Toughness Trained Through Harder and Harder Contests

Our Predicament

We are forever holding back. We are always backing down. Every day we stand aside, give in, crumple up, let fall. Has panic settled in? This is meekness. Look around you and you will find it–so dour, so damp, so commonplace–almost everywhere.

The Desirability of Toughness

Suppose, like me, you say, ‘Enough is enough.’ Then you would want to know not how to be free of fear but rather able to cheerfully do the right thing, time and again, under pressure.

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Endowment Effect and Wrenching Toughness

In behavioral economics, the ‘endowment effect’ states that individuals ascribe higher value to the objects they possess than to the objects they could secure. If this is true, then we are ‘loss averse’ creatures that prefer to keep what we have and are more disheartened by the loss of our possessions than by the gain of some other, perhaps more valuable item.

In the eyes of the philosopher, the assumption underlying the endowment effect is that fear of loss trumps the pursuit of the Good. This, as I argued in my last post, is why we need to have contests in which

  • our fears of losing what we value highly (or, depending on the stakes, most highly) is pitted against a defensible conception of the Good, i.e., what we reasonably take to be most worth securing, defending, honoring, realizing, or upholding.

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