All the do-gooders are troublemakers: A plague of virtuous people | A perfectly pestiferous mass of a million saints

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All the do-gooders are troublemakers: A plague of virtuous people | A perfectly pestiferous mass of a million saints

Post by Eckhart Aurelius Hughes »

This is a discussion forum topic for the November 2022 Philosophy Book of the Month, In It Together: The Beautiful Struggle Uniting Us All.



The following is paraphrased from a lecture by Alan Watts:

Alan Watts wrote: The higher self’s your old ego, and you sure hope it is eternal, indestructible, and all wise. But then the great problem is: how to get that higher self working? How does it make any difference to what you do and what you think? I know all kinds of people who’ve got this higher self going, practicing their yoga, but they’re just like ordinary people. Sometimes a little worse. And they can fool themselves. They can say, for example, “Well, my point of view in religion is very liberal. I believe that all religions have divine revelation in them.” But I don’t understand the way you people fight about it. You fight and say that, “We Jehovah's Witnesses have the real religion.” Others say: “Well, we Roman Catholics have it.” And the Muslims say: “No, it is in the Quran, and this is the right way.” And somebody else gets up, and he may be a rather highbrow Catholic and say: “Well, God has given the spirit through all the traditions, but ours is the most refined and mature.” And then somebody comes along and says: “Well, as I said, they’re all equally revelations of the divine. And in seeing this, of course, I’m much more tolerant than you are!”

You see how that game is going to work?

I could take this position: Supposing you regard me as some sort of a guru—and you know how gurus hate each other. They’re always putting each other down. And I could say, “Well, I don’t put other groups down.” See? That outwits all of them. See, we’re always doing that. We’re always finding a way to be one up, and by the most incredibly subtle means.

You see that and you say, “I realize I’m always doing that. Tell me: how do I not do that?”

I say, “Why do you want to know?”

“Well, I’ll be better that way.”

“Yeah, but why do you want to be better?”

You see, the reason you want to be better is the reason why you aren’t—shall I put it like that? We aren’t better because we want to be, because the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Because all the do-gooders in the world—whether they’re doing good for others or doing it for themselves—are troublemakers, on the basis of: “Kindly let me help you or you’ll drown,” said the monkey, putting the fish safely up a tree. We have been on a rampage for the past hundred or more years to improve the world. We have given the benefits of our culture, our religion, our technology to everybody, and we have insisted that they receive the benefits of our culture—even our political styles, our democracy: “You better be democratic or we’ll shoot you!” And, having conferred these blessings all over the place, we wonder why everybody hates us. See? Because sometimes, doing good to others, and even doing good to one’s self, is amazingly destructive. Because it’s full of conceit: how do you know what’s good for other people? How do you know what’s good for you? If you say you want to improve, then you need to know what’s good for you. But obviously you don’t, because if you did you would be improved. So we don’t know.

It’s like the problem of geneticists, which they face today. I went to a meeting of geneticists not so long ago, where they gathered in a group of philosophers and theologians and said, “Now look here. We need help. We now are on the verge of figuring out how to breed any kind of human character we would want to have. We can give you saints, philosophers, scientists, great politicians. Anything you want! Just tell us: what kind of human beings ought we to breed?”

So I said, “How will those of us who are genetically unregenerate make up our minds what genetically generate people might be?” Because I’m afraid very much that our selection of virtues may not work. It may be like, for example, this new kind of high-yield grain which is made and which is becoming ecologically destructive. When we interfere with the processes of nature and breed efficient plants and efficient animals, there’s always some way in which we have to pay for it. And I can well see that eugenically-produced human beings might be dreadful. We could have a plague of virtuous people. You realize that? Any animal, considered in itself, is virtuous. It does its thing. But in crowds they’re awful—like a crowd of ants or locusts on the rampage. They’re all perfectly good animals, but it’s just too much. I could imagine a perfectly pestiferous mass of a million saints. So I said to these people, “Look, the only thing you can do: just be sure that a vast variety of human beings is maintained. Don’t, please, breed us down to a few excellent types.” Excellent for what? We never know how circumstances are going to change, and how our need for different kinds of people changes.

[...]

What seemed in the moral and spiritual sphere like great virtues in times past are easily seen today as hideous evils.

