It is fascinating to note that right behavior can be encouraged for its own sake and also for its benefits. I think those who stress one at the exclusion of the other are unrealistic.
Confucius encourages right thinking using both approaches. So did Plato.1
I contemplate this because of the speaking engagement I have next Thursday. The subject is partnering between public and private sector organizations. It is a prelude for an organization raising funds for an emergency medical clinic. It seems appropriate to stress both sides of the equation. The emphasis is on being right because it is right. But we cannot pretend not to know that benefits come with doing right.
Jesus suffered, the scripture says, “for the joy that was set before him.” And Paul encourages us to run our race for the prize.
I do not believe the equation is perfectly balanced.
But rather preeminence should be given for doing right for its own sake. This has fascinating implications when you consider Kierkegaard’s teleological suspension of the ethical.
If Jesus was the greatest thinker that ever lived, the greatest philosopher, then it’s fascinating to note that whilst his words are rich and deep, they are essentially different from the deep rational explorations of men like Aquinas or Aristotle. Is this type of speculation worthwhile at all? Somehow I sense that there is a depth in thinking that goes beyond anyone’s capacity to perform elaborate logical constructs.
Jesus’ teaching was tense, emphatic, simple. It was often rendered in story form, the form of felt knowledge. One must ask, on a human level, was this because Jesus was so deeply profound, his thinking transcendent, surpassing elaborate logical constructs? Or was this because Jesus’ essential nature in his human form was different? Or was this because Jesus, in his human limitations, in the body that he selected, was not capable of such complex, multilayered rational explorations?
It leads one to ponder: How smart was Jesus? How smart did Jesus need to be? Dallas Willard the Christian philosopher speaks often about Jesus’ brilliance. Jesus was brilliant, but what was this brilliance? Was it the ability to think and hold complex concepts in the mind while working them out in layers of syllogisms?