Democracy Can Be Overdone

Robert B. Talisse at IAI News:

I once had a friend named Alice who suddenly decided to attain optimum physical fitness. She committed to a strict regime and almost instantly achieved extraordinary results.The trouble was that she spent so much time exercising that she neglected her friendships, abandoned her hobbies, and forfeited all occasions for socialising. She pursued health at the expense of everything else she valued.

Alice and I eventually lost touch, but to this day I wonder what the point of it was. What good is health when it’s pursued at such a cost? We seek to be healthy mainly because we want to enjoy worthwhile experiences, participate in rewarding activities, and sustain fulfilling relationships. In short, being healthy is good because it enables us to devote ourselves to other valuable things. These other projects are part of the point of being healthy.

We do not live well by health alone. As important as health is, its pursuit must be confined to its proper place in our lives. Thus in thinking about Alice, we reach for terms like obsession and compulsion. When it is pursued at the expense of everything else, health itself becomes pathological. Health’s overdoing is its undoing.

There’s a surprising lesson lurking here about democracy.

More here.