Let’s take, for example, the Inquisition. In its own day, among Catholics, the Holy Inquisition was regarded as we today regard the practice of psychiatry. You see, you feel that in curing the person of cancer, almost anything is justified. The most complex operations, the most weird surgery. People suspended for days and days on end on the end of tubes with, x-ray penetration burning. Or people undergoing shock treatment. People locked in the colorless monotonous corridors of mental institutions. In all good faith, they knew that witchcraft and heresy were terrible things. Awful plagues imperiling people’s souls for ever and ever. So any means were justified to cure people of heresy. We don’t change. We’re doing the same thing today, but under different names. We can look back at those people and see how evil that was, but we can’t see it in ourselves. So therefore, beware of virtue.

Lao Tzu, the Chinese philosopher, said, “The highest virtue is not virtue, and therefore really is virtue. But inferior virtue cannot let go of being virtuous, and therefore is not virtue.” Translated in more of a paraphrastic way: “The highest virtue is not conscious of itself as virtue, and therefore really is virtue. Lower virtue is so self-conscious that it’s not virtue.” In other words: when you breathe, you don’t congratulate yourself on being virtuous. But breathing is a great virtue. It’s living. When you come out with beautiful eyes—blue or brown or green as the case may be—you don’t congratulate yourself for having grown one of the most fabulous jewels on Earth. It’s just eyes. And you don’t count it a virtue to see, to entertain the miracles of color and form. You say, “Oh, that’s just….” But that’s real virtue! Virtue in the old sense of the word as strength, as when we talk about the healing virtue of a plant. That’s real virtue. But the other virtue is a stuck on. They’re ersatz; they’re imitation virtues, and they usually create trouble. Because more diabolical things are done in the name of righteousness.

Be assured that everybody—of whatever nationality, or political frame of mind, or religion—always goes to war with a sense of complete rightness. The other side is the devil. Our opponents, whether in China or Russia or Vietnam, have the same feeling of righteousness about what they’re doing as we have on our side. And a plague on both houses. Because, as Confucius said, “The goodie-goodies are the thieves of virtue,” which is the form of our own proverb “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

What do you think?

Do you agree with Alan Watts?

The line that really stuck out and resonated for me is this one:

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Because all the do-gooders in the world whether they’re doing good for others or doing it for themselves are troublemakers: on the basis of 'kindly let me help you or you will drown,' said the monkey putting the fish safely up a tree."
- Alan Watts


My motto is live and let live. When violent humans come to take me from the proverbial water and put me in the tree, I hope to have the courage to say, "go govern yourself, and keep your hands off me!"

I shared a similar sentiment in my other topic, "Whether you are looking for a savior or someone to save, or both, look into a mirror.":

Scott wrote: December 9th, 2022, 6:22 pmThere's no shortage of unhappy people wanting to give you advice, if not put a literal or metaphorical gun to your head and force you to take their literally miserable advice and live by their literally miserable standards. Many would rule the world because they cannot rule themselves, at least not in a way that lets them be truly happy with inner peace.

Whether you are looking for a savior or someone to save, or both, look into a mirror.



"Kindly let me help you or you will drown," said the monkey putting the fish safely up a tree.
"Kindly let me help you or you will drown," said the monkey putting the fish safely up a tree.
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"The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master."

I believe spiritual freedom (a.k.a. self-discipline) manifests as bravery, confidence, grace, honesty, love, and inner peace.
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Re: All the do-gooders are troublemakers: A plague of virtuous people | A perfectly pestiferous mass of a million saint

Post by Eckhart Aurelius Hughes »

Here is another related quote that I love:

H.L. Mencken, Minority Report wrote:The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it. Power is what all messiahs really seek: not the chance to serve. This is true even of the pious brethren who carry the gospel to foreign parts.
My entire political philosophy summed up in one tweet.

"The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master."

I believe spiritual freedom (a.k.a. self-discipline) manifests as bravery, confidence, grace, honesty, love, and inner peace.
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Re: All the do-gooders are troublemakers: A plague of virtuous people | A perfectly pestiferous mass of a million saint

Post by Eckhart Aurelius Hughes »

Here's a few more quotes along the same theme:

Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe wrote: One of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.

To summarize: it is a well-known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it.

To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.

