In Which Brit Hume Appoints Himself Tiger Woods’ Spiritual Guru

By now you’ve all undoubtedly seen/heard about this:

First off: It’s gratifying to see Brit Hume drop the whole “I’m totally a real journalist who lends legitimacy to this network” shtick. He’s always been on Team Hannity, but now he’s actually wearing the jersey during matches.

Second: Aristotle dealt with this argument, albeit indirectly, some 2300 years ago, and if he were here today he’d likely say that Hume doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about.*

Unless I’m mistaken, Hume’s argument is that Woods’ Buddhism is in some way responsible for (or at least insufficient to prevent) his moral failings. So an argument that establishes that might go roughly like this:

  1. The Christian god is the one true god.
  2. Jesus doesn’t like adultery.
  3. If you worship Jesus, then you’ll avoid doing stuff he doesn’t like.
  4. If you worship Jesus, you probably won’t commit adultery.

Tiger Woods, of course, doesn’t worship Jesus. And Hume thinks that’s his whole problem in this case. But even if you grant the first two premises, Step 3 doesn’t really follow at all. Because as Aristotle would be quick to point out, virtue isn’t just taught; it’s a matter of habit.

James Garvey, in talking about something else, had a pretty good recent example of how a purely intellectual understanding of the good doesn’t actually make you good:

When I covet more cake, I do so with about as much understanding of the Good as I’m ever likely to have. I’m also not a slavering wreck, somehow overwhelmed by a desire for cake. I’ve thought it through, really, and I see clearly that more cake is not a good idea. Still, I eat more cake.

Similarly, a freshly baptized Tiger Woods might “know” that Jesus frowns on adultery, but that understanding, and even the understanding that he might be damned to hell as a result of his transgressions, could still be insufficient to prevent him from cheating on his wife. And if you don’t want to take my word for it, try asking some actual adulterers, Christians and non-Christians alike. This is idle speculation on my part, but I predict that very few of the responses you get will fall into the category of: “Wait, so betraying my spouse’s trust is uncool? Shit! I wish someone had told me that earlier.”

Besides, it’s not like Buddhism doesn’t have its own system of incentives and punishments. Most religions do. So the threat of hell and promise of heaven doesn’t present a significant advantage.

If Aristotle is correct, then the most effective way to be faithful to your spouse is to just … be faithful to your spouse. Stridently and consistently. That sounds about right to me.

*That is, Brit Hume, not David Hume. Although an argument between Aristotle and the latter would probably be a hell of a lot more stimulating.

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3 Responses

  1. I wonder if we now know why Hume’s gay son killed himself. I’m not being vindictive, look it up.

    • I don’t think it’s even remotely fair or worthwhile to speculate on this stuff, but for what it’s worth, he doesn’t seem to have been this religious until after his son’s death.

  2. I think what Brit Hume really meant was worship Roger Ailes. Because it you follow Jesus Christ, you have to care about other people — even foreigners and the poor! You have to speak the truth and avoid hatred and violence. But if you worship the one true Roger Ailes, all you have to do is tow the fucking line!

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