Sunday, January 1, 2012

Number Thirty

Das Gute ist in gewissem Sinne trostlos.

In a certain sense the Good is comfortless. [Kaiser/Wilkins]

Goodness is in a certain sense comfortless. [Hofmann]


The Hofmann indicates this aphorism is cancelled, while Kaiser/Wilkins does not. Perhaps there is some uncertainty whether it falls under the cancellation of the second part of the previous number.

If evil is already inside, admitted and absorbed, and goodness does not consist in struggling with it, but with a kind of vigilant ignorance of it, then there is no respite for goodness. Goodness, knowing that evil stops drawing attention to itself once one has granted it admittance, must take evil's presence for granted. Even if that evil is induced to leave, goodness has no choice but to mistrust the apparent absence of evil, to mistrust itself. This means that goodness can't know itself; the recognition of evil, and its opposition to good, makes it necessary that the good be known, but goodness can never be taken for granted. Evil comes to you, but goodness is perennially elusive.

In that case, it's tempting to adopt the idea that goodness consists of the search for the good, rather than its discovery and possession, but then this requires us to accept the unsatisfactory notion of a hunt for something that doesn't exist. It may be a better statement of the case to say that goodness is attentiveness to direction, while evil is inattentiveness to direction or worse, self-deception about direction.

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