Thursday, November 25, 2010

Objectivism

Note to reader:

The following post is a continuation of a series of posts on this blog entitled "The Distinction Between Morailty and Ethics". Please refer to the previous posts for my overview of other moral disciplines, namely: Socratic Ethics, Relativism, Subjectivism & Humean SubjectivismFor a short introduction to the distinction between morality and ethics, please go here.




Objectivism


Objectivists consider moral beliefs and judgements to be the product of our critical responsiveness to, and rational reflection on, our experience of what is worth our attention, care and respect. Our venture in practical reasoning when deciding what is worth desiring or having or doing or being.


For Objectivists morals are beliefs and judgements for which we can give reasons and about which we can argue and be mistaken. As long as an individual or communal judgement or belief implies the question, 'This is so isn't it?', it involves a distinction between how things really are and how we might (subjectively) like them to be and so invites agreement or disagreement- it is an objective belief or judgement. 


For instance, many Australians now look upon their past treatment of the Indigenous people of that country as shameful. They do so because they have come to recognize that Aborignes are not a barbarous people who are barely human, but a people with rich cultural life who are as fully human as any other people. This recognition, says the objectivist, is a matter of a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Aboriginal way of life that includes emotional responses, such as being moved by the Aborignal sense of the land as sacred. It is not just a matter of blind feeling like loving the taste of peanut butter. Nor is this a matter of a change of social convention that can be explained in sociological terms. Those Australians who now see this past treatment of Aborignal people as shameful are implicitly asking: 'this is how things are, isn't it? Our response to Aborignes in the past was contemptuous, wasn't it?' Such questions invite our critical reflection on which response is appropriate to such aspects of our history. As a Pakistani, one might be faced with the same revised reflection upon matters such as Gendercide in Bangladesh (previously East Pakistan) or, the treatment of minorities in the country. An objectivist Pakistani may very well wonder what a more serious response to the predominant shallow and bigoted one is. This critical reflection may very well lead to the question: what is the moral truth of the matter here? 


However, one can always use the idea of truth as an objectivist in a more restricted sense that is consistent with relativism - some traditional hindus, for example, might say that ' true honour' requires that a woman who is unfaithful to her husband be killed by the husbands relatives. (But we might still reject the claim that this is 'true honour', just as the west came to reject the view that the practice of duelling in Western Society was truly honourable.)  


So Objectivists hold that they can be mistaken in their moral beliefs just as humans were once wrong in their belief that the earth is flat. Traditional Hindus who practice honour killings and Suttee are mistaken in their moral judgements. And what we believe now to be morally correct might turn out to be wrong after further reflection. Humans at large once believed slavery was morally justified, but now we accept that we were wrong in our view. 


Hence for Objectivists, there can be moral knowledge and moral facts just as there can be scientific knowledge and scientific facts; and our moral understanding can develop (not simply change) just as our scientific understanding can. So our moral understanding of the evils of racism has developed over the course of the last few centuries - we have come to a deeper appreciation of the humanity of different races and women as well as a deeper appreciation of how they can be wronged. 










...My next post will cover objections to Objectivism. 



Humean Subjectivism

Note to reader:

The following post is a continuation of a series of posts on this blog entitled "The Distinction Between Morailty and Ethics". Please refer to the previous posts for my overview of other moral disciplines, namely: Socratic Ethics, Relativism &; Subjectivism. For a short introduction to the distinction between morality and ethics, please go here.



Humean Subjectivism


"The hypothesis we embrace is plain. It maintains that morality is determined by sentiment. It defines virtue to be 'whatever mental action or quality gives to a spectator the pleasing sentiment of approbation', and vice the contrary. We must acknowledge that immorailty is no particular fact or relation, which can be the object of the understanding, but arises entirely from sentiment of disapprobation, which, by the structure of human nature, we unavoidably feel on the apprehension of barbarity or treachery." David Hume - (Inquiry into the Principles of Morals, Appendix 1) 


For the 18th century Scottish Philospher cum Economist cum Historian- David Hume- moral beliefs and judgements were expressions of an individual's feelings attitudes, desires or preferences. However, he also thought that people from all cultures share common feelings, desires and preferences. That they were outraged by cruelty to children, they desired health and sanity and they preferred peace to war.  


The problem with the Humean view that we share common sentiments is that if there are existent, certain moral rights or wrongs that we seem to share amongst us, no matter who we are; if every community is for example, outraged by cruelty to children, then how do we explain certain African tribes practicing female circumcision?   



Friday, October 29, 2010

Malik Riaz: A Pakistani Bullshit Artist.

After the footage of an interview featuring Malik Riaz went viral in early September 2010, a torrent of prayers and blessings followed his declaration in the said interview that the construction magnate would soon donate 75% of his $2 billion assets to the flood victims. 


Around the same time, the unedited footage of this interview was also posted on youtube by some one. The unedited footage seems to expose this charade better as a marketing ploy for the brand name that Malik Riaz himself has become in Pakistan.  There is one billionaire in Pakistan (according to Forbes.com and it isn't him); although he does only say "75% of his assets", which he hasn't donated yet by the by.


Some things to note about this UNEDITED FOOTAGE of his interview:

1) 4:32 - 6:14 : Malik Riaz is trying to sell a housing scheme with a place "where the animal is" that can provide for 80,000 people, in 10,000 homes from a 25 billion dollar investment. In the same time span he later adds that "we are in so good position that within 4000 dollar we can make the houses". When asked to guarantee transparency, Mr. Riaz exhibits a superb ad hominem fail.

2) 7:01 - 8:27: Mr. Riaz creates propaganda for himself when he claims to be a lone philanthropist (amongst the affluent circles of Pakistan) during the 2010 Pakistan Flood Relief effort. Maybe he hasn't heard of Edhi and the numerous citizens who have done more than just running their mouths during this calamity.

3) 8:30 onwards: Richard Quest hits a nerve, it seems, and Mr Riaz loses his calm around which point (there seems to be a gap in footage here) Mr. Quest politely ends this interview.