Edward W. Said wrote:Every empire, however, tells itself and the world that it is unlike all other empires, that its mission is not to plunder and control but to educate and liberate.

Robin Skynner wrote:If people can't control their own emotions then they have to start trying to control other people's behavior.

control.jpg


I non-humbly still like best what I wrote myself as a follow-up to Alan Watt's words in the Original Post (OP):

Scott wrote: February 27th, 2023, 5:02 pm
"The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Because all the do-gooders in the world whether they’re doing good for others or doing it for themselves are troublemakers: on the basis of 'kindly let me help you or you will drown,' said the monkey putting the fish safely up a tree."
- Alan Watts


My motto is live and let live. When violent humans come to take me from the proverbial water and put me in the tree, I hope to have the courage to say, "go govern yourself, and keep your hands off me!"

I'll say it again: Go govern yourself, and keep your hands off me! :)
My entire political philosophy summed up in one tweet.

"The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master."

I believe spiritual freedom (a.k.a. self-discipline) manifests as bravery, confidence, grace, honesty, love, and inner peace.
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Re: All the do-gooders are troublemakers: A plague of virtuous people | A perfectly pestiferous mass of a million saint

Post by Stoppelmann »

I am aware of Alan Watts' talk on this subject and it's main intention was to point out that people wanting to convince others are interrupting other people's lives with advice that comes from a sense of superiority.

If you are engaged in helping people, like in my profession, you are not those being criticised as troublemakers, unless you start dictating over patients - which does happen, but is not professional. Therefore, there are areas in which professional and also spontaneous helpers are needed.
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Re: All the do-gooders are troublemakers: A plague of virtuous people | A perfectly pestiferous mass of a million saint

Post by Eckhart Aurelius Hughes »

The ideas expressed by Alan Watts in the quote from the Original Post (OP) and the other quotes I shared in this topic also remind me of these wise words from C.S. Lewis:
C.S. Lewis wrote:Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
My entire political philosophy summed up in one tweet.

"The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master."

I believe spiritual freedom (a.k.a. self-discipline) manifests as bravery, confidence, grace, honesty, love, and inner peace.
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Re: All the do-gooders are troublemakers: A plague of virtuous people | A perfectly pestiferous mass of a million saint

Post by Stoppelmann »

Scott wrote: March 22nd, 2023, 10:57 am The ideas expressed by Alan Watts in the quote from the Original Post (OP) and the other quotes I shared in this topic also remind me of these wise words from C.S. Lewis:
C.S. Lewis wrote:Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
Okay, so we need to clarify something here (as we often do) and define what we mean, because the term "do-gooder" is used in different ways. I think generalisations without context are problematic and we need to talk about specific cases to be sure.

Of course, there are people who are overzealous or condescending in their efforts to help others, who impose their own values or beliefs on others, or who are more concerned with appearing virtuous than actually making a difference. The term would then be a sarcastic expression, referring to those who Alan Watts was talking about, and may apply to some overzealous helpers.

Someone who is sincerely committed to making a positive difference in the world, whether through volunteering, charitable giving or other forms of activism, may be committed to social justice, environmental protection or other issues, and may spend a considerable amount of money, time and energy doing so, might upset people who oppose their actions, and for this reason they would be called a 'do-gooder' by critics in a tone that makes it clear that the term is being used pejoratively.

However, if a person's commitment to positive change in the world is seen as genuine, they could be called an activist, humanist, advocate, changemaker or philanthropist or some other positive term and would not use the pejorative term. So, it depends on who you are talking about and what you think of what they are doing.
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Re: All the do-gooders are troublemakers: A plague of virtuous people | A perfectly pestiferous mass of a million saint

Post by Eckhart Aurelius Hughes »

Hi, Stoppelmann,

Thank you for your reply. :)

Stoppelmann wrote: March 22nd, 2023, 12:52 pm
Scott wrote: March 22nd, 2023, 10:57 am The ideas expressed by Alan Watts in the quote from the Original Post (OP) and the other quotes I shared in this topic also remind me of these wise words from C.S. Lewis:
C.S. Lewis wrote:Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
Okay, so we need to clarify something here (as we often do) and define what we mean, because the term "do-gooder" is used in different ways.
The post to which you are replying with the C.S. Lewis quote does not contain the word "do-gooder".

