When Thought Married Action
I was graced with the opportunity to put one of my most cherished beliefs to the test after being hit by a truck. I then reflected on the event on Facebook:
“On Saturday I hunted down the owner of a wallet I found and returned it to him. I had hoped for some good karma to come my way as a result–but later the day ended with a truck colliding with me and my bicycle. As I in some state of shock jolted up from the ground I threw off my backpack in a fury and walked across the street to assess the damage to my person. My right leg bore multiple blemishes and abrasions–but, being no stranger to injury through my skateboarding days, I deemed myself relatively fine. Yet even in this all-too-real instance, bruised and bleeding at midnight, thoughts raced through my mind of restitution, blame, lawsuits, etc.–but I decided, no, there is no blame here. I will appeal to no higher court for the remuneration of my misfortune. This man did me no willful wrong. Life happens. Then just now I read in my textbook, “The libertarian claims that in the absence of causal responsibility, the costs of misfortune should lie where they fall–on victims.” Such is no perfect mirror to this moment, but the question becomes, how far do we really take our beliefs?”
Indeed, there must be an addressing of the difference between what we believe and how we really act. My philosophy of law professor once noted, “Throw a hundred dollar bill on the table and even a philosopher will lunge at it–there’s your philosophy!” I attempted to persuade myself that I wouldn’t do that–yea, that thought lasted about two seconds.
So far in my limited undergraduate philosophy studies I have only a few times come across the issue of philosophers’ beliefs versus their actions. There are many who eagerly claim that Ayn Rand took government assistance even though she was a staunch individualist. Even if this were true, should her ideals merit no respect? If I say to be charitable is the supreme virtue but I lavish in unadulterated selfishness does that make the statement any less true?
“How far,” I began earlier, “do we really take our beliefs?” I continued, “And if they crumble under threat of personal injury, are they truly beliefs at all? In closing, methinks a philosophy lived is a philosophy loved.”
It’s been noted that some base their actions off their beliefs, where others base their beliefs off their actions. But if you can’t live your beliefs, are they beliefs at all? Can we still believe something but have not the courage to to live it in real life? Or is faith without works really dead?
Methinks beliefs (morals or virtues–not, say, belief in God or global warming) are ideals. To me, an ideal is the epitome of some concept. Perfection is an ideal to which many aspire but all fail to attain. If charity is an ideal virtue but we fall towards selfishness, there is an error in character, not belief. Character is the sum of one’s actions. Integrity is the the extent to which one’s actions aligns with their beliefs.
The issue lies in our confusing (joining together) separate matters. On one hand we have belief; on the other we have character. One may indeed hold beliefs but fail to uphold them. But where the two marry, we have integrity. She who harmonizes belief and action has supreme integrity. I think.