The truth it seems is that, Mr. Riaz himself is a prime example of the "corruption" in Pakistan that the west and we are weary of. An export of false hope to the destitute in this hour is what I would call morally degenerate behavior. He makes a mockery of their prayers and plans to rob them of any lingering "hope"; which already may or may not get them through this travesty.  After all, apparently, that's how he built Bahria Town. 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Bunch of Questions

The lurking questions in the mind of a confused being could pertain to the all engulfing “feeling” or “emotions”. So to speak, we derive the experience of the “real” as reality and the demarcating fiction in an experience as a figment of imagination and the whole experience. One approach would well be to objectify experience, within which would feature feeling components such as real, reality, imagination etc. Although it might be an obvious solution to react to the stimulation of emotion, whether it would find us catharsis through “venting” stays relative.
Explaining “love” brings about the absurdity of emotions, of which perception of an experience as real as relativity is chosen as the all evasive reality. The feelings of pain, happiness, weakness etc. all lie in the parameters of our subjectivity. Although subjectivity might empower us with the tools of creative imagination it also limits us through the emotive state, as reactive beings. To give love I must feel reciprocation of it as per my subjective perception of how it must relay back to me. The true nature of the action is not what is under scrutiny it can be looked upon as just a set of rules my ego places as a filter for my perception.
How can I feel love when I don’t even know what it is? The reality of it is the figment of my imagination – of how I might want to perceive it, in unconscious comparisons to what makes my ego feel good? How can I know anger when I don’t know it true nature? It again is a set of rules put up by me to act in a certain way as an unconscious drive. Do we really ever learn or do we just modify our reactivity towards expression of emotion?
My identification of me through the narrative as “I” is my ego- I can only live as a whole being through no preconceived notions- without scripts.
Love and its absurdity challenges our imagination and scripts of our ego as its makes us face “doubt” for the first time towards our own human tendency; our imaginative divinity is questioned before us. Although most of us might trust the real through the paradigms of emotions – emotions rely on subjective experience – experience on egotistical comparisons – comparison on perceptions- perception on me- me on the “I” – the “I” on reality- reality on repetition and replication the “I” as chosen sate of reality.
Love is not an emotion it is an opportunity to learn to be free of oneself.

Friday, October 8, 2010

doubt, love and absurdness.

Do you think it is possible to love two people at the same time, even if the other that isn't present is (obviously) distant and perhaps, most likely, never attainable by the one that pursues the cognitively embellished and so-called "loved" being? 


In fact, what's love but a synonym to the ineffable? therefore if love is ineffable, then what is there but a subjective "idea" of love? if the ineffable cannot be universal then how is it real? If it isn't real, then why must it feel, real? 


If one may feel real, about what is not there, then what is there? If there is nothing "really" there then how am I here? So "absurde" this existence. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Moonstruck

Truth in nature of itself
and choice,
breaths itself alive
A playful being
atoned to its own luster
with the discovery of
the forgotten past strikes
the balance of time
stains of the now
still remain his wonder

of affections
and moments irking the shrine of
which once existed; and once lost
found in memoirs of narratives
And time bygone
Such mystery of,
The disenchanted- eludes

The self infliction
in shadows of dependence
through worded emotions
expressing love, for the ideal state,
or weakness for
the idea of such powerlessness
Of togetherness; a wonder

As a being confused of its own nature;
The seeker and the seeking
In pride of its prodigious illusion
The colorful trails of his own wit
deceive him
Moonstruck;
His innocence is led astray

Monday, September 27, 2010

A letter from Aphonia to Poetic Justice

Dear PJ,

The second sex is feeling very inspired by your (obiter)dictum, but don't be deluded yourself as if you've spawned some aphorism. Oppression, inequality, serfdom and injustice are stare decisis with all other instances where aphonia has prevailed. My domain expands verily, just as your universe.

Yours sincerely,
Aphonia

Poetic Justice

Mulatto's, Quadroon's and Octaroon's: vindicated, empowered, victorious, free.

-there are no more entries-
Please check back soon.
Yours sincerely,
Poetic Justice in 2010.


Mr Quagmire on Sleep

Fajr rings in my ear as the obedient dash to prayer mats,
My hour eratic, theirs: an expedition of faith,
Censured for inebriation I become a quagmire,
Intoxicated I reiterate: sleep is free but I'm done for now.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Distinction Between Morality and Ethics (Part 3)

In my previous post, I discussed one metaethical theory of ethics- Relativism- in greater detail . The following post will be dedicated to discussing another metaethical theory: "Subjectivism" that is also known as "Individual Subjectivism (Expressivism)".

Individual Subjectivism (Expressivism):

SUBJECTIVISTS believe that moral beliefs and judgements are the expressions of the individual's feelings, attitudes, desires or preferences- what makes a belief or judgement morally right or wrong, good or evil, is the subjective approval or disapproval of the individual - what is right for me or wrong for me.

If I say, 'The honour killing of women is a grave moral evil', I really mean, 'I disapprove of the honour killing of women', or 'I hate honour killing of women', or 'I wish people would stop such killing', or 'Boo to honour killing'. This is why the simplest form of Subjectivism is called Emotivism which is sometimes called the 'Boo-Hooray' theory.  

The initial plausibility of Subjectivism arrives from three realizations:

1) Morality is clearly connected with strong feelings as the example of the sexual abuse of children would show us.

2)  If moral beliefs are expressions of feelings then we can easily explain moral motivation e.g: Ali doesn't care if his future bride is a virgin or not because he himself isn't and he hates nothing more than double standards.

3) The moral life has this essential subjective aspect. I must finally make my own judgements as to what is the right thing to do, and I must make my own decision based on that judgement. We regard those who say about a moral issue they face, 'You decide for me', as having failed in their moral responsibility.

Problems with Subjectivism:

1) As with relativism , there appears to be no grounds for rational argument about moral matters and no place for the idea that anyone could be wrong or mistaken in their moral beliefs and judgements- how could I be wrong in my feeling that trance music is abhorrent any more than I could be wrong in my judgement that  biryani is delicious? Morality seems to be reduced to a question of taste. So again: what sense can we make of moral argument?

2) Our everyday moral language does not appear to be about my individual expressions of feelings or my interests or preferences. If I say, 'The Holocaust was a terrible evil', this seems to be a straightforward statement that is true. And when I say so-and-so is cruel and spiteful, or arrogant and pompous, or a coward and a traitor, am I speaking about my feelings or preferences? Or am I appealing to the common moral meanings and shared moral understanding- to something objective?

