Book 03
Chapter 04
We wish for things we think that we want.

We already said that what we wish and long for is some thing, some end. But is what we wish for always something that is good? Or could it be that what we wish for is something that only seems good, but is really bad? There are people who hold that what we wish for is what is really good. If that is so, then someone who makes bad choices, goes after bad things, and ends up the worse for it -- that person does not truly wish for those bad things even though they are choosing to go after them. Now, other people say that what we wish and long for is what seems to us to be a good thing, but still it might not be. If that is so, then it follows anything that is always good, and never only seems to be so, is not something that we wish for. For instance, by this thinking, if we are thirsty then we cannot wish we had some water to drink (we would have to use some other word besides wish). Further, by this thinking, people can wish for the opposite things (e.g. to marry or stay single), because different things seem to be good to different people. If wishing is all based only on how things seem, then nature has no role in wish.

Well, neither of those ways of thinking sits right with us. First, we do think that people naturally wish for things, that it makes sense to say that this person was thirsty and they wished they could have some water. Likewise, people naturally and generally wish for food when they are hungry. But, second, the difference is in what (food) people specifically wish for. People that are virtuous specifically wish for the right things (e.g. nutritious food). Other people specifically wish for things that seem good to them, but those things are really bad (e.g. junk food).

But why should people wish for the wrong things if they are bad? The answer is that they let themselves get tricked by pleasure. As we said, pleasure pulls on us and draws towards it (e.g. the draw of junk food is its tastiness). We tend to choose pleasure as if it always means the thing is good and avoid pain as if it always means the thing is bad. But to be virtuous, we must learn to see true, to see what is good as good and wish for it, to see what is bad as bad and not wish for it.


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