On Reading Well

Karen Swallow Prior

Chapter Nine
Pilgrim's Progress
By John Bunyan

And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:
That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Hebrews 6:11-12

Chapter Nine of Karen Swallow Prior’s On Reading Well examines the virtue of Diligence with examples drawn from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress

As Karen wrote

In the Bible, diligence is often presented in contrast to its opposite, sloth. For example, Proverbs 12:24 says, “The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute” (KJV). Sloth has received considerable examination by moral philosophers, so to understand the virtue of diligence, it’s helpful to examine its opposing vice of deficiency.

Sloth is commonly thought of as laziness, but it’s much more than that. (We saw in chapter 6 that sloth opposes magnanimity, for example.) Sloth involves not only a lack of effort but also a lack of care. In fact, the Greek word for sloth, acedia, literally means “without care” or “careless.” It’s similar to a word we use more commonly today, apathy.

How do diligence and apathy show up in contemporary society?

On Reading Well


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Rick Wilcox

Editor in Chief | Literary Life