3) Can matters of justice be subjective? Would a racist judge be justified in putting a minority member of society in prison because they feel better about doing that?

4) Can't we always ask of any feeling or preference: Is this feeling appropriate? Is this preference justified? A person may express the same outrage about nose-picking in public as they do about rape- does that mean that both are equally bad? Aren't our moral feelings ( what we care about and praise, what we find outrageous and condemn) always subject to critical judgements? - 'Are you serious?!' 'You are just being sentimental."



Part 4 of this post will look at Humean Subjectivism or Universalism for further understanding of Subjectivism.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Attic Wit

The intrusions
in the mind of all emotions,
opinions come to plead
Its must be
the bitter and the fallen
who face the mirror
Into reflections stare
Ultimatums and imaginations
of us,

As ones who possess
and ones
who become possessions
We drift further along
Shelving thoughts
in rooms unkempt

in words explain
the soulful journey as
tales of and the aftermath
of perceptions self involved

In the army
of words and visions
we become
Parallels of comparisons
Of the happy to happiness
Sad to the miserable
Staring into oblivion
of our own solitary qualms

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Distinction Between Morality and Ethics (Part 2)

The widespread disagreement between different cultures on ethical matters and the fact that moral norms change over time even within the one community indicates that moral judgements are conventional rather than objective judgements. However, we can argue all we want about moral questions but finally when we are faced with moral choices we are guided by our feelings. Does this provide a good reason for us to accept individual subjectivism as the nature of moral judgements? It seems now that it is only pertinent that we discuss metaethics in greater detail, so I will invest some time towards the cause of elaborating on the theories of the nature of moral judgements.

In daily discussions about moral issues, we say things like "I think public lynching is a bad thing", or "the honour killing of women is a terrible evil", or "There is nothing morally wrong with homosexuality"; making these statements sound similar to factual judgements like "Water is composed of H2O", or "Karachi is the largest city in Pakistan", or "The Baadshahi Masjid is in Lahore", or "Charles Dickens wrote Oliver Twist". However, factual statements are always universally true- true for everyone and anyone regardless of their cultural background or what their feelings about that matter are, but obviously we cannot test the truth of moral judgements in a similar manner. So what is the nature of moral judgements? Are they in any sense factual? Can they be universally true or false? or are they simply social conventions or perhaps expressions of subjective feelings or desires or preferences?

The Socratic view that moral benefit and harm can be distinguished from natural benefit and harm does not help us with these questions. For even if we accept the Socratic view, we still have to ask whether there are any universal standards of moral right and wrong- any moral truths or facts. There are three basic views about this issue- Ethical Relativism, Ethical Subjectivism and Ethical Objectivism. Relativism and Subjectivism (at least in its most common form) both say that moral beliefs and judgements are nothing like factual judgements and so there can be no moral truths and no universal standards of right and wrong. Objectivism says that moral beliefs and judgements are like factual judgements in important ways and so there can be moral truths and universal standards.

Metaethical theories of Ethics:

A) Relativism: moral beliefs and judgements are social conventions and the product of a particular community's history: what makes a belief or judgement morally right or wrong, good or evil, is the approval or disapproval of the community- what is right for us or wrong for us.

The initial plausibility of Relativism arrives from two realizations:
Firstly, the widespread differences between the moral beliefs and practices of particular societies and secondly, the changes in moral beliefs in the same society over time- the rejection of slavery in America for example.

Problems with Relativism:

1) There are no grounds for arguing against the perceived evils of other societies such as, South African Apartheid, tribal female circumcision, or against the perceived evils of our own community- how can a convention be mistaken? Does relativism take account of moral argument?

2) Morality according to relativism seems to be reduced to a majority view- the majority might is right; alternatively, at least in modern societies, morality is splintered into the conflicting beliefs of the many sub-groups that compose our community (how widespread does a belief have to be before it is a convention?)

3) If a relativist says that we should tolerate the moral conventions of other societies or groups, there is the danger of self-contradiction- is tolerance a universal moral principle or irself only a convention of the Relativist community? Also, what of the view that Relativism is incorrect, should we tolerate that view or not?

4) If the Relativist goes on to claim that all forms of judgement and belief, factual and scientific as well as moral, are merely social conventions, then we can ask whether this judgement- that all judgements are conventional- is itself only a social convention. And if it is, why should we accept it as true?

...more later

Friday, August 27, 2010

Wandering Stars

Interpretation of time
As a congregation of moments
Lasting in memoirs of oneself and other
Encapsulating notions of a forever
Agelessly inspire the nature of I
For granted, in the mortal frenzy takes
The self-seeking being
From birth to its finale, desiring
A narrative etched into his belief
Time moves at a motionless pace
As if still, it continues
Lost moments from such congregation
Whisper the sudden change of
Their own attire
The rehearsal is over
As retrospective preparation
Life becomes,
An ageless memoir of an aged self

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Distinction Between Morality and Ethics (Part I)

To begin simply, Ethics is the disciplined reflection of morality. Traditionally, ethics is divided in to two major categories:

1. Metaethics: which is concerned with discovering the nature of moral principles and judgments.

2. Normative Ethics: which is the branch of ethics that is concerned with establishing moral principles.

If someone were to ask questions then, from the perspective of metaethics, then they could inquire: whether the nature of morality is conventional or universal; subjective or objective. Could morals be true or false? Could they be grounded in natural benefits and harms, or not?

Whereas, if someone were practicing the same exercise from the perspective of Normative Ethics, then they would aim  to discover what the fundamental moral principles are; how they are applied to specific situations (also known as applied ethics)- like abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia- and whether there are any absolute moral principles which apply in every case.

So if metaethics is concerned with discovering the nature of morals, and normative ethics is there to establish general rules of moral behavior- then the distributor of morality (the normative ethicist- lawmakers), must have already chosen their metaethical stance to conclude an objective right or wrong; a truth or false. But can lawmakers be fallacious?

Consider now the following cases where particular communities hold ethical or moral beliefs which others do not share. Does the agreement amongst the members of these communities that their beliefs are right make those beliefs correct? What is the basis of your response to these cases?

