The Paint-by-Numbers Project of Living

Adam’s right. Life is a project. Luckily for us, it’s not all D.I.Y.. Ordinary people don’t have to re-invent what it means to be a good mother, a good neighbor, a good citizen, a good pet owner. Received wisdom abounds, and even when it’s not particularly reflective, insightful, or deep, we can usually rely on the tests of time to beat the chaff from the wheat.

Usually, anyway. I’d be inclined to say that there should be a strong presumption in favor of adhering to folk wisdom, but that doesn’t mean unenlightened, uncritical devotion. Thoughtful empirical research can actually test whether or not there’s necessarily any truth to aphorisms like “spare the rod and spoil the child.” Where appropriate, we can gently and respectfully lay rubbish ideas to eternal repose.

As I wrote elsewhere today, “[e]xpectations for what it means to not be a jerkwad neighbor emerge from the complex daily interplay we learn along the grand boulevard of eudaimonia. It sure would be nice if we’d replace some of the burnt-out bulbs lighting the way. Bring back virtue ethics.”

Life is a project. Luckily, it’s one we don’t have to work on alone.

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