an inconvenience to somehow disappear. Neglectfulness, and/or ignorance, doesn’t necessarily excuse us from our obligations and/or faults.

      As to what sin might mean to someone who knows nothing of it… let us think out loud for a moment here… surely the majority of people know when they are doing something harmful or wrong… generally speaking… maybe… not really… let’s rub off the chalkboard and begin anew:

      One may not be brought up in a religious family but I would suspect that the far majority of parents want their children to at least adopt their own moral or ideal of a behavioural standard. So even if they don’t use the word ‘sin’ in their conditioning process, it’s likely that there will be other terms used to help teach and care for the wellbeing of the child.

      On the other hand, many have bastardized the notion of sin through metaphor and art. Sin simply means to miss the mark. So if you miss the opportunity to fight a worthy opponent in Karate, you may feel a bit disappointed, but you’re not going to get all bent out of shape because you sinned. However, if you do end up sinning a lot, then over time you will find yourself with less and less opportunities to progress in your martial art, and in some respects your life will diminish.

      Apparently there are different kinds of sin, as well as degrees of sin. There are some ‘misses’ that can cost you your life, and there are other ‘sins’ that may not manifest until well into old age. Even those who pray to God daily to remove the negative effect of their sins usually continue to make mistakes on a day to day bases. Why in the world we feel the need to shame religious people probably says more about ourselves, whereas a level headed Christian might see the benefit of using a moderate degree of shame to help discourage participation in a negative or destructive behaviour. On the contrary, to take the emotion of shame to the extremes, where it becomes loathsome or self torture is another matter entirely, so based on these simple factors alone, it would make sense as to why some might misconstrue the advantages of virtue and vice.

      Actually, biting one’s nails can lead to stomach worms and other related complications; let’s just hope that your teeth are not too brittle, which can also lead to a terribly painful experience should you crack off a tooth.

      Indeed, whether we are fully conscious of it or not, we are all accountable in some way to the various forms of vices that plague our wellbeing and erode the common good, and by common good I also mean things like clean water and fresh air; resources that we all need to flourish and thrive.

      There are studies showing that red wine has many health benefits, but as it is with so many other things, all in moderation eh, which is not necessarily the same for all. For instance, some can drink a lot and remain sober as a judge. If you’re interested in slightly altering the way you drink wine in view to inching your way into a happy medium, give thought to eating different kinds of food while you drink, change up your environment a little, take in a few ounces of water between drinks, and be sure to hydrate yourself before going to bed, what odds if you have to get up in the middle of the night to use the washroom. Also be careful with your consumption of foods high in sodium while drinking red wine; generally they don’t pair well together, and may lead to a vicious hangover. For the love of goodness don’t take my word for any of this, but do your own research to affirm and validate the choices you make in regards of your health and wellbeing.

      • Shawn says:

        Great response, Jason. I thought I had replied on this, but apparently I didn’t. My related post will go live tomorrow morning between 7 and 8 am Saskatchewan time (9:30 to 10:30 your time). It’s a bit short notice, but I linked your post in my opening paragraph. If this isn’t okay, please let me know and I’ll disable the link. But give it a read and hopefully you’ll approve.

      • Right on! I’m looking forwarding to reading it. I’ll be in touch soon.

  2. Mary Jo Malo says:

    Your essay gladly brought me back to earlier days of rigorous discussions at existentialism forums. It seems to me Lecter’s is a cunning rhetoric, meant to convince (ha ha) those who naively but accurately believe in the dignity of man. As you say, the second statement is simply meant to reinforce his questionable certainty yet logically falls apart when closely examined. Who are these “they” he means to seduce but those who grasp hold of their dignity? How can anyone ever really know what “they” think and believe? He is perhaps after all preaching to his choir. Two of the most important words I learned, before learning about objective truth, were “some” and “seems.” Then of course there’s the simplest of arguments against those who proffer that term, “meaningless” — the statement loses its truth claim being meaningless itself. Various forms of nihilism, relativism and others require volumes (fiction & non-fiction) to rationalize vice. Virtue needs none. I find comfort in that; its reason is mutually self-evident. My two cents…

  3. inese says:

    I am reading your article and my thoughts drift to politics. Why, I wonder 😉

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