(a) The Hare Krishna's belief that gender differences are ordained by God and, as a result, girls and boys should not follow the same curriculum at school.

(b) The Eskimo and Laplander belief that frail, elderly people should be left in the snow to die when then can no longer follow the group.

(c) A Rifle Club's belief that shooting animals and birds is sport.

(d) The belief of some tribal groups in Africa and elsewhere that young girls should be circumcised so that they may become adult women and get married.

(e) The belief of groups like the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Al-Qaeda and radical environmentalists that terrorist acts are necessary to achieve their political goals.

(f) The Orthodox Jewish belief in male circumcision.

(g) Amsterdam's leniency towards recreational cannabis usage.

(h) The Catholic Christian belief that using contraceptives during sexual-intercourse is a sin.

(i) The practice of polygamy in Islam.

(j) The Nazi's belief  that the Aryan race is superior.

If you've lasted this long, then now take the time to think about the following cases where individuals feel that certain actions are morally justified. Does the feeling that the action is right, make it right? What is the basis of your response to these cases?

(a) Sara feels that any sexual acts between consenting adults which give the partners pleasure is OK.

(b) Tashfin feels that writing a second part to "this" at his convenience is OK.

(c) Kamil feels that prostitution is OK.

(d) Alina thinks that gossiping about her friends private lives is OK.

(e) Ali feels that stealing small items from large stores is OK.



...to be continued (at my convenience)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Be Roused!

The chains of the courageous
Shackles of time and habit, resentful
A recluse lost between
Choices that play frivolously with thoughts
An ignorant being
How such pointless bounding seems
In security spent with oneness
Of nature born this timeless miracle
Mocks his own presence

Where does the intention figure?
In the limbo of the imprisoned
The straggler struggling to find the self
True in nature; ONE
Yet lost in the journey of projections
Of himself and
The voiceless beneath

Ethically correct, morally impartial
To each except himself
His own journey caught in flights
And fights
Of the consciousness of the other
As a reflection
For truth lost in ignorance’s security

Caution! Tread slowly soldier
The war is within
So surrender the badge, ageless
Not lost but found
By your own self
For the first time
Embrace!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Nihil ad rem

Understanding of phenomena
That reaps insignificant tales
Reminiscing,
Shuttling between moments
Eternally significant as such
A play of memory

Lost in translation of emotions
Of an origin unknown
The drudgery of such significance
Of insignificant tales
Lets me know once again

Existing and the existence of
Phenomena calculating
Origins from conclusions
Deriving once again
A belief

The inhabitant of thy self
Must it necessarily flee?
From its own natural fate
Into the unknown frontiers of
The acquired,
Knowledge, experience, relations

Within comparisons
I am a translation of
Memorials- Insignificant

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Gestapo

Sublime forms of the ludicrous
An apology surrenders them to thou
Questions of the bewildering notions
Of a tragedy once bygone
Crucial scenario, isn’t it dear ones

The art of war that resides within
Manifested in sounds and blares
Of thus physical
Balancing the chaotic and the calm
Leaders here once bygone

Born into the cemetery of ghosts
Kept in shadows of,
Some in memories of
And some in the pyre
Emoting within, the resentful war
As an expression

The needy and the abandoned
In the unclaimed corner
The manifestation of perceptions
What resides within,
Expressed in its artistic form

An apology! I must bestow
Now surrender my pallet
Colorful illusions
Expressions and art forms
Not as the creator
But as a creation once born

Friday, July 23, 2010

An early diary entry worth sharing..

Now that this pen is flowing and I'm done cleaning ink stains, I can begin writing about the 'cause' of this radical change in routine.

I had been thinking for some time now that I would start taking notes. You see, I suffer from an extremely blessed state; a kind of forgetfulness- a state akin to a sort of "preference amnesia" (usually induced chemically)- wherein thoughts intriguing are procreated. However, it is the nature of this condition that demands that I take notes, if not to know myself a bit better, then rather to have a chuckle or two.

Amidst the daily 'surfing' activities, a thoughtful delight came to me. An observation that had escaped me previously; an observation pertaining to eugenics. It seems that eugenics or the act of selective breeding and the exaltation of certain "superior" beings, which is looked down upon in colloquial understandings in this progressive age, is still quite the norm. Whether politics instigates it or not, eugenics is practiced quite explicitly in multi-cultural societies. I say multi-cultural because these societies are projected to be more tolerant than the others.

When a child is rared at school, a special value is always attributed to the alpha-student. The ones that excel at sports or academia for instance. Authorities are willing to excuse the talented gene pool. Whether we like it or not, a rational system leads to class divisions. But is it irrational to distribute favors without such eugenicist discrimination?

Perhaps this thought is a mere seed; that needs the suns rays of enlightenment to sprout.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I think..

The narrative of a person always seems to be in search of a conclusion. It is much like a being the author of a story that changes its outlook and perception with each experience. Thus the split of oneness - the author, the story and the change; here it is the fallacy of what in Hinduism is called the MAYA. The illusion of perception as the defining line for the self where questions such as “who am I” bewilder the human essence.

So what is the outcome of the story? Am I the story or am I the author? Moreover, am I the perception of me as the story or the author or am I the perception of me at the hands of the all pervasive “change”? To thread each of the above questions I must find in me equilibrium much like the perfection of nature. Be the painter, paint and the canvas away form the illusion.

Retrospectively speaking our narrative becomes a juxtaposition of finales that must rise to the occasion as created by us. Yet do they equate to us as our own or does that find itself caught up in deciphering the coded language of desires and wants. Such notions bring us to the tipping point where the self from its basic nature of oneness moves towards the split – as pieces of the puzzle incomplete without the other parts and without the whole. This is the search of such narrative, isn’t it- the whole being?

It is such perception that leads to notions and beliefs that an inconsistency to this general narrative finds us encapsulated in thoughts. Where I am as I thought I was, yet the real seems to address me in a different fashion. The act of playing GOD becomes the very essence of such narratives that pervade the global life. So what is this perception that drives me away from the basic nature of my being?

It is not to address such intricacies in a definitive manner – one cannot explain – yet can derive from the process. It may not be the end that our being struggles for it may be the process. With each experience we find ourselves imprisoned and attached to it, for the purpose of the very narrative. Can I just be; and not search for the definite, the exact – literally the finite? Does it set us free?

