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  Topic: Good?, A burgeoning ethical issue< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  
Robin



Posts: 1430
Joined: Sep. 2009

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 11 2011,12:05   

Quote (OgreMkV @ Mar. 11 2011,10:44)
Oy, it's Friday... two posts that require thinking on the same day?... sigh.


I'm feeling particularly contemplative today. Blame Louis for getting me going though.

;)

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My philosophy is much like the pagan's.  Do what you will provided no harm comes to others.


Yes, I know this philosophy, but I can only accept it to a point...
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On the other hand, if someone's lifde decisions are harming others (like their children), then I have a duty to stop them.  Not for them, but for the harm that could be avoided for others.

Likewise, with (especially) the environment.  I feel very strongly about the damage done by fossil fuels because I grew up in a refinery town.  Most people, even avid environmentalists, have no concept of what it's like to live in the middle of a refinery... I do.  (See my blog on why global warming deniers hate you.)

So yes, when it's one person, I don't care.  When they are actively involved in harming others by action or inaction,then I think we have a duty to redirect their behavior (by legal means, I don't advocate threats or application of force to do anything except protect my family).


...and here is that point.

The problem I have with this perspective is that I see it both as arrogant and short-sighted. That may sound really dispassionate and uncaring, but bare with me a moment.

There's a quote I particularly like that goes something like this (I know the exact quote, but for purposes of this discussion it isn't important, nor do I want, to get it exact):

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Many who live cause great pain and suffering and deserve death, yet there are also many who have died untimely who could really have done great things had they lived longer. Can you bring the latter folks back to life? Why then do you think you have the authority to put the former people to death, or that you have the foresight to know that killing them now is best? I would caution against being so rash in dealing out such judgments. We can never see all ends and the outcomes of all actions; and even those who cause great suffering can be the cause of that which brings life and happiness to more people down the road.


I think of this quote when faced with the suffering caused by others upon those who cannot protect themselves. Who am I to decide that interfering with those who cause suffering is the best thing that can be done? Further, why am I interfering? Is it to prevent the infringement on the sufferers' standards, or my own?

I have only a limited domain of control and thus must consider the sufferers' domains of control as well. If they do not wish to defend their own stands, even to the point of risking their own safety and lives, who am I to do so for them?

I think of it this way. I have the benefit of a long, fairly well-documented history on the effect of Martin Luther King Jr.'s life and his assassination. I know that if MLK had lived, he would have continued to do great things through continuing to shape people's attitude towards what it means to be human and equal in humanity. Yet, if I were presented with the ability to travel back in time and the means to prevent his assassination, would I? I don't know, but I doubt it. I'm well aware of the effect his assassination has had; it's improved the lives of millions in a relatively short time. Was his death a good thing? No, I really believe it was not, but then I also think that out it - and specifically because of the way it occurred - came a much greater, much more profound recognition and attitude change.

I don't profess to have the wisdom of Solomon or anything like that, but in thinking about this a bit, I have a real hard time thinking that my emotional and visceral responses to behaviors that inflict suffering on others are a sufficient basis for my judging the action unacceptable and overtly inhibiting or preventing that behavior. Certainly I can think that the behavior is wrong (and most definitely wrong for me to engage in), but I don't know that, in and of itself, that is a good enough reason to intervene.

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Again, it's a question of society vs. the indivdual.  I think that we evolved from tribal creatures and the concept of a society is in our genes.  Some members tend to take advantage of that to gain power or other percieved benefits (like the people you mentioned).  But it's pretty easy to identify them, they are working for themselves, not for the good of the society.


Yeah...true. Hence, I counter my idealistic perspective as rambled above with a recognition that at some point we need governance and we have to determine the parameters of that governance. That's the problem with reality...it isn't black and white.

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Thanks for helping me to articulate these things.


Hmmm...not sure what I did, but you're welcome.

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we IDists rule in design for the flagellum and cilium largely because they do look designed.  Bilbo

The only reason you reject Thor is because, like a cushion, you bear the imprint of the biggest arse that sat on you. Louis

  
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