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  #81  
Old May 6th 2012, 10:15 AM
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Default Re: Best Post of the Week

Quote:
Originally Posted by dilettante in "Individual Morality" thread
A worthwhile issue, I think, but one that's often difficult to discuss. It's generally much easier to talk about the origins of moral codes or to analyze some moral system as an external observer than it is to confront our own moral judgments. I think this stems from the fact that (1) most of our moral responses/judgments are context-sensitive, if not occasionally contradictory, and thus difficult to sum up, (2) many of us are acutely aware of our own failure to consistently adhere to even our own standards of right and wrong, and (3) there exists a certain type of person who takes delight in rubbing people's faces in their own inconsistencies and apparent contradiction, particularly with regard to morality, and trying to express one's own moral beliefs only gives such a person ammunition.

On the other hand, hardly anyone wishes to declare themselves to be sociopathic by announcing that they have no personal sense of morality and see all thoughts and actions, regardless of context, to be morally equivalent.

As for me, I doubt it will surprise anyone here if, in trying to summarize my beliefs about morality, I fall back on Scripture.

As a Christian, I begin with Christ and move outward from there. Jesus said that the entire moral law was summed up in the commandments to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" and to "Love your neighbor as yourself," (Matthew 22:36-40) so I take that as the most basic foundation and interpret everything else around that as best I can. Micah 6:8, in the old testament, also gives a general sum-up of morality which I find helpful: "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." There are, of course, countless other verses in Scripture which give moral proscriptions/imperatives, some context-sensitive some not, some controversial some not, but my general rule of thumb is that those specific imperatives must submit to and be interpreted in light of these overarching principles and particularly in light of the life of Christ Himself.

And as along as I'm spouting scripture and talking about rules of thumb, I might as well go to the "fruit of the spirit" (love, joy, forebearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) in Galatians 5:22-23; if a questionable action stems from or brings about these, I take it as an indicator of its morality. And though not a Catholic, I think the "seven deadly sins" (pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth) provide a counterbalance; actions which stem from or bring about these are, on that ground, morally suspect.

As to the issue of absolute vs relative morality, I think the foundational principles are absolute, but individual moral judgments are relative in the sense that a given action may or may violate those principles depending on the context. In general, I tend to think that morality is more about intentions than actions, though perhaps not wholly so. Nonetheless, actions are far easier to deal with in anyone except ourselves.

And finally, on the subject or origins, I obviously believe that the nature of morality stems from the nature of God. My beliefs about morality are then derived from a combination of what I accept as divine revelation(e.g. Christ, Scripture, etc), upbringing and education, experience, and a very personal inner 'sense' of right and wrong, itself probably a combination of culture, genetics and possibly revelation as well.

I think that covers everything from the OP. I'm curious to see what others have to say (and how many participate by directly answering the OP). I'm also curious how you would answer your own questions, Donkey, as someone who, as best I can tell, tries to let their moral beliefs influence their actions.
http://www.discussionworldforum.com/...93&postcount=2

I doff my cap in honor of such a fine post!

Note for Nick: I personally disagree with every word of this Best Post of the Week.
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  #82  
Old May 6th 2012, 10:19 AM
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Default Re: Best Post of the Week

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Originally Posted by Michael View Post
http://www.discussionworldforum.com/...93&postcount=2

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Note for Nick: I personally disagree with every word of this Best Post of the Week.
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  #83  
Old May 27th 2012, 07:21 AM
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Default Re: Best Post of the Week

Quote:
Originally Posted by Suibhne in the "Individual Morality" thread
Yes, good point. I think the beginnings of an answer to the question as to whether someone is moral or is acting moral has to do with how they behave when no one's watching.

When I was in 2nd year (or something like that) a professor was giving an example of morality by presenting everyone with a scenario: if, after class, any of us were the last to leave and noticed that someone had left their wallet behind, what would we do? Virtually everyone answered that they would do something like contact the professor or otherwise ensure that the wallet was returned. So far so good.