I am – am I not?

Dreamy eyes

The wonders of then
Coercing the memories
Reliving the moment as it lasts
Of what does this misery stem its way?
Into the coliseum
Now in ruins of its glory

Does the now exist?
Or does it find itself engulfed in
The breathing memory of wonders
Wandering into untamed times
Finding reason caught up in
The limitless distance of knowing

For such conception continues to baffle
Arguing the real from the reality
Of which I exist, the now seems
Vague in possibilities
In this stolen corner I find myself
Reminiscing

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Flower Child

Intentions and their persona reflecting
in the dream like state
Breathed as the essence of creation
itself to evolve continually
Sounds of the mysterious skies
fallen beneath the fury of
Intention and its dream state

play a song as the she daces along
Her strength and love; hate and anger,
engulfed in the balance of
the slow tandem of blissful guidance
gently caressing

curious of her,
I follow the wilderness into its wild birth
formlessness of its structure –
bound in perception of, me
the omnipresent essence of the breathed one,
she is – as is

beyond assimilation of my finite capacity
Yet construed by the limitation of
my own curious knowledge
Misguided by perceptive upheaval of
the equilibrium of her generosity

Soulfully mimicking the soulless copulation –
creating
Anxious monstrosity of a thoughtful being
Converse to its own universe

Thoughtless, I
As her own child –
Avant- garde

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

'I Think, Therefore I Am': A Philosophical Maxim.

The other day I came across a blog entitled "cogito, ergo sum" (Latin for: I think, therefore I am). It had the caption "girls think, therefore I am" printed underneath it. It was not the first time I had seen this phrase of Rene Descartes' (1596 - 1650) misunderstood and misused in this manner. This brief tract is an attempt at explaining this canonical philosophical principle.

Rene Descartes was a French mathematician, philosopher and scientist- who set out to discover the "Archimedean point" of knowledge. The concept of the Archimedean point comes from Archimedes' own proclamation: “Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world.” So in this way, Descartes was searching for the epicenter of knowledge- making Descartes an epistemologist: a philosopher concerned with essential theories of knowledge.

Descartes begins his journey as an epistemologist with "methodic doubt": rejecting as false, all sorts of knowledge by which he was once deceived. The first thing to go was knowledge based on authority, because even experts are sometimes wrong. Second to go was knowledge based on sensory experiences, because people can perceive one thing as another, like in the case of mirages. Third to go is knowledge based on reason, because this too can be wrong, as in the case of calculation. But the fourth and final aspect driving Descartes' skeptic doubt is what he described as the "evil demon" that is capable of creating an illusory world for people which does not exist- making them believe and see that, which is not. "Cartesian (Descartes') doubt" is an odd skepticism in this sense. It is a rational approach towards validating one's own existence, as well as the existence of a God.

After doubting even the existence of the nose on his face or basically anything at all, Descartes found himself facing one of the greatest of quagmires: how can I know that I exist? This "doubt" of his that engulfed him was to reveal to him the answer to this problem. Since his search for something that can no longer be doubted, required him to doubt everything- then the very act of doubting was the evidence of "thinking" that was indubitable- and since he was the person who was thinking, he too must exist. Thus, Descartes says: I think, therefore I am.

This powerful maxim has since ignited the argument for mind-body duality in psychology. In other words, Descartes' statement has given weight to the belief that "mind" and "body" are separate.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Inveterate

The creatures a forlorn land
Described in the path of the aging self
Of the images broken and a remade
Experience finds its frenzied depiction

Into the land of the delighting past
A devotee is born
within the castle’s walls
Over coming, finally
Itself
Beyond stillness of the aging self

Cautiously treading yet craving the covers
Of the saintly,
a pretense of encouraging
A snake sheds its skin as seasons change
Rapidly engulfing, controlling, ones
Of the forlorn land

As the present passes to be the later and last
Past and its future
Of the mother seeds the likely plant
With a plan
Cautiously treading its own boundaries

New born take their stride
Out of their crippled cradles,
Form the first breath admitted
Into training
Of rigid conversations with in walls

A crime is committed
The blind sense its vicious aura
Of the forlorn land, I speak
If it were for memories
that lingered behind the dark screen
In shadows danced their choreographed selves
– fragmented
Such is the brilliance of emoting
– whether or not to ?
Encompass such belonging appended into time
Time of which parameters build their glory
- time by which
I am to long for who I was and meant to be

Logical crossovers between the relations of togetherness
Time bound and quantified
in boundless speechless emotions
At such a junction of power and over oneself
and the self in creation
the memories dance themselves fragmenting the now
– in time

Of this vast sense of jumbling senses
- belonging follows perception
Creating and destroying
Who I am – was – and will be
Yet the drive common to all as me
Finds its path back in to the childhood dreams

Of such parameters
timelessness finds itself shelter
In the completeness of a moment
– unrelated – unaffected
In tune with the course of change
Impartial to the constant of habit
I become me – that disappears silently
The melancholy of the inspired
Chased between the dramatic seeds
Planted within the ever eternal
A belief, of my temporary intellect
of what does knowledge comprise itself ?
Comparisons, competition, achievement
Of all that I learn only saddens me
As I laugh at such consequence
The I in me finds a center, to aid my escape
The magnanimous images of the self
Trained to mirror nothing but itself
Categorizing in forms and shapes
The formless infinite space
Ah! the game such ego plays,
A child like tantrum it so cant replace
In appeals of the little boy who resides
Within, as the apostle of himself
The I is saddened as well as me

So as the inspired we sit awaiting the fall
For yet another momentous speech
Yet another comparison
Another competition,
Where by I am the image
Of my own creation
I am a painting of my own illusion
Inspired yet again