Perhaps you are referencing the quote by Alan Watts from the OP.


Stoppelmann wrote: March 22nd, 2023, 12:52 pm Of course, there are people who are overzealous or condescending in their efforts to help others, who impose their own values or beliefs on others, or who are more concerned with appearing virtuous than actually making a difference. The term would then be [...] referring to those who Alan Watts was talking about, and may apply to some overzealous helpers.
Indeed, I generally agree. Regarding the specific term in question, since Alan Watts is the only in this thread who has used the word "do-gooder" in this thread, it must (as he uses it) refer to what he uses it to refer. That's true by tautology. Though, I probably wouldn't agree he was using the term sarcastically, nor would I tend to think he was talking about people who were dishonest about or impotent in their desire to do what they think is good or otherwise not really making a difference. I'm sure one cannot make what Alan Watts calls "trouble" without making a difference. I suspect Alan Watts may have gotten his point across more clearly if he had instead said, "All the effective honest do-gooders are troublemakers."


Regardless, to understand your comments on matters related to the quotes by Alan Watts and C.S. Lewis, or pretty much anything about anything, and to have any hope of being understood myself, I really would first need a direct yes/no answer to this question I asked you in my topic, Man Is Not Fit to Govern Man:

Scott wrote: February 23rd, 2023, 2:02 pm
Let's look at the following four sentences, all four of which I believe to be true:

1. I, Scott, do not believe we 'should' or 'ought' to drink coffee tomorrow morning.

2. I, Scott, do not believe we 'should' or 'ought' to not drink coffee tomorrow morning.

3. I, Scott, will drink coffee tomorrow morning.

4. I, Scott, don't know if you will drink coffee tomorrow morning or not, and I, Scott, lovingly don't care if you do drink coffee tomorrow or not.


I don't believe any of the above four statements contradict any of the other ones. Do you?

Thank you,
Scott
My entire political philosophy summed up in one tweet.

"The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master."

I believe spiritual freedom (a.k.a. self-discipline) manifests as bravery, confidence, grace, honesty, love, and inner peace.
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Re: All the do-gooders are troublemakers: A plague of virtuous people | A perfectly pestiferous mass of a million saint

Post by Stoppelmann »

Scott wrote: March 22nd, 2023, 1:41 pm Hi, Stoppelmann,

Thank you for your reply. :)
You're welcome!

When I answered, I was referring to the title of the thread an, of course, to the OP, which you mentioned.
Scott wrote: March 22nd, 2023, 1:41 pm I probably wouldn't agree he was using the term sarcastically ...
If you didn't know the way a term that on the surface is positive (do good) is used, you might think it a positive term, but it is sarcastic because it means the opposite and spoken with a derogatory tone.
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Re: All the do-gooders are troublemakers: A plague of virtuous people | A perfectly pestiferous mass of a million saint

Post by Eckhart Aurelius Hughes »

Stoppelmann wrote: March 22nd, 2023, 2:04 pm
Scott wrote: March 22nd, 2023, 1:41 pm Hi, Stoppelmann,

Thank you for your reply. :)
You're welcome!

When I answered, I was referring to the title of the thread an, of course, to the OP, which you mentioned.
Scott wrote: March 22nd, 2023, 1:41 pm I probably wouldn't agree he was using the term sarcastically ...
If you didn't know the way a term that on the surface is positive (do good) is used, you might think it a positive term, but it is sarcastic because it means the opposite and spoken with a derogatory tone.
Hi, Stoppelmann

Thank you for your latest reply!

To understand your comments on matters related to the quotes by Alan Watts and especially words like "do-gooder" and "good" itself, or pretty much anything about anything, and to have any hope of being understood myself, I would first need a direct yes/no answer to this question I asked you in my topic, Man Is Not Fit to Govern Man:

Scott wrote: February 23rd, 2023, 2:02 pm
Let's look at the following four sentences, all four of which I believe to be true:

1. I, Scott, do not believe we 'should' or 'ought' to drink coffee tomorrow morning.

2. I, Scott, do not believe we 'should' or 'ought' to not drink coffee tomorrow morning.

3. I, Scott, will drink coffee tomorrow morning.

4. I, Scott, don't know if you will drink coffee tomorrow morning or not, and I, Scott, lovingly don't care if you do drink coffee tomorrow or not.