Well, I'm on good terms with that particular prof and he told me that after that class one student stayed behind to confront him about the scenario. The student said not only that he would certainly take the wallet (or at least anything valuable in it), but that anyone would do the exact same. Other students only answered differently because they had an audience. The prof disagreed and said that at least he, the prof, would make every effort to return it; the student refused to believe it and insisted that no one would ever return it.

Kind of scary to think that such people are out there, but unobserved actions are a good test - even if we're the only ones who know the truth of the matter about ourselves. This connects to part of my own personal ethics, so I may as well delve into that now.


From time to time I've mentioned bits and pieces of my upbringing in relation to different topics, and I'll turn to it again here. The foundation for my personal view of ethics is inherited - if modified. I was raised with a number of implicit and explicit principles, here are three salient ones I've carried with me into adulthood:

1. Always tell the truth, no matter the consequences.

If I misbehaved as a kid, I would get in significantly more trouble for lying about it than I ever would for the act itself. Broke a lamp? Got into a fight? Skipped class? Convinced my little brother that he was adopted? These things all warranted punishments of varying degrees, but none as bad as lying. This was pushed even to the extent that offenses seemed almost irrelevant compared to lying about them.

This did two main things. Firstly, if I ever did misbehave I would never lie about it - better to deal with the lesser punishment. Secondly, and in consequence, I now act in ways that I feel I can be honest about; I would never steal that wallet because I'm not willing to do so and be honest at the same time.

This principle acts almost as a stand-in for the pressure of public scrutiny in private. The principle has been set into me such that even if there were no chance of my being caught, the ability to be honest with myself is the most important and most immediate feeling. So what informs the extent to which I am (un)comfortable with certain actions?

2. Don't mess with other people or their stuff.

This is something like the oft quoted golden rule or Mill's harm principle. This principle is premised on the idea of property: don't take that wallet because it's not yours. That's the only reason you need.

So what makes something belong to someone; what establishes ownership? A fair question, but not one that I accept here. We can talk about the ins and outs of ownership and property, but I take for granted that people can legitimately own things. Well, what makes this principle more valuable or acceptable or important than 'finders keepers'? Nothing, really. I do, for me: at bottom it's subjective, and yet I allow it power over the way I organize my actions. Call it habit. Call it inherited culture or values. I don't care.

This also acts as a control on the first principle. Being honest does not mean being honest about everything all of the time. If you mess with other people or their stuff, don't lie about it; but you don't have to go around telling everyone you know that you broke that lamp.

So what if being honest about messing with other people's stuff leads to negative consequences where there are no obvious negative consequences for keeping silent/lying? I've found in my life that being honest about making mistakes always leads to better consequences. Two examples.

When I was in high school, I backed into someone's car. I wasn't paying attention, it was stupid. No one was around, no one could have known what happened or that I did it. I was in a rush to get somewhere and couldn't stick around, so I left a note explaining my situation with my contact information on it. When I talked to the owner of the car he was extremely grateful that I was honest about it - especially for a teen. He avoided going through insurance and let me pay him back for repairs as I was able - and not even in full. That felt way better than had I driven off, even if I was inconvenienced as a result.

I used to work at Home Depot in a position of some small authority - I had a couple helpers at my disposal. I asked one of my helpers to do something we're not supposed to, and he was caught doing it. He was getting in shit, and didn't say I had anything to do with it. I intervened and explained that I'd asked him to do it and that he should not be held accountable. I got in a lot more trouble than he was going to. That felt terrible; the guilt I avoided by fessing up was replaced by the guilt for asking him to do something not allowed in the first place.

The combination of the first two principles can be summed up within the idea of responsibility. Acting responsibly means not only being honest about your actions, but also not acting in a way that will adversely effect others.

3. Be a gentleman.

This is vague. There are plenty of differing ideas regarding what a gentleman is and involves, but that's the language I've decided to use. Being a gentleman can be roughly summed up with the idea of being considerate. I don't mean for this principle to sound sexist, it's not.

