Among the diverse ways in which people today live unreflectively, prominent is the attachment to kindness. Frequent are the admonitions to be kind—and, indeed, often it is used as a defense for one’s moral righteousness when caught out in immoral actions: “I’m not a bad person, I am kind…” (as though being kind covered up all other blemishes of character!). Thus, as one of our members asks:
What is kindness? What is the relation between kindness and the Good? It seems today that a lot of people speak of kindness as a replacement for being good. Kindness seems to be a way of affirming someone in what choices they make (regardless of the choice). I would interested to hear what people think about this.
Good questions! We will therefore be discussing the nature of kindness this evening during our Philosophical Happy Hour (request an invite below).
In correspondence with this, and in preparation for this conversation, I would suggest reading some selections from St. Thomas’ treatise on charity, including that on the principal act and that on fraternal correction. One particular passage I think most relevant:
q.27, a.2, “whether to love, considered as an act of charity is the same as goodwill?”
Goodwill properly speaking is that act of the will whereby we wish we well to another. Now this act of the will differs from actual love, considered not only as being in the sensitive appetite but also as being in the intellective appetite or will. For the love which is in the sensitive appetite is a passion. Now every passion seeks it object with a certain eagerness. And the passion of love is not aroused suddenly, but is born of an earnest consideration of the object love; wherefore the Philosopher, showing the difference between goodwill and the love which is a passion, says (Ethic. ix.5) that goodwill does not imply impetuosity or desire, that is to say, has not an eager inclination, because it is by the sole judgment of his reason that one man wishes another well. Again such like love arises from previous acquaintance, whereas goodwill sometimes arises suddenly, as happens to us if we look on at a boxing-match, and we wish one of the boxers to win. But the love, which is in the intellective appetite, also differs from goodwill, because it denotes a certain union of affections between the lover and the beloved, inasmuch as the lover deems the beloved as somewhat united to him, or belonging to him, and so tends towards him. On the other hand, goodwill is a simple act of the will, whereby we wish a person well, even without presupposing the aforesaid union of the affections with him. Accordingly, to love, considered as an act of charity, includes goodwill, but such dilection or love adds union of affections, wherefore the Philosopher says (Ethic. ix.5) that goodwill is a beginning of friendship.
Philosophical Happy Hour
Come join us for drinks (adult or otherwise) and a meaningful conversation. Open to the public! Held every Wednesday from 5:45–7:15pm ET.