I don't believe any of the above four statements contradict any of the other ones. Do you?
My entire political philosophy summed up in one tweet.

"The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master."

I believe spiritual freedom (a.k.a. self-discipline) manifests as bravery, confidence, grace, honesty, love, and inner peace.
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Re: All the do-gooders are troublemakers: A plague of virtuous people | A perfectly pestiferous mass of a million saint

Post by Onyango Victor »

Eckhart Aurelius Hughes wrote: February 27th, 2023, 5:02 pm This is a discussion forum topic for the November 2022 Philosophy Book of the Month, In It Together: The Beautiful Struggle Uniting Us All.



The following is paraphrased from a lecture by Alan Watts:

Alan Watts wrote: The higher self’s your old ego, and you sure hope it is eternal, indestructible, and all wise. But then the great problem is: how to get that higher self working? How does it make any difference to what you do and what you think? I know all kinds of people who’ve got this higher self going, practicing their yoga, but they’re just like ordinary people. Sometimes a little worse. And they can fool themselves. They can say, for example, “Well, my point of view in religion is very liberal. I believe that all religions have divine revelation in them.” But I don’t understand the way you people fight about it. You fight and say that, “We Jehovah's Witnesses have the real religion.” Others say: “Well, we Roman Catholics have it.” And the Muslims say: “No, it is in the Quran, and this is the right way.” And somebody else gets up, and he may be a rather highbrow Catholic and say: “Well, God has given the spirit through all the traditions, but ours is the most refined and mature.” And then somebody comes along and says: “Well, as I said, they’re all equally revelations of the divine. And in seeing this, of course, I’m much more tolerant than you are!”

You see how that game is going to work?

I could take this position: Supposing you regard me as some sort of a guru—and you know how gurus hate each other. They’re always putting each other down. And I could say, “Well, I don’t put other groups down.” See? That outwits all of them. See, we’re always doing that. We’re always finding a way to be one up, and by the most incredibly subtle means.

You see that and you say, “I realize I’m always doing that. Tell me: how do I not do that?”

I say, “Why do you want to know?”

“Well, I’ll be better that way.”

“Yeah, but why do you want to be better?”

You see, the reason you want to be better is the reason why you aren’t—shall I put it like that? We aren’t better because we want to be, because the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Because all the do-gooders in the world—whether they’re doing good for others or doing it for themselves—are troublemakers, on the basis of: “Kindly let me help you or you’ll drown,” said the monkey, putting the fish safely up a tree. We have been on a rampage for the past hundred or more years to improve the world. We have given the benefits of our culture, our religion, our technology to everybody, and we have insisted that they receive the benefits of our culture—even our political styles, our democracy: “You better be democratic or we’ll shoot you!” And, having conferred these blessings all over the place, we wonder why everybody hates us. See? Because sometimes, doing good to others, and even doing good to one’s self, is amazingly destructive. Because it’s full of conceit: how do you know what’s good for other people? How do you know what’s good for you? If you say you want to improve, then you need to know what’s good for you. But obviously you don’t, because if you did you would be improved. So we don’t know.

It’s like the problem of geneticists, which they face today. I went to a meeting of geneticists not so long ago, where they gathered in a group of philosophers and theologians and said, “Now look here. We need help. We now are on the verge of figuring out how to breed any kind of human character we would want to have. We can give you saints, philosophers, scientists, great politicians. Anything you want! Just tell us: what kind of human beings ought we to breed?”

So I said, “How will those of us who are genetically unregenerate make up our minds what genetically generate people might be?” Because I’m afraid very much that our selection of virtues may not work. It may be like, for example, this new kind of high-yield grain which is made and which is becoming ecologically destructive. When we interfere with the processes of nature and breed efficient plants and efficient animals, there’s always some way in which we have to pay for it. And I can well see that eugenically-produced human beings might be dreadful. We could have a plague of virtuous people. You realize that? Any animal, considered in itself, is virtuous. It does its thing. But in crowds they’re awful—like a crowd of ants or locusts on the rampage. They’re all perfectly good animals, but it’s just too much. I could imagine a perfectly pestiferous mass of a million saints. So I said to these people, “Look, the only thing you can do: just be sure that a vast variety of human beings is maintained. Don’t, please, breed us down to a few excellent types.” Excellent for what? We never know how circumstances are going to change, and how our need for different kinds of people changes.