More than an offshoot of 2, being considerate in this way does not stop at keeping your nose out of others' business. A gentleman helps when help is needed without needing to be asked, works hard, bears inconvenience for the sake of others, stands up for himself and others, and is courteous. Courtesy includes things like looking people in the eye when you shake their hand (of course, no limp fishes allowed) and keeping your word. It also includes habits most people find silly: if I'm walking with my girlfriend, I walk on the side closest to the road; I open doors for people; I give up my seat on the bus/train/subway when warranted; I do not do people favours with the caveat that a favour is owed in return, etc. Most importantly, a gentleman is selfish.

Wait, what?

You read me. What that means is I do not act as a gentleman because those are standards others hold me to. I act in these ways because they are standards that I hold myself to. I do these things for myself, especially when they benefit others.

A few years ago, I opened a door for a girl on campus. She stopped and gave me attitude: what, I think because she's a woman she can't open a door for herself? No. She completely missed the point. I opened the door for her because failing to do so means failing my standards; it really has nothing to do with her at all. She could walk through another door if she wants and swear at me all day, that's cool. I'm not a gentleman because other people think I am, but because I think I am.


All that said, I do not always live up to even these three principles. But I try. Crash course in Suibhne's ethics.

(I used the royal 'we' quite a bit; in spite of that, I do mean these principles to be acted on a personal level and not as a universal prescription.)
http://www.discussionworldforum.com/...4919#post64919

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  #84  
Old Jun 24th 2012, 09:08 AM
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Default Re: Best Post of the Week

Quote:
Originally Posted by Suibhne in the "Poetry and Related Stuff" thead
Poetry seems to have largely fallen out of fashion. Whether because reading generally seems to be in decline, because of difficulties associated with poetry, because people find it boring or irrelevant, or any other reason is kind of irrelevant.

I like poetry for the same reason that I like playing chess or hockey; or for that matter for the same reason I like philosophy and science, fine woodworking, video games, and music. Probably, when push comes to shove, for the same basic reason most of you enjoy many of the things you do - and, arguably, the same underlying principle motivating much of human endeavours.

Poetry is one example of abiding by certain restrictions for the fun of it.

If you want to get technical, we can talk about types of poetry; the organization of line breaks; various scansion systems with regard to metrical patterns, stanza forms, rhyme, rhythmic figures, and poetic form; what the benefits and drawbacks are to scanning according to stress, beat, or length of a syllable; and whatever else may come up.


...But I think this thread would be better put to use if everyone just posts a poem they like, and perhaps a bit about why they like it. No necessary reference to any technical information. Maybe there's a poem you like because it makes you laugh or speaks to an experience you've had, makes you think about tough questions or is just silly and fun. Nonsense, non-sense, syllabic, lyric, epic, whatever... what do you like?


I'll start.

Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

----

I selected this poem for a few reasons, not least of which is that it's popular enough that perhaps some of you are already somewhat familiar with it. I think this poem is an excellent example of what I mean when I call poetry an example of abiding by restrictions for the fun of it.

Without paying any attention right now to the possible meaning of the poem, I just want to look quickly at the rhyme scheme - yes, a bit technical, but everyone knows what a rhyme scheme is:

aaba / bbcb / ccdc / dddd

English is a notoriously difficult language to write poetry in because unlike many other languages, it is not conducive to rhyme: English does not have endings in the way that, for example, romance languages do, so the availability of rhyme words is extremely limited.

In spite of this, Frost has picked up a difficult rhyme scheme: each new stanza (paragraph) inherits the odd-line-out from the stanza before it. So each of the first three stanzas has three rhyming lines and one not rhyming line, which sets up the next stanza. Great.

But what happens in the fourth stanza, and why does he repeat that last line? There have been several interviews where Frost has been asked to explain the repetition and he never gives a straight answer. I want to suggest that he picked up a difficult rhyme scheme for fun and got himself into trouble.

Why he stopped at four stanzas instead of three or twenty is beside the point, he stopped when he finished his story, but how does he escape his rhyme scheme? If he puts a new off-rhyme, then the poem would probably feel incomplete. He could re-use the rhyme words from the first stanza, but already three stanzas away it would probably feel a bit weird. So he chose to get himself out of trouble by repeating the same rhyme. dddd

Why the repetition? Well, after sweep, deep, keep, and sleep, how many other rhyme words are there that will still fit the story right? If he used a new rhyme word, would it have the same kind of finality as the repetition? Would it feel contrived?

