Why Kierkegaard believed it’s lazy to admire our moral heroes | Psyche Ideas

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”The individual who is willing to stop at admiration seems to conceive of morality as akin to an artistic, intellectual or athletic talent. Treating moral character as a talent, I can look in the rearview mirror and tell myself that my neighbour, who was one of the Freedom Riders protesting segregated buses at a time when all I could think of was playing college football, was just born with more moral muscle than me.” This is well put. I know quite a few people who fall into the category of belief, that, greater philosophical understanding is beyond them as if they were born in a state where they can’t grasp concepts higher than the ‘intuition’ they were born with. Similar to people who see athletic prowess as purely a luck based gift of birth, but being blind to the thousand of hours the athlete has dedicated so they can arrive at that point.


“[A person] will brag about something they’re supposed to do. Like, ‘I take care of my kids.’ You’re supposed to you dumb motherf—ker!” – Chris Rock


Another quote from Kierkegaard that stands out to me in this discussion comes from his essay *Present Age* which goes, “There is no more action or decision in our day than there is perilous delight in swimming in shallow waters.” It isn’t enough to recognize what needs to be done or who is doing good for the world. We live in an age of stagnant reflection, perpetually running circles around our largest issues without ever *truly* addressing them as a collective. Not gonna beat a dead horse and repeat what the article said, but damn the idleness of your neighbors can get to you when you pay attention to it.


I think the authors choice of Nietszche is an incredibly interesting one. Kierkgaard and Nietszche both illustrate a wider concept – one should not invest emotional energy into people they cannot converse with ‘to the person’ in open dialogue. Friedrich Nietzsche’s effusive praise of fellow Heraclitan Ralph Waldo Emerson leads to my main criticism of Nietszche himself; whilst he heaps adulation on Emerson, he ignores or derides the philosophical greats of his era who disagree with his worldview. It becomes obvious that Nietszche’s praise of Emerson is projected praise of *himself*. This illustrates the larger concept I believe is at play rather nicely. Investment of emotional energy into people that we cannot converse with leads to the association or disassociation of their traits with ourselves. When Kierkgaard states that we should view upstanding moral behaviour as a requirement, and not to be admired, he alludes to the fact that once we admire others moral behaviour, we admire the morality in ourselves. As a result, the investment of emotional energy as admiration can lead us to become pompous and egotistical; we associate positive traits with ourselves, which leads us to isolate ourselves and become more negative. Whereas, if we invest emotional energy into detesting people who we feel are morally objectionable, we can become moralistic and ineffectual; we don’t wish to hate ourselves, so we do not associate ourselves with their behaviour. This is tantamount to disassociating ourselves from our humanity; we lose the capacity to self reflect as a result.


it is, indeed. somehow this sub recently has a lot of articles that make me go in circles about my disdain for the popular and now often misinterpreted school of Stoicism. Marcus Aurelius and his peers would be very much so annoyed.