I found an interesting trend in the news today that, it seems, has been going on in the United Kingdom for some years now: the trend is to sell synthetic cocaine advertised as “bath salts.” These sorts of despicable people need their heads re-arranged. I can’t imagine the horrid nature of these things: they cause death, psychosis, and other REALLY nasty side-effects. If anyone is in a dispute over whether drugs are contrary to human flourishing, this seems like a really clear-cut case. In fact, I’d give the idiots who put this crap up their noses a Darwin Award.
There is a remarkably simple but interesting intersection here: notions of “goodness.”
What do we mean by goodness?
Often, moral goodness is what we mean. So, doing blow or some such evil thing is usually understood as “evil” because it goes against God’s law.
But this isn’t a very natural use of that concept.
When I say “doing nose candy is bad for you,” I mean something very close, I think, to the primary meaning of “goodness.” And that notion of goodness might just be the root of what it truly means to be a morally good person in the objective sense. We might then call a “good body” an “excellent” or “perfectly functioning” body. In the same way, is not a “good human being” one that is “excellent” or “functioning exceptionally well?”
I’d certainly like to think so. And I think it’s implicit in all of our language about “goodness.”
People who argue FOR using blow or other drugs will often pull the “autonomy” card in some fashion or other:
“I can do what I want; who’s it hurting?”
They’ve subscribed in that statement to another notion of goodness: goodness is not hurting others. Why? Not because it makes those people “less” human-like or the blow-addict less of a human being, but probably because it disobeys some law – these folks probably are rather loosy-goosy with their terms, but I think that law mentality is often very basic and implicit in their terminology. Hence the popular confusion between civil law and what is moral – just turn on some political debates on the radio or TV.
I, on the other hand, think that we are called to be more than rule-followers. We are called to be human beings in the full sense of the word: engaged fully in what it means to be alive, living lives of noble contemplation. And that is where we get laws; the path to that sort of life is really what’s behind the laws of God, of nature, and of man. It’s not the other way around.
And that, in turn, shines all sorts of light on that old problem, often called the Euthypro dilemma: “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” God is the ultimate Goodness which we seek to imitate in all we do.
But enough philosophical musing. This afternoon, I’ve come across an offer to purchase a nice case of concentrated “Bolivian Blow Bath Salts” by a nice man I met on the Internet.
They came marked as “**NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION**” and talk a lot about having a “wicked wild” bath time; the latter certainly appeals to my current state of significantly un-fun and boring bath times.
But it’s better to be safe than sorry, so…
I’ll test them on the Jesuit’s first.
Yours in Christ,
Br. James Dominic, OP