[...]

What seemed in the moral and spiritual sphere like great virtues in times past are easily seen today as hideous evils.

Let’s take, for example, the Inquisition. In its own day, among Catholics, the Holy Inquisition was regarded as we today regard the practice of psychiatry. You see, you feel that in curing the person of cancer, almost anything is justified. The most complex operations, the most weird surgery. People suspended for days and days on end on the end of tubes with, x-ray penetration burning. Or people undergoing shock treatment. People locked in the colorless monotonous corridors of mental institutions. In all good faith, they knew that witchcraft and heresy were terrible things. Awful plagues imperiling people’s souls for ever and ever. So any means were justified to cure people of heresy. We don’t change. We’re doing the same thing today, but under different names. We can look back at those people and see how evil that was, but we can’t see it in ourselves. So therefore, beware of virtue.

Lao Tzu, the Chinese philosopher, said, “The highest virtue is not virtue, and therefore really is virtue. But inferior virtue cannot let go of being virtuous, and therefore is not virtue.” Translated in more of a paraphrastic way: “The highest virtue is not conscious of itself as virtue, and therefore really is virtue. Lower virtue is so self-conscious that it’s not virtue.” In other words: when you breathe, you don’t congratulate yourself on being virtuous. But breathing is a great virtue. It’s living. When you come out with beautiful eyes—blue or brown or green as the case may be—you don’t congratulate yourself for having grown one of the most fabulous jewels on Earth. It’s just eyes. And you don’t count it a virtue to see, to entertain the miracles of color and form. You say, “Oh, that’s just….” But that’s real virtue! Virtue in the old sense of the word as strength, as when we talk about the healing virtue of a plant. That’s real virtue. But the other virtue is a stuck on. They’re ersatz; they’re imitation virtues, and they usually create trouble. Because more diabolical things are done in the name of righteousness.

Be assured that everybody—of whatever nationality, or political frame of mind, or religion—always goes to war with a sense of complete rightness. The other side is the devil. Our opponents, whether in China or Russia or Vietnam, have the same feeling of righteousness about what they’re doing as we have on our side. And a plague on both houses. Because, as Confucius said, “The goodie-goodies are the thieves of virtue,” which is the form of our own proverb “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

What do you think?

Do you agree with Alan Watts?

The line that really stuck out and resonated for me is this one:

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Because all the do-gooders in the world whether they’re doing good for others or doing it for themselves are troublemakers: on the basis of 'kindly let me help you or you will drown,' said the monkey putting the fish safely up a tree."
- Alan Watts


My motto is live and let live. When violent humans come to take me from the proverbial water and put me in the tree, I hope to have the courage to say, "go govern yourself, and keep your hands off me!"

I shared a similar sentiment in my other topic, "Whether you are looking for a savior or someone to save, or both, look into a mirror.":

Scott wrote: December 9th, 2022, 6:22 pmThere's no shortage of unhappy people wanting to give you advice, if not put a literal or metaphorical gun to your head and force you to take their literally miserable advice and live by their literally miserable standards. Many would rule the world because they cannot rule themselves, at least not in a way that lets them be truly happy with inner peace.

Whether you are looking for a savior or someone to save, or both, look into a mirror.




alan-watts-fish-in-a-tree.jpg


Labeling all do-gooders as troublemakers might oversimplify a diverse group of individuals. While some well-intentioned actions may have unintended consequences, many do-gooders contribute positively to society, addressing various issues and fostering positive change. It's essential to consider the nuances and intentions behind individuals' actions rather than making sweeping generalizations.
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Re: All the do-gooders are troublemakers: A plague of virtuous people | A perfectly pestiferous mass of a million saint

Post by Devis Ombeto »

This perception of moral certainty can contribute to the persistence of conflicts, as opposing sides may both feel justified in their actions. Understanding and addressing these differing perspectives is crucial for promoting peace and resolving conflicts.
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Re: All the do-gooders are troublemakers: A plague of virtuous people | A perfectly pestiferous mass of a million saint

Post by Eckhart Aurelius Hughes »

Onyango Victor wrote: January 4th, 2024, 12:04 pm
Eckhart Aurelius Hughes wrote: February 27th, 2023, 5:02 pm This is a discussion forum topic for the November 2022 Philosophy Book of the Month, In It Together: The Beautiful Struggle Uniting Us All.