At any rate, and whatever the reason, he escaped his rhyme scheme by repeating the line and it has become one of the most famous and arguably most powerful English poems out there. I think that's pretty damn cool.


Frost has said that "You have freedom when you're easy in your harness" - and I think this poem shows that.
http://www.discussionworldforum.com/...ead.php?t=3465

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  #85  
Old Aug 26th 2012, 08:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dominick in the "China as Superpower" thread
The discussion about the role of the US vs. the USSR as superpowers made me think: assuming that China will be the superpower to take over from the USA what will be the nature of their dominance ?

First off, I'll mention that I do think this will happen somewhere down the road in the 21st century. There's simply no competing with over 1.3 billion people with access to a humongous amount of resources of all kinds and in my opinion the US is already not doing very well. But that's probably a discussion in its own right. For this discussion I'll just assume it'll happen.

In two words, I think China will be pragmatic but ruthless and here's why : China is no longer a Maoist authoritarian communist regime. It still is organized in that way politically but economically it's more neo-liberal than even the USA and in my opinion those two aspects go together very efficiently. Much better so than either the combination of authoritarianism and communism (which is actually a contradiction in terms) or the combination of neo-liberalism and democracy (which is fundamentally also a contradiction as is now amply demonstrated in the western world).

So China will have unregulated mega-corporations and a State that instead of keeping them in check will aid them in any goal they pursue up to and including with military might. I don't think China will attempt to keep spheres of influence, satellite states, colonies or supranational associations such as the USA and the USSR (and Europe before them) did. They'll just grab what they need and shrug off any protest without political grandstanding (e.g. Kennedy, Reagan, Khrushchev et al).

I also doubt they will attempt to play the Grand Mediator as the USA did/does (and actually also the USSR in their own pathetic way). Wars, conflicts, problems that occur in regions that have no direct effect on their economy will simply be ignored. Human rights, UN manifestos and other western achievements will become quite meaningless everywhere as the Leader of the Pack completely ignores them.

I also think they won't keep a list of Bad Guys (e.g. the Axis of Evil) and will work with anyone they can profit from, be it a European democratic country, the US, leftist Venezuela, Iran or anyone whether they are governed by kings, mullahs, the demos or some dictator. And if either of these has a problem with the cooperation with one of the other, they'll just have to suck it up.

No links of course, it's mostly futuristic speculation. Anyone agree/disagree?
http://www.discussionworldforum.com/...8655#post68655

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  #86  
Old Sep 9th 2012, 09:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greendruid in the "What can we do?" thread
I like to take the concept of "changing the world" a little more broadly and this is owing entirely to my religious outlook ... or vice versa ... for the world includes more than humans and I believe that life in every form has to be included in such an evaluation. The looks and responses I usually get to saying such a thought often communicate the basic notion that such an outlook is too broad and that other life really doesn't matter. My response is always that perhaps this is the greater point of life itself.

Following this, changes that I have made in the world are those that can realistically affect the life around me in as positive a manner as possible while respecting the cycles of life and death. I suppose the biggest contribution that anyone of us can make to this is not to waste more than is necessary on any scale. Humans waste so much in their lifetimes in comparison to most other beings and it is in the form of waste that this is the most disturbing. The way we piece apart the carbon cycle in the world is doing what may be very long-term damage on a global scale. We waste water and energy to clean that water over and over again in mind-boggling ways, especially in North America where there is so much of the stuff around. Every time you flush a toilet you needlessly waste anywhere from 0.6 to 1.6 L of absolutely clean water for the luxury of being able to send your waste onto a sewage facility without really having to smell the process.

Food is another wasted thing in our lives. The amount of food that gets wasted is astounding. I don't just mean that bit of gristle that you didn't finish from your pork chops either. I mean the absolute daily waste of grocery stores throwing out spoiled food or unused food.

