chapter  8
Pages 18

Being good is diffi cult. Th e diffi culty lies not just in the occasional lassitude of will towards goodness, but in contingent factors: the conditions underlying the well-being of the self, of the institutions of which we are members, and of wider society. Th e moral project is not one which we can undertake alone or in isolation. Because of the nature of goodness — its dependence upon dispositions that can only be acquired in and through practice — we can only grow into goodness through our relationships with others. When those relationships fall apart, or become fraught, our goodness diminishes. We live in a world within which the experience of disintegration — the experience of falling apart, of being fraught — is integral to living. Coping with ‘not being good’ is, in other words, part and parcel of whatever ‘becoming better’ might mean. Th is, as Mantel (1990, p. 79) puts it, is the opus contra naturem: ‘aft er separation, drying out, moistening, dissolving, coagulating, fermenting, comes purifi cation, re-combination: the creation of substances that the world has until now never beheld’. By the same token, the idea of the good society relates not to an achieved state, but to a sense of hope regarding our ends and purposes.