From Boston to New York

On the bus ride home from Boston, I was seated across the aisle from a man who was illustrative of the complexity of this human, all too human ethical life. He let one woman have the window seat. Some women spilled cookie crumbs on him and he reacted calmly. Throughout the ride, he spoke on his cell phone but not obtrusively. Yet when he got up to leave, he was one of the first to step into the aisle. So, the man showed deference and calmness (in lieu of irritability) but also exhibited a lack of courtesy and a sense of impatience.

We seem to have in mind that a man is good period or bad period, but in reality a man is good (or virtuous) in some respects at some times and bad (or deficient or excessive) in other respects at other times. The point of our moral judgments should be to seek clarity about the overall nature of a man such as this. (When is he calm and for what reasons?) In so doing, we exercise compassion. The aim of our lives should be to seek understanding about our own virtues and vices and to try as best we can to achieve a harmony of the virtues.

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