The Choice of Hercules, A.C. Grayling.

Hercules faced with a choice of Duty or Pleasure in the form of attractive women each enticing him to follow her into the life she represented. Inspiring painters, poets and composers from the renaissance with the the fundamental choice of moral orientation on how one should live and therefore the destiny of their immortal souls. Recommended for reflection and consideration so that the best can be made of it.

Duty “as an end in itself is no goal at all”

“If anything, the example of humourless, disapproving, repressive moralisers whose pointing fingers have blighted enough lives to fill armies many times over, ought to be enough to remind us that the phrase ‘the good life’ genuinely merits its double meaning: for the valuable life (the life truly worth living for the one living it) and the pleasurable life (of which affection, laughter, achievement and beauty are integral characteristics) are one and the same.”

And yet people complain that society is too permissive, yearning for a time a hundred years back, of child labour and child prostitution, when, as Grayling says, ‘if a man’s wife were pregnant or menstruating he might turn to his eldest daughter’ – the Victorian age. Before discussing the petty morality of the twenty-first century, though, Grayling says this:

The great moral questions – the most moral and urgent ones – are not about sex, drugs and unmarried mothers. They are, instead, about human rights, war and genocide, the arms trade, poverty in the Third World, the continuance of slavery under many guises and names, interreligious antipathies and conflicts, and inequality and injustice everywhere. These areas of concern involve truly staggering horrors and human suffering. In comparison to them, the parochial and largely misguided anxieties over sex, drugs, gay marriage and the other matters that fill newspapers and agitate the ‘Moral Majority’ in America and Britain, pale into triviality. It is itself a moral scandal that these questions preoccupy debate in comfortable corners of the world, while real atrocity and oppression exist elsewhere.

The choice of Duty or Pleasure should be more a choice of brining the world to a state where pleasure is at least possible.

A.C. Grayling - The choice of Hercules.


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