Dear Students, Here is an image of the sin of ‘Acedia’ which has come to be known as ‘sloth’ in the modern list of the Seven Deadly Sins, and we tend to think of ‘sloth’ as ‘laziness’ Here’s another interpretation from the Stanford Lyman book my “Grapic Vices, Graphic Virtures” students are reading: “Emotionally and cognitively, the evil of acedia finds expression in a lack of any feeling for the world, for the people in it, for the self”  and “withdrawal from all forms of participation in care for others or oneself”. Lyman presents Chaucer’s view as the “sin of languishing, holding back, refusing to undertake works of goodness because the circumstances surrounding the establishment of good are too grevious and too difficult to suffer.” He also tells us that in medieval literature, Acedia is associated with motionlessness and depicted as ‘the feet of the devil that halt men in his tracks’. This interpretation helps me understand ‘sloth’ as a more complex temptation. It’s not just the temptation to lay in bed all day, it’s also the temptation to do nothing about a bad or difficult situation, whether these situations are small or large, and belong to our personal lives or the world around us. Again, this isn’t just laziness.  It’s also associated with the lack of engagement or the desire for engagement that is part of depression. Sloth understood as Acedia– apathy, depression, despondence is a more complex and useful concept than ‘laziness’ when it comes to understanding human nature, which what those things some call ‘the seven deadly sins’ seem to be about. Sincerely, Prof. SETI

Neil Bruder @neilbruder