Yea, that’s right, you heard me. Concupiscence. Merriam-Webster defines it as strong desire (especially, though not exclusively sexual desire). For my purposes here, let us define it as the orientation, inclination or innate tendency of human beings to long for things they don’t (or can’t or shouldn’t) have. Fleshy or otherwise.
You there – trying to sneak out the back! I’m talking about you! I’m talking about all of you. Or rather – all of us.
It is a rare (and probably imaginary) person that doesn’t always want something they don’t have. If you have money, you want more money. If you have a house, you want a bigger house. If you have a car, you want a better car. And so on and so on…Why did I bring this up? Only in an effort to understand why we are the way we are. This is one of those things that is so universally true that I believe it is part of what we are if not who we are.
At first glance it seems that a trait like concupiscence must be a good thing. People always wanting to better themselves – what’s so bad about that? It’s the source of all our voluntary actions – Pascal says so! Except that it is almost always viewed in a negative light, especially in theology. There’s even a commandment against it (or two, depending on your religion), the one against coveting your neighbor’s house, goods, or wife. And people being people they usually end up trying to take what they want from other people that have what they want. Or just hating them for having it. That’s not good. Oh wait…I see that Pascal makes no judgement as to the quality of our voluntary actions.
So then it must be an imperfection, a flaw. Something to be resisted, constrained. But without it would we ever taken any action at all? That would make it an indispensable survival mechanism. Truth be told (see what I did there?), it’s what keeps us going day after day. Conversely, we have to watch it or it’ll get us in trouble. But at least it gets us up off the couch.