Technocrat

Those who find the lingering storm, beneath
The soulless moment of creation, within
To the eye residing between the past and the future
A timeless phenomenon calculated, falsely
Compared to the slightest of them all,
a discourse of consequences

to the solemn ones who observe with keen interest
off consciousness a body finds itself
defiant of yet itself, as a miracle
obscure inventions occupy the very essence
cultivating forms, shapes, sizes – Comparisons
finitely defining the infinite

such calculation oppressively react to appease
the arrogance of ignorance,
merely of such conspicuous events of
thoughtful perception,
lacking clarity as the eyes lack sight
the techtonics play a simple tune
of the monstrous calamity
such as the inventions of the thoughtful

as much as I fortify my innocence, knowledge
crystallizes its lucid proud creation
of thoughtfulness -
Ahh! that in knowledge my friend
Innocent curiosity now fortified leads curiously
Towards a purpose to destruct
Such as the physical does in pleasure,
“I” Does in –
my pride, habit, liking, disliking, keeping,
wanting, eating, replacing, relating, forming
Juxtapositions of my knowledge

A mechanically operated system of illusions
I am approved, accepted, protected from myself
As I listen and watch; follow and abide
Techtonically survive

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Conversations with myself


Thoughts and their consideration

Of the opinionated magician

Who sits within my lonely head

Calculating his only prayer

Not once! The calm he never finds

Off sympathy and quandary

He must survive

Careful considerations, within

To create another staggering night

Thoughts, thoughts and more

Occupy the empty space;

The lonely magician searching

Feeling, emoting, hoping, moping;

Calm that he never finds

“I am,

As is the theme

The creator of the mysterious

Of tricky variations,

The skillful orator

Smooth operator

I am” –

Of such images must he

Empower himself

With knowledge, distract himself

From justifications adapt

And thoughts react

In pride he searches

The calm he never finds

Attached to his soulless creation

Of the busy thoughtful mind

He finds himself lonely

Calculating his plight

Such is the melancholic victim

I his only friend

A prisoner by choice

Habitu├ęs is his nature;

A worrisome bloke

For nothing might he advice

But to keep in sight

The countless times

Nudged,

Into his stifled prison

Forced,

Were he and his fright

To such knowledge justifies

The lonesome magician

His own in creation

Were ever his plight

As collections and creations

Reveals my self

As the enchanting wand

And the magicians archetype

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

For the Crestfallen.

They say: "home is where the heart is", but what is home? Home is your abode- not just physically but also mentally and emotionally- it is your sanctuary. When one initiates a relationship with another, they begin constructing this home. They build walls of trust, lay tiles of faith, hang chandeliers of dreams and name the completed edifice love.

But when some sort of force majeure destroys this edifice the occupants have to start anew; because force majeure can't be compensated. Some crumble like bread crumbs and fade away in dark urban street corners- a slightly stronger person may become a backpacker because their geographical location and past failure has driven them to live like nomads- but the strongest of all are the patient ones who try to gather pieces of shattered tiles and chandeliers and sleep in the ruin of loves rubble- hoping to rebuild a home with new hands. These individuals are the essence of human divinity- that spirit that perhaps breathed life in to existence.

O patient one, I salute thee! and pray that you get the opportunity to build a double-bricked home next time, with tiles impervious to the elements.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Survival of the fittest: a political ‘Ideal’.



In 1857, an English sociologist by the name of Herbert Spencer, coined the term, “survival of the fittest“: the belief that evolutionary laws of natural selection, explained, social processes and behaviors- this theory is now referred to as “social Darwinism”.  Like Spencer, Karl Marx also believed in social evolution. However, unlike Spencer, who argued that: the poor and the sick should be left to fend for themselves; Marx believed that the state must prioritize the supply, production and distribution of comestible, clothing and domicile goods to society. This idea of Marx’s is known as “historical materialism” and it has been the subject of much scrutiny by those that can appropriately be called, the enthusiasts of Walter Lippmann’ progressive liberalism. The following tract will attempt to vividly explain what Marx meant when he stated: “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness”. This will be done to elaborate on David Held’s evaluation of Marx’s belief in Held’s book, “models of democracy” that: “it is not the state that underlies social order but social order that underlies the state“. Furthermore, the ideas of Marx will be examined against those of pluralists, such as Max Webber and Joseph Schumpeter. Finally, there will be some critical analysis of both ideas to determine my own stance on the relevance of  these ideologies in hitherto and henceforth human society.

 Although Marx was a German, in 1843, he left Germany for Paris; from where he was expelled in 1849 and eventually ended up in London- where he spent the remainder of his life. Based on his experiences in nineteenth-century industrial England, Marx was concerned about class inequalities created by industrial capitalism.

 To understand Marx’s indifference towards the liberalist battle for political equality, it is absolutely crucial to get a grasp of what Marx understood as “capitalism”, “alienation” and “class inequality“. In capitalism, according to Marx, are present two classes: the laborers and the capitalists or the proletariats and the bourgeois, respectively. The relationship between these two classes involves a division of labor. The capitalists supply the capital, such as raw materials and machinery necessary to organize production and control the labour process. The workers supply their labour, which turns those raw materials in to commodities- goods and services that can be bought and sold. One of the most important aspects of this relationship according to Marx, was that of domination. The workers sell their labour to capitalists for a wage, the capitalist in turn control the conditions under which the workers do their jobs and the hours they work. Marx argued that this relationship was one of unequal power. In large-scale enterprises, many workers are employed by a small number of capitalists who have the power to control their workers. In turn, specialised workers or managers are hired to manage the workers and ensure that the work is done according to the wishes of the employers- the mass of workers are thus left at the bottom.

 Alienation refers to the relationship between peoples labour and the fact that under capitalism, workers are separated from the things they produce, which thus have no meaning for them. Instead of the products of a person’s labour being something creative and of value, the worker is impoverished because their work is appropriated and commodified by capitalists. As more products are produced by machines, the greater the alienation experienced by the workers.

 Marx believed that this inequality and alienation was not only unfair, but would result in class conflict; which, according to Marx, would result in the overthrow of capitalism in favour of socialism: a society in which private ownership and wealth accumulation is replaced by state ownership; and ultimately, communism: a utopian vision of society based on communal ownership of resources, cooperation and altruism to the extent that the state no longer exists. The state is thus, always vulnerable to social cooperation that was constantly emergent. Ergo, “it is not the state that underlies social order but social order that underlies the state”(Held 2006, pg.103 - 108).

