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Wisdom and Virtue

I've had a lot of people tell me I am very wise. This always baffles me. When I look at my life, I know that I am hardly an expert on living it. I honestly don't think I am exceptionally wise, and don't really want to live in a world where that happens to be true. But maybe I am.

I've also been called a virtue ethicist. This has happened only once, in a conversation with my friend Esther. She is a graduate student in philosophy and was studying ethics at the time. I told her my views on the subject, and she said "Oh, you're a virtue ethicist".

I had no idea. I couldn't have, because I'd never heard the term before that conversation. If I'm remembering the conversation correctly, she told me (or maybe affirmed when I asked her) that Benjamin Franklin was a virtue ethicist when he made his famous list.

I'm really not all that virtuous. This suggests at first that I am not the wise virtue ethicist the opening paragraphs suggest I am. But maybe I am if we distinguish between wisdom and virtue. I had a pastor once who explained this distinction quite well. He was at the Chapel Hill Bible Church, which I attended while I was in graduate school. He had more of a philosophical bent than you would ever expect from a southern conservative evangelical.

Once he explained the three steps of knowledge, wisdom, and virtue. He said that knowledge was awareness of how things are. Wisdom is an awareness of how knowledge applies to your life. And virtue is acting on your wisdom. So maybe I have attained wisdom but have not yet reached virtue.

The more cynical readers have probably  figured out that this is just a fancy way of saying I'm a hypocrite. Those cynics would be correct.

My original plan for today was to write something about the importance of good time management. (I think it's called "industry on Benjamin Franklin's list...he was not as contaminated with bureaucratic language as folks today are.) Then it occurred to me that more often than not I am pretty crappy at time management.

I probably will still make that post. But first I wanted to do the standard full disclosure and let all the readers know I am not very good at following the wisdom I espouse. You can think of this post as a blanket disclaimer for any post on this blog that contains anything resembling moral guidance.