I find myself reading William B Irvine’s On Desire: Why We Want What We Want; and I have to say it’s quite disturbing. (I’ve added it to the Reading List, if you’re intrigued).
His thesis is that we mostly don’t choose what to desire. Rather, we find desires popping into our heads, and then we just follow them. Why do we do that? Well, because they’re desires, and that’s what desires are for – to prompt us to pursue things. But, even when those things are stupid, wicked or dangerous, we seem to have almost no defence against the desire. Do I find myself wanting a new car, a better marriage, the admiration of people I care nothing for? Then that will be what governs my behaviour. And I will then find myself coming up with seemingly plausible justifications.
Well, OK, plausible to me. Not to the people looking on in open-mouthed bafflement.
No, I’m not going to give away any spoilers – mainly because so far I’m only an eighth of the way through it. Still, I think that I can predict this: if the butler did it, it was because he failed to examine his desires as a good Stoic ought to.