The following is paraphrased from a lecture by Alan Watts:

Alan Watts wrote: The higher self’s your old ego, and you sure hope it is eternal, indestructible, and all wise. But then the great problem is: how to get that higher self working? How does it make any difference to what you do and what you think? I know all kinds of people who’ve got this higher self going, practicing their yoga, but they’re just like ordinary people. Sometimes a little worse. And they can fool themselves. They can say, for example, “Well, my point of view in religion is very liberal. I believe that all religions have divine revelation in them.” But I don’t understand the way you people fight about it. You fight and say that, “We Jehovah's Witnesses have the real religion.” Others say: “Well, we Roman Catholics have it.” And the Muslims say: “No, it is in the Quran, and this is the right way.” And somebody else gets up, and he may be a rather highbrow Catholic and say: “Well, God has given the spirit through all the traditions, but ours is the most refined and mature.” And then somebody comes along and says: “Well, as I said, they’re all equally revelations of the divine. And in seeing this, of course, I’m much more tolerant than you are!”

You see how that game is going to work?

I could take this position: Supposing you regard me as some sort of a guru—and you know how gurus hate each other. They’re always putting each other down. And I could say, “Well, I don’t put other groups down.” See? That outwits all of them. See, we’re always doing that. We’re always finding a way to be one up, and by the most incredibly subtle means.

You see that and you say, “I realize I’m always doing that. Tell me: how do I not do that?”

I say, “Why do you want to know?”

“Well, I’ll be better that way.”

“Yeah, but why do you want to be better?”

You see, the reason you want to be better is the reason why you aren’t—shall I put it like that? We aren’t better because we want to be, because the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Because all the do-gooders in the world—whether they’re doing good for others or doing it for themselves—are troublemakers, on the basis of: “Kindly let me help you or you’ll drown,” said the monkey, putting the fish safely up a tree. We have been on a rampage for the past hundred or more years to improve the world. We have given the benefits of our culture, our religion, our technology to everybody, and we have insisted that they receive the benefits of our culture—even our political styles, our democracy: “You better be democratic or we’ll shoot you!” And, having conferred these blessings all over the place, we wonder why everybody hates us. See? Because sometimes, doing good to others, and even doing good to one’s self, is amazingly destructive. Because it’s full of conceit: how do you know what’s good for other people? How do you know what’s good for you? If you say you want to improve, then you need to know what’s good for you. But obviously you don’t, because if you did you would be improved. So we don’t know.

It’s like the problem of geneticists, which they face today. I went to a meeting of geneticists not so long ago, where they gathered in a group of philosophers and theologians and said, “Now look here. We need help. We now are on the verge of figuring out how to breed any kind of human character we would want to have. We can give you saints, philosophers, scientists, great politicians. Anything you want! Just tell us: what kind of human beings ought we to breed?”

So I said, “How will those of us who are genetically unregenerate make up our minds what genetically generate people might be?” Because I’m afraid very much that our selection of virtues may not work. It may be like, for example, this new kind of high-yield grain which is made and which is becoming ecologically destructive. When we interfere with the processes of nature and breed efficient plants and efficient animals, there’s always some way in which we have to pay for it. And I can well see that eugenically-produced human beings might be dreadful. We could have a plague of virtuous people. You realize that? Any animal, considered in itself, is virtuous. It does its thing. But in crowds they’re awful—like a crowd of ants or locusts on the rampage. They’re all perfectly good animals, but it’s just too much. I could imagine a perfectly pestiferous mass of a million saints. So I said to these people, “Look, the only thing you can do: just be sure that a vast variety of human beings is maintained. Don’t, please, breed us down to a few excellent types.” Excellent for what? We never know how circumstances are going to change, and how our need for different kinds of people changes.

[...]

What seemed in the moral and spiritual sphere like great virtues in times past are easily seen today as hideous evils.