 

Pluralism:

In general English the word “pluralism” means the condition of being multiple(Pluralism - dictionary.com); in philosophy, it is used to describe, “a theory that there is more than one basic substance or principle”(Pluralism - dictionary.com); and in politics, it is a word used to describe “the affirmation of diversity in the interests of the citizenry”, making it a vital aspect of modern democracies (Pluralism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia). According to this view, no single, monolithic elite controls government and society. Instead, a group of specialized elites compete with one another for control.

  In contrast, Joseph Schumpeter’ political theory portrays the ordinary citizen to be a vulnerable and helpless person in a world dominated by the elite and their inter-elite feuds, much like Marx‘s communist theory. However, unlike Marx, Schumpeter’ theory seldom mentions power in the hands of intermediary groups such as community associations, religious associations, religious bodies, trade unions, business organizations and most importantly- society as a whole.

 According to pluralists and empirical democratic theorists, Schumpeter’s theory can be classified as incomplete or partial on the basis of its lack of attention towards intermediary groups. The pluralist model challenges Schumpeter’s theory by claiming that modern democratic politics is more competitive, and policy outcomes are far more satisfactory to all parties than Schumpeter suggested. Albeit, Schumpeter’s objection that capitalist or elitist oligarchies inspire government policy, echoes Marx’s argument against the liberal democratic goal of obtaining equality being hindered by capitalist interests. By this equation, the pluralist critique of Schumpeter is applicable to Marx as well. Pluralists refuted this claim that: the concentration of power in the hands of the competing political elite was inevitable; by extracting Max Weber’s idea that claimed, as mentioned above, the existence of many determinants of distribution of power and hence, many power centres (Held 2006, pg.158).

 Classical pluralists such as Robert A. Dahl and Charles E. Lindblom suggested that power is non-hierarchically and competitively arranged, as it is inextricably processed by bargaining between “interest groups”: a term used to describe business organizations, trade unions, political parties, ethnic groups, student unions, feminist groups, religious groups etc. Interest groups were structured in particular economic and cultural streams, namely:

a) Social Class

b) Ethnicity

c) Religion

There is no central decision making group in the classic pluralist model. Power is essentially distributed throughout society and interest groups may act as veto groups gradually to destroy legislation that they do not agree with. The government is there to mediate and adjudicate between different demands of different interest groups. Citizens must be given the right to vote once per election year between at least two competing political parties. Citizens have freedom of expression and freedom of organization to form interest groups to be vocal of these expressions. There is a system of checks and balances between the legislative, executive and judiciary arms of government which, diminishes the instance of corruption. All in all, it suggests that even though the major decision making process is vested in the government, small or large “interest groups” formed by ordinary citizens are influencing the government gradually: thus forming the pluralist view of democracy (Held 2006. Pg 161 - 165).

Marxists have dismissed classical pluralism as a narrowly ideological celebration of western democracies. They claim it to be optimistic and na├»ve. The ‘Elite Theory’ in particular, attacks classical pluralisms claim that modern democracy is the ‘ideal utopia’. The elite theory argues that a small minority of economic elites and policy planning groups, are sovereign in their control of power no matter what the outcome of an electoral term in a country. Via extensive networking among the business corporations, corporate boards, policy making networks and financial support of foundations, members of the elite faction can have considerable influence on policy making decisions within a country. This theory negates pluralism by suggesting that interest groups need high levels of resources and political connections or support to be able to contend for influence. This observation forms the basis for the theory of elite pluralism. Elite theorist Elmer Eric Schattschneider once said that “The flaw with the pluralist heaven is that the heavenly chorus sings with a strong upper-class accent” (The Haworth Press Online Catalogue: Article Abstract).

 


Personal reflection:

“A house may be large or small; as long as the surrounding houses are equally small it satisfies all social demands for a dwelling. But let a palace arise beside the little house and it shrinks from a little house to a hut…however high it may shoot up in the course of civilisation, if the neighbouring palace grows to an equal or even greater extent the occupant of the relatively small house will feel more and more uncomfortable, dissatisfied and cramped with its four walls.” - Karl Marx (Tracing the link between poverty and relativity) (Singer 2002, pg 190).


Since the 19th century, social scientists have shed light upon the relative nature of morality in human societies. That is to say, that a child is raised to exalt values coveted or preserved by their society. The early Finnish sociologist Edward Westermarck was somewhat of a beacon that shined upon the landscape of social relativism. Westermarck mentions that in New South Wales, the first born of every lubra (aborigine woman) used to be eaten by the tribe as part of a religious ceremony. A practice that can be deemed criminal according to the norms of the readers of this tract, yet, relatively sacrosanct for the Aboriginal tribe that Westermarck speaks of (Russell 1977. pg 52).

  In the same manner, I believe that capitalism has made the modern human negligent to modern slavery. It has done this by introducing monetarism that has enslaved people to sell their labour to compete for social stratification. This monetary system has left human society paranoid. We distrust one another everyday for fear of someone fooling us in to paying too much or too less for a product or service, offered by them or us, respectively. The price tag on commodities, as Marx pointed out, has led to “commodity fetishism”, where we constantly judge ourselves or others by the value of the cars we drive, or the wrist watches we wear: we are determined by avarice. In the case of States, the might of a state is judged by its military arsenal rather than the quality of life it offers to its citizens.

People are enslaved in a mindset that is set to exalt cupidity. Yet, politicians have done little or nothing to change this. Egalitarianism seems impossible when in fact it is true that, the Earth broke away from the Sun five billion years ago; we are all the same substance, and thus have little reason to fear each other.

 We live in an age when environmental issues should haunt us, yet we(the bewildered herd as Walter Lippmann called us) are astoundingly unaware of the means of propelling out of this umbra. Technology is what has been humanities greatest achievement. A quality that sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom is the fact that we can consciously invent things to solve and alleviate our daily complexities.

 Recent political debates have been hovering around environmental issues, and power production has been one topic central to this. At present, we possess the ability to tackle these issues with minimal use of scarce natural resources such as coal, gas and oil. Yet the representatives of the Roman Empire of our time: the United States of America; has managed to muster up solutions that are tedious at best. Nuclear energy, they say, is the present solution, and ten years of research could give way to an alternative bio-fuel or viable solar energy excavation; when at present, there is an energy source present that could provide enough to suffice the requirement of all the nations on earth: geothermal energy (energy excavated from the replenishing heat generated by the earth’s core).  A report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2007 concluded that the worlds geothermal reserves could be up to 13,000 ZJ(zettajoules) of energy, with about 2000 ZJ being easily utilized with slight investment in research and development. An alarming amount, considering the entire earth consumes only 0.5 ZJ a year (Source: Geothermal.inel.gov the_future_of_geothermal_energy.PDF).

