Scruton on wanting the right things

A Facebook friend shared this quote.

We should look at all those things [the temptations of appetite] from the perspective of our own self-knowledge, and recognize that our happiness depends on wanting the right things, not the things that happen to capture our attention or to inspire our lust. Overcoming temptation is a spiritual task. No political system, no economic order, no dictatorship from above could possibly replace the moral discipline that we each must undergo if we are to live in a world of abundance without putting everything that is most dear to us – love, morality, beauty, God himself – on sale.

…If the problem is the malleability of appetite, how are we to control it, and by what decrees? The fact is that we know the solution, and it is not a political one. We must change our lives. And to do this we need spiritual authority, the ability to make sacrifices, and the refusal to be degraded… This changed way of life does not come from politics. It comes from religion and culture, and in particular from the God-imbued culture that the [New Left] thinkers…wished to replace with a purely political way of seeing things.”

Roger Scruton

What is true freedom? I think a shallow perspective interprets freedom as something like the maximized ability to choose whatever life we want to live with a minimum of external attachments.

That’s freedom for your senses, sure. For your impulses. But what about for your soul? What if restraining your impulses and senses is required to achieve a higher-order freedom—one that can bring lasting happiness, and not just momentary pleasures?

What if it’s not “external attachments” that bind us, but our own carnality and self-interest? My plain experience of life supports this idea—that most people’s worst enemy is themselves and their addictions, and not external forces compelling them to do things part of them doesn’t want to do.

I think we could all spend more time thinking about how we hurt ourselves, and less about how others, or “the system,” hold us back. Both are problems, but the former is something we can control and, I think, something we tend to ignore.