The Grape of Heraclitus

In the summer it must be fabulous to be a grape, surrounded by all your cluster mates, chatting it up about your wonderful color and fragrance, soaking in the long days of sun and ocean breeze to enhance both, wondering why some grapes are plumper than others, but otherwise enjoying the surety and certainty of the stasis of being a grape. After all, what else do you know? You are approaching the ideal of grape. Perhaps you’ve heard whispers along the vine of something called “wine,” and “pressing,” but those have no meaning to you.

As Adam Gurri notes in this week’s melancholic post (melancholic for me, at least) at The Umlaut, the finger comes to pick you, at the appointed time and season, that which you cannot know. At this time you will learn what pressing is, and you will learn that it is not at all pleasant, along with you and all your mates. You will protest against the injustice of it all, the disruption of this revolution, but you will not be heard, not your voice nor those of the millions being processed with you.

Through the screen you are pressed, and then what are you? Are you a grape?

No, you are joy for posterity, the gladdening of hearts.

The Opposite of Virtue: A Leveled Approach


This notion from Sam Wilson’s primer on transaction goosed my gray cells: “I encourage you, O dearest reader, to consider justice to be an additional salient dimension here. There is nothing that inheres to any of these three a particular notion of justice.”

“Well, yeah,” I said to myself. “Let’s talk about that.” So I tried, and my first attempt, subtitled, “A Volley,” left me dissatisfied. As they say in comedy: if the joke bombs the first time, repeat it until they laugh. But first, a graphic.

Here’s how I understand Sam’s taxonomy, of sorts: Action

Anything can do action: humans, mammals, snails, the wind. Humans, I believe, carry out their existence transacting. That’s the first half of my post. The second half of my piece is concerned with the difficulty of aligning oneself justly, or morally, or with virtue in order for transacting and exchanging to go on. While I do distinguish among the three, I do not see hard, fast lines separating them. Honest people, for example, do not steal. Moreover, honest people help those near to them prosper. And so, I asked, whence theft? Theft is not merely the absence of virtue, it is an action driven by a will to harm someone near at hand (virtually or presently). I mean, we watch each other like hawks to ensure that one does not make away with the other’s hawklings. Do we not presume to do so because we use virtue to temper our own nature to steal, also presuming that not all temper that nature?

Adam Gurri commenced to ask some questions which I did not understand, which told me that I probably laid an egg. Therefore, to illustrate…

A Story

“Once upon a time” is inappropriate here, even though it functions as a parable, because the following story is typological, meaning that, even though it is made-up here, this case recurs often enough to make it into clinical studies as textbook. Without further ado: Continue reading “The Opposite of Virtue: A Leveled Approach”

The Opposite of Virtue: A Volley

Transacting, as Sam Wilson noted, has its uses and its abuses. Transacting, it seems, is essential. If it is true that transacting is essential to the human experience—and I think it is of the essence: almost nothing is human unless a transaction has occurred—then moral questions apply. Am I transacting with virtue, or am I transacting evilly?

It calls to mind the ancient question of evil, its quelle, that is, within the human breast. For the question, let’s add one more component to Sam’s taxonomy (Action, Transaction, Exchange): Interaction. Human interaction is much about transaction and exchange, which, of course, is all actionable, trying to manipulate the natural world into serving human needs and wants, yea, even that unquenchable desire to progress. For this activity to continue unabated to the benefit of many, including myself, virtuous behavior is required, and included in this behavior must be the notion of posterity. In other words, I measure my virtue versus my evil by my interaction with the other human(s) near to me. Was my interacting and transacting interacting and transacting I’d like done to me?

Ah! But evil lurks in there somewhere; otherwise I would not be measuring myself and those around me. We are constantly measuring each other by the consequences of our behavior. Consequences, as we all know, might not manifest themselves terribly quickly, sometimes not within the lifetime of the actor, and the wise have taught since time immemorial that considering posterity is of the essence to the survival of our institutions, which are necessary for acting, interacting, transacting, and, most importantly for progress, exchanging. It is the age old collapse of the distinction between little white lies and lies for deceiving one’s enemy to his death.

Consider theft, for example: civilized persons are quick to intervene when a child helps himself to a stick of gum from the corner convenience store; the act itself is inconsequential, but the evil which drove the act might have terrible consequences in posterity.

Put another way: a pickpocket engages in manifest thievery, which, when analyzed by justice, is 2 + 2 = 4. Judgment is easy and should be swift. A stock broker, on the other hand, may charge $25 for a transaction when $21 will do. Is the $4 theft? Or is it rightful profit for additional labor incurred in the transaction (I’m looking at you, Valued Client #xxx-07249)? Or should it have been $23.75? The market gives us freedom to steal/profit; it does not judge, not immediately, anyway; at best, it looks for patterns of bad behavior. The conscience, however, begins to judge immediately, usually commencing before the transaction. Then the conscience goes about the hard labor, thereafter, to justify the padded transaction fee or to accuse the self. What about posterity? What equation will posterity employ when it analyzes the slightly pudgy transaction fee? How will posterity apply justice when the self is pushing up daisies? What if posterity misjudges theft, because it was justified, as virtue?

Isn’t it fair to say that thievery leeches through virtue?