MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation 31

Unbearable Lightness: R. J. Snell on Acedia and Metaphysical Boredom

In 2004, theologian Michael Hanby wrote an article for Communio entitled “The Culture of Death, the Ontology of Boredom, and the Resistance of Joy,” in which he described boredom as the “noughting” of the world, a disposition that no longer finds the world captivating and which is incapable of being captivated. In this interview, philosopher R. J. Snell draws from how Hanby uses the verb “noughting” to interpret boredom, and connects it with the capital vice of acedia—or its token symptom, sloth—to help us recognize how this particular vice captures the “mood of our age.” Snell argues that the metaphysical boredom of modernity is sustained by our deeply-held convictions about freedom and contingency, which view the former as necessary and the latter as offensive. Like a sulking child, the slothful prefer to choose nothing rather than accept the neediness and dependency implied by our finite existence. When this slothful posture expands to the metaphysical plane, boredom becomes the very denial of being itself or, in other words, the “noughting” of the world. 48 minutes.

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    2. On sloth as the vice of nihilism or “metaphysical boredom”
    Acedia and Its Discontents: Metaphysical Boredom in an Empire of Desire (Angelico Press, 2015)
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    3. On the connection between modern freedom, nothingness, and acedia
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    4. On contingency, the gift of being, and borrowed freedom
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    5. On sloth as the refusal to accept limits and on the divinely interdependent nature of the Trinity
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    6. On boredom as both cause and symptom in modernity
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    7. On institutions that encourage and discourage acedia
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    8. On active receptivity, festivity, and the density of Things
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    9. On science and wonder
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    10. On talking about acedia in the classroom