#7 — Matters of Fact

Dreary Pessimism

Consider Allen’s treatment of the term “habit” in Chapter 26 and in this chapter. Are habits good or bad? Why? What makes them so? What are the consequences of habit?

Then there is habit. People do not easily abolish the forms to which they are accustomed. People invariably get used to things, even things that are damaging to them.

Allen, Danielle (2014-06-23). Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality (p. 195). Liveright. Kindle Edition. 

2 Responses to “#7 — Matters of Fact”

  1. Jeff Kazin says:

    According to the Oxford English Dictionary a habit is “a settled disposition or tendency to act in a certain way, especially one acquired by frequent repetition of the same act until it becomes almost or quite involuntary” (http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/82978?rskey=HvXsGq&result=1&isAdvanced=false#eid). Involuntary repetition is easy while changing and not falling back to the old routine is very challenging. This is why Jefferson told people not to worry about revolution becoming commonplace. In order for a revolution to occur the incredible amount of work required to change habits and strive for something new would have to be worth it over the ease of maintaining the habit.

    The questions here are, at what point does it become worth it to break a habit and do all that work to make change? And for that matter why isn’t it always worth it to break a bad habit?

    How do we know what is good and what is bad? Is it possible to have one without the other?

    We know that a habit can be bad, like biting one’s nails, because we can see, both, the negative aspects in one who does it that are not shared by one who does not. Similarly, We know that a habit can be good, like eating plenty of vegetables everyday, because, similarly, we see, both, the positive aspects in the who does it and the negative aspects in the ones who don’t.

    The author poses the question of, what might be considered positive or negative when the opposite is not available to us. How would we know that eating vegetables is good if no one we knew ever ate them? How would we know that biting our nails was bad if everyone we know does it? Without a means of comparison how do we even consider what good and bad mean? And without considering what good and bad mean how do we know that there’s an alternative to which we could change?

    By contrast, what does this mean about how one can go about making positive change and how does that apply to being a student at Bates?

  2. Flannery Black-Ingersoll says:

    When we submit to habit on a daily basis (as I believe most humans do), we aren’t practicing change. Our minds become more and more inflexible. Inflexible minds are less innovative, independent, creative, etc.
    In summary: Habit has a hugely negative consequence on humans… Habit dulls our capability of individual thought, and the progression of our species as a whole.