So, in an effort to change the world, I do it in ways that I individually can. I corrupt the youth of Canada by telling them this stuff and I try to really groc the meaning of the waste cycle and the cycles of life and death on my farm so that I can run as smoothly as possible with them instead of against them. We have all been born into the most wasteful society the world has ever seen so we have quite a hill to climb - just don't be too worried about all of it at once.
http://www.discussionworldforum.com/...9186#post69186

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  #87  
Old Sep 30th 2012, 08:08 AM
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Default Re: Best Post of the Week

Quote:
Originally Posted by Non Sequitur in the "Is sexual orientation a choice?" thread
Furthermore, and unrelated to the quality of the question, just because it happens to be the year 2012 does not mean there is some magic restriction on human ignorance or stupidity.
http://www.discussionworldforum.com/...9502#post69502

I doff my cap in honor of such a witty and amusing post.
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  #88  
Old Oct 29th 2012, 10:00 PM
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Default Re: Best Post of the Week

It's not fair, is it, that the Grand Poobah never gets a chance to get his own posts in this list. But the rules don't say that no one else can nominate such posts so here goes:
My nomination for BPOTW:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael View Post
Watching and studying contemporary politics just seems too depressing and frustrating. Every problem we have in our world today has been with us for several decades at least - some for much longer - and every problem we have just seems to be getting worse.

So what is an average, decent, thinking person supposed to do about it? Sure one can try to be conscientious about one's own 'energy and material footprint' and make better decisions about that stuff (and I do try to do some of that). But what can 'average people' do about the many problems we face as a society?

We've known about our fossil-fuel energy problem at least since the early 1970's as well as the significant risk of global climate change from 'greenhouse' gases. But what have we done with that information in the forty years since? (I mean besides massively increasing our demand and dependence upon fossil fuels)

The circumstantial outcome of WW2 and the stalemate of nuclear weapons that ensued almost immediately afterwards has given the '1st world' a half-century long spell of freedom from war on our own turf. This is probably the first time in all of known history for that happening. And what have we done with this remarkable freedom of relative peace? We've waged wars of power-politics using 3rd world nations as targets - as if just for sport or practice.

Similarly, the post-war economic boom led to the greatest relative rise in prosperity for the largest number of people in all of known history - a phenomenum that was duplicated across all western nations. And what have we done with all that wealth and prosperity in the '1st world' nations - besides waste it away on ever greater levels of conspicuous consumption and dreams of endless and luxurious leisure?

Even now (and currently for the last 30 years) there are political trends running across almost all western nations where the elite/rich/ruling class is seeking to reverse even these socio-economic gains in 1st world nations. They've already successfully rolled back quite a bit of progressive advancement - so much so that they seem to feel empowered to keep pushing for more (nothing breeds enthusiasm more than initial success).

So this is the world we live in. I'm starting to wonder why I should even keep trying to study and understand how society works when the answers I keep finding are as I've noted above?

I'm beginning to feel like what I imagined occured during the 4th century AD. The writing was on the wall for the Roman Empire. The math just didn't add up, the economy was going down the tubes and the barbarians were at the gates. And it sure would be easy to just sit back on one's modest estate in the hills of Tuscany, drinking the fine local wine, eating well and living confortably with one's friends and family, all the while ignoring the impending doom that any rationally intelligent observer ought to see coming down the road?

I remember when I first started to study philosophy. I read all the great masters of philosophy - including the Greek ideas of Stoicism and Epicurianism. I never could really grasp the idea that people actually could have lived in these ways. Yet here we are in the 21st century, and the whole idea of any kind of idealism or romanticism seems totally unjustifiable nonsense. So what is an average, decent, thinking person supposed to make a proper choice about living in the world? What decent choice is there for one's own philosophy - other than stoicism or epicurianism?

Alas, I feel like a 4th century Roman.
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Old Oct 30th 2012, 04:58 PM
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Default Re: Best Post of the Week

Woohoo

I finally got a BPOTW!
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  #90  
Old Oct 30th 2012, 05:08 PM
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Default Re: Best Post of the Week

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Originally Posted by Michael View Post
Woohoo

I finally got a BPOTW!
Since that's the best post since the last BPOTW, you can just count it as one for each week we've missed.
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