“No surplus words or unnecessary actions,” says Marcus Aurelius. “No random actions, none not based on underlying principles.” It’s an appealing principle by which to live, but in the end I always give it up because it itself seems random and unnecessary. It’s a principle of poetry, not ethics — and there’s something very unpoetic about a life lived consciously as poetry.


Filed under Ethics

5 responses to “Economy

  1. Actually life lived as any art form seems exhausting and unnecessary to me. I enjoy isolated moments of living theater, drama, and poetry in my life, but every day all day… that would be horrible, I think.

  2. It is Curioius that that all of The Deadly Sins
    Envy, Gluttony, Greed, Lust, Pride ( Vanity ), Sloth, Wrath
    Are all expressions of Surplus.
    And while UnNecessary Actions may exhaust ones breakfast,
    There is something Pragmatic to be said for Extending a Margin of Error to Every Endeavor.

  3. Dante (in his Purgatorio) considers only Lust, Gluttony, and Avarice to be sins of excess, and he also considers them to be the least serious of the seven. Next is Sloth, which is obviously a sin of insufficiency rather than excess. The worst sins of all are Wrath, Envy, and Pride, which Dante considers to be perversions of love rather than excesses or insufficiencies. In other words, Lust, Gluttony, and Avarice are too much of a good thing; Sloth is too little; but Wrath, Envy, and Pride are just fundamentally bad things, wrong for qualitative rather than quantitative reasons.

    I’m not endorsing Dante’s analysis, just throwing it out there as a counterpoint to yours. Sloth in particular is hard to see as being an expression of surplus; a surplus of inactivity is an odd sort of surplus.

  4. It’s started to wear on me that i’m always being so argumentative,
    i really want to be supportive and i wouldn’t be ‘here’ if i didn’t thoroughly enjoy your rants & missives,
    But i am clinging tenaciously to the idea of all sins being rooted in surplus.
    My analysis of this is that All these Attributes are points along a series of continuums
    in which one side of the continuum is :
    An Overwrought Self Indulgence of Sacrifice & Penance,
    While The Middle Region is The Modest Truly Virtuous Proposal made by Buddhist Pragmatists,
    And The Far Extremium is The Damnable Mortal Sin.
    Each End is A Surplus of A Specific Property,
    The Middle Heart is A Blending of These Two Excesses.
    ( ??? )

    Apathetic Indifference / A Quiet Fondness* / Perversity of Possessive Lust

    Hysterical Religious Fasting / Healthy Appetite / Obese Gluttony

    Zen Denial of Materialism / Caretaker Ownership / Blind Avarice

    Frantic Ruinous Industry / The Pursuit of Self Actualization / The Indolence of Torpidity

    Naive Contentment / A Sensible Understanding of Human Nature / The Fury of Wrath

    Unquestioning Obedience, Respect & Admiration / Acquiescent Contentedness / Covetous Envy

    Suicidal Loathing / Self Respect or Dignity / Delusional Narcissistic Arrogance

    – – –
    The Quiet Fondness surpasses The Delusional Romantic Love which is A Manifestation of Stringy Pheromones & Chemical Receptors. People often ‘Fall’ in & out of Love, But a Quiet Fondness will endure all the foibles of age & circumstances.

  5. Chrs, what you’re describing is Aristotle’s doctrine of the mean — that both surplus and deficiency are vice, while virtue is a happy medium. That seems inconsistent with your statement that all sin is surplus.

    I don’t personally find Aristotle’s model of virtue to be the most useful. By trying to make everything into a continuum, it masks some important qualitative differences.

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