The virtues of vice

Nemesis (1502) by Albrecht Dürer, here conflated with Fortuna

Many of us are familiar with the Seven Deadly Sins. No, I’ll rephrase that: Many of us are familiar with the concept of the seven deadly sins but, I trust, we hope we manage to steer clear of them! But in case you’ve forgotten what they are, this is them: pride, greed, wrath, envy, luxury or lust, gluttony and sloth. They sound even more impressive in Latin:

  • Superbia (pride)
  • Avaritia (greed, avarice)
  • Ira (anger, wrath)
  • Invidia (envy)
  • Luxuria (extravagance, lust)
  • Gula (gluttony)
  • Acedia (sloth)

There are virtues, some corresponding to these vices, others not, but I’ll discuss these a bit later because now I just want to focus on one particular deadly sin — avaritia — which many commentators have identified as one of the prime motivations ruling our age. Avarice or greed has also struck me as a key element in narratives by some authors which I’ve been reading. Especially, but not exclusively, writers like C S Lewis and J R R Tolkien.

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