Consoling the Heart

Consoling the Heart

Fare Forward, Issue 11

It may sound like I’m trying to smuggle classical conceptions of rationality into contemporary notions of emotional awareness: Brené Brown cloaked under Aristotelian virtue ethics or Augustinian moral psychology. Perhaps I am doing some smuggling. But I do think that wisdom applied to action trains our unformed and unruly desires. It invites us to confess that our true loves are often mislabeled by our own hearts, that self-deception is an addictive substance, and that principles for action gained from experience, self-knowledge, and an abundance of wise friends is an invaluable good.

So, I confess to some anxiety about pinning all our hopes for persuasion and moral transformation solely on appeals to beauty and narrative empathy—as much as I value those things. I worry, for instance, about the very effective sophistry of the political fringe and the narrative power of the social media hivemind. I also worry about the heart’s ability to weave stories that cater to our misbegotten appetites and addictions.