Cardinal Sins II: Greed
I like looking into old moral ideas. They are usually package-deals, that mix an actual issue with an irrational non-issue. Take greed for example.
On one hand, the idea of "greed" condemns people's longing for money or material goods in general. A "greedy" person is one who is always working towards gaining more material wealth. This contradicts our very nature. Happiness is not achieved by not caring about our wellbeing, but by taking actions to improve our situation - and money and material goods are great means to do that.
The image that comes to mind when we think of "a greedy person", however, goes beyond that. The idea also refers to someone who sees material gain as the only - or most - important aspect of one's life. That is materialism, and it's just as wrong as rejecting the material altogether.
We are mental beings just as much as we're a physical ones, which means we also have mental needs and desires. To place material wealth above mental goods, such as love or friendship, is to drop the context of one's wellbeing as a whole. Material and mental wellbeing are not contradictory - an expensive bottle of wine is only good because you can drink it, and is even better if you drink it with someone you care about.
Some people go even beyond this mental-material disconnect, and see money itself as an intrinsic good, divorced even from the goods it affords. Money is only a means to buy goods, and goods are only means to achieve happiness. Denouncing man's drive to create value is madness, but so is assuming that value itself is in objects themselves - it's in the individual's relationship with the object.
- February 5th, 2020