Let’s take, for example, the Inquisition. In its own day, among Catholics, the Holy Inquisition was regarded as we today regard the practice of psychiatry. You see, you feel that in curing the person of cancer, almost anything is justified. The most complex operations, the most weird surgery. People suspended for days and days on end on the end of tubes with, x-ray penetration burning. Or people undergoing shock treatment. People locked in the colorless monotonous corridors of mental institutions. In all good faith, they knew that witchcraft and heresy were terrible things. Awful plagues imperiling people’s souls for ever and ever. So any means were justified to cure people of heresy. We don’t change. We’re doing the same thing today, but under different names. We can look back at those people and see how evil that was, but we can’t see it in ourselves. So therefore, beware of virtue.

Lao Tzu, the Chinese philosopher, said, “The highest virtue is not virtue, and therefore really is virtue. But inferior virtue cannot let go of being virtuous, and therefore is not virtue.” Translated in more of a paraphrastic way: “The highest virtue is not conscious of itself as virtue, and therefore really is virtue. Lower virtue is so self-conscious that it’s not virtue.” In other words: when you breathe, you don’t congratulate yourself on being virtuous. But breathing is a great virtue. It’s living. When you come out with beautiful eyes—blue or brown or green as the case may be—you don’t congratulate yourself for having grown one of the most fabulous jewels on Earth. It’s just eyes. And you don’t count it a virtue to see, to entertain the miracles of color and form. You say, “Oh, that’s just….” But that’s real virtue! Virtue in the old sense of the word as strength, as when we talk about the healing virtue of a plant. That’s real virtue. But the other virtue is a stuck on. They’re ersatz; they’re imitation virtues, and they usually create trouble. Because more diabolical things are done in the name of righteousness.

Be assured that everybody—of whatever nationality, or political frame of mind, or religion—always goes to war with a sense of complete rightness. The other side is the devil. Our opponents, whether in China or Russia or Vietnam, have the same feeling of righteousness about what they’re doing as we have on our side. And a plague on both houses. Because, as Confucius said, “The goodie-goodies are the thieves of virtue,” which is the form of our own proverb “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

What do you think?

Do you agree with Alan Watts?

The line that really stuck out and resonated for me is this one:

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Because all the do-gooders in the world whether they’re doing good for others or doing it for themselves are troublemakers: on the basis of 'kindly let me help you or you will drown,' said the monkey putting the fish safely up a tree."
- Alan Watts


My motto is live and let live. When violent humans come to take me from the proverbial water and put me in the tree, I hope to have the courage to say, "go govern yourself, and keep your hands off me!"

I shared a similar sentiment in my other topic, "Whether you are looking for a savior or someone to save, or both, look into a mirror.":

Scott wrote: December 9th, 2022, 6:22 pmThere's no shortage of unhappy people wanting to give you advice, if not put a literal or metaphorical gun to your head and force you to take their literally miserable advice and live by their literally miserable standards. Many would rule the world because they cannot rule themselves, at least not in a way that lets them be truly happy with inner peace.

Whether you are looking for a savior or someone to save, or both, look into a mirror.




alan-watts-fish-in-a-tree.jpg


Labeling all do-gooders as troublemakers might oversimplify a diverse group of individuals. While some well-intentioned actions may have unintended consequences, many do-gooders contribute positively to society, addressing various issues and fostering positive change. It's essential to consider the nuances and intentions behind individuals' actions rather than making sweeping generalizations.
Hi, Onyango Victor,

Are you sure you read the whole 1,537-word post, rather than just picking out that one 5-word sentence from the title of the post?

If you only read and replied to the title ("all do-gooders are troublemakers"), then sure that one sentence might oversimplify/oversummarize the 1,537-word post. However, I think the 1,573-word post absolutely does "consider the nuances" and such.

Regardless, for anyone who does consider themselves a do-gooder who is actually "contributing positively" to society (presumably using their own standards of what's positive whihc they seek to force on others), I recommend they also read my following topic:

Whether you are looking for a savior or someone to save, or both, look into a mirror.


In addition to the motto from the OP ("go govern yourself, and keep your hands off me!"), I am also fond of this one: Go clean your own backyard, and stay the heck out of mine! :)

One man's positive chance is another man's negative.


With love,
Eckhart Aurelius Hughes
a.k.a Scott
My entire political philosophy summed up in one tweet.

"The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master."

I believe spiritual freedom (a.k.a. self-discipline) manifests as bravery, confidence, grace, honesty, love, and inner peace.
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