Business as Usual

“The man who keeps his oath, or is just and good, will not be favored, but the evildoers and scoundrels will be honored…” Hesiod, Works and Days

Whom do we as a people honor? Aristotle once asserted that a nation will produce the kind of men that it honors. There is much at stake here.

There always have been and always will be good people who go unnoticed. Such in itself is not a cause for concern. But when whole classes of good-doers are not ‘favored,’ and indeed are even scorned, while scoundrels are honored, this is a serious state of affairs. For all of us.

We should not be surprised when young people treat business success—and this regardless of whether it is achieved with moral integrity—as a primary criterion of success in life. This is what we have been conveying to them. Many young men and women do not aspire to real greatness, as for instance in being faithful spouses and parents in a happy household. Indeed we have not given witness, by word and most of all by action, that we hold fidelity in family life to be of primary importance. We might ask ourselves in what ways we have participated, perhaps unwittingly, in the honoring of scoundrels, and thus in the formation of scoundrels.

The practices in our own households will probably not of themselves change whom our society honors. But by taking care to honor–in word and deed–that which is truly honorable, we can take positive steps to re-form what we, and our children, and our friends’ children, will pursue in life.

Hesiod (8th century B.C.) was a Greek contemporary of Homer, and likewise an epic poet. His Works and Days sketches the year-round work on a homestead. It also describes various characteristics of both a troubled time period—Hesiod’s own, and those of a golden age. This is the last of three Wednesday Quotes devoted to the characteristics of the former. Next week we turn to the latter.

Originally posted at Bacon from Acorns

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John A. Cuddeback is a professor and chairman of the Philosophy Department at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, where he has taught since 1995. He received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America under the direction of F. Russell Hittinger. He has lectured on various topics including virtue, culture, natural law, friendship, and household. His book Friendship: The Art of Happiness was republished in 2010 as True Friendship: Where Virtue Becomes Happiness. His writings have appeared in Nova et Vetera, The Thomist, and The Review of Metaphysics, as well as in several volumes published by the American Maritain Association. Though raised in what he calls an ‘archetypical suburb,’ Columbia, Maryland, he and his wife Sofia consider themselves blessed to be raising their six children in the shadow of the Blue Ridge on the banks of the Shenandoah. At the material center of their homesteading projects are heritage breed pigs, which like the pigs of Eumaeus are fattened on acorns, yielding a bacon that too few people ever enjoy. His website dedicated to the philosophy of family and household is baconfromacorns.com.