  I have to admit that I was not aware of the availability of this technology and resource until I saw an otherwise trite documentary: Zeitgeist Addendum. It is always important to take such works with a pinch of salt so I tried to confirm the data offered in that film myself, and it turns out that the means to pursue this resource are certainly available. In fact, the IGA (international geothermal association) has been around since 1988. Why then has there not been enough investment towards promoting this sustainable and renewable source of energy? Why are countries still trying to pollute the atmosphere by tapping in to their coal deposits to produce energy?  Although there have been a number of geothermal plants setup around the world- including one in Islamabad for a private office building by Pakistan's own Shan Geothermal- the promotion of this fantastic new technology has been very menial. 


So, basically, where the prospective fiscal spending on defence in the U.S will touch 790 billion US dollars in 2011 (Source: whitehouse.gov, FYI 2011 Presidents budget), the world has not enough money to run a billion dollar promotion campaign for Geothermal technology during the 2010 football world cup?

 On her internet blog, Naveen Naqvi writes:

According to Pakistan’s National Commission for Human Development (NCHD), about 80% of deaths and 90% of illnesses in this country result from diseases which are considered preventable. If that statistic wasn’t startling enough, here’s another. Every ten minutes, a child dies in Pakistan from a disease that is preventable.” (Source)

 In this age of economic progress, a hegemonic war machine can be ignited to devour nations after allegedly losing about 6000 of its civilians, but the daily global child mortality rate of 24,000 (9 million deaths annually, mostly from preventable and curable diseases) cannot be conquered? Alas, in the light of such realities, I am left with little faith in an aristocratic democracy- as it seems quite evident, that Marx, Engels and Schumpeter were right about them being on a capitalist leash. Slogans that exalt democratic values have left me to conclude that: “democracy is the opium of the masses”. My only hope remains in the emergent nature of social gatherings that ease the dependence on a monetary system to estimate value and embrace the true virtues of humanity: our power to innovate and our recognition of all being one. After all, we are the same substance that makes those distant stars glow.



References:

Held, D 2006, Models of Democracy, 3rd edition, MPG books limited, Bodwin.

Russell, B, 1977, Political ideals,Unwin Hyman Limited, London.

Singer, P, 2002, One World: the ethics of globalisation,  Swan house, Melbourne.

Pluralism - dictionary.com. Retrieved July 4, 2010, from:

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?r=2&q=pluralism

Pluralism(political philosophy) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia .  Retrieved July 4, 2010, from:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pluralism_%28political_philosophy%29

The Haworth Press Online Catalogue: Article Abstract, Retrieved July 4, 2010 from:

http://www.haworthpress.com/store/ArticleAbstract.asp?sid=DV6MNL6PSDE09KT5XHTMPJEM9081124E&ID=2581

the_future_of_geothermal_energy.PDF. Retrieved July 4, 2010, from:

http://geothermal.inel.gov/publications/future_of_geothermal_energy.pdf

For some data on Pakistani Geo Thermal reserves and capacity, go to: http://www.geothermal-energy.org/215,welcome_to_our_page_with_data_for_pakistan.html

For more on Pakistan Geo Thermal reserves and capacity go to: http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a919555295~db=all?tab=references


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Suqraati Ethics (part 2): Conditions of freedom and criticisms.

Morality and Freedom:


The idea of personal freedom seems to be essential to morality because it is closely connected with moral praise and blame. We know that Anna deliberately chooses to manipulate Veslovsky and so we blame her for her actions. We say that she is responsible for her behaviour. However, normally we do not praise or blame people and hold them responsible for their actions if we find that they were not free to act as they did- if they were forced to do so by some physical power (like a truth serum that compels me to give up national secrets to a terrorist group) or by some psychological compulsion (like the individual sufffering from paranoid delusions who attacks an innocent stranger that they imagine, is trying to kill them).


What kind of freedom is involved in the moral life? We can distinguish the following:
1) Physical freedom: freedom from physical constraints;
2) Psychological freedom: freedom from internal constraints such as compulsions and delusions;
3) Social freedom: freedom from social (especially legal) constraints;
4) Moral freedom: freedom to choose what is right by oneself and others or to wrong oneself or others;
5) Freedom to do as one pleases: voluntary action with no physical, psychological, social or moral constraints.


Moral freedom normally requires physical freedom- though sometimes, if we are courageous enough, we can resist the evil that others may be trying to force us to do. However, moral freedom always requires some measure of psychological freedom- psychological compulsions like kleptomania may hinder ones capability to make the moral choice. This means that a lack of psychological freedom may destroy moral freedom and moral responsibility.


The notion of moral freedom implies that we can choose otherwise- that the cause of my choosing this course of action is simply my deciding to do so. This view suggests that human beings are the creative originators of their actions. 


Some Criticisms and Discontents of Moral freedom/Socratic ethics: 


Some philosophers - called Determinists - deny that we have the kind of freechoice morality seems to assume. Determinism is the philosophical theory that all choices and actions are caused by environmental and/or inherited factors- that whatever we decide to do is determined by such factors and hence we could not choose otherwise. Human freedom in this view simply means acting without physical constraint. However, one key problem for determinists is this: are we free to accept or reject the determinist view on the basis of arguments for and against it?


Many religious people including Jews, Christians and Muslims, claim that what is morally right and good is what God commands and what is morally wrong and evil is what God forbids. This is called the divine command theory of ethics. The problem with this theory was pointed out by Aflatun (plato). If what is moral is what God commands, this seems to make morality arbitrary- did God's commanding Abraham to kill his most cherished son, make it right? If, on the other hand if God only commands certain action, like honouring parents, then this seems to make morality independant of God. The traditional solution to this problem - known as the Euthyphro Dilemma - is that God only commands what is good because he is perfect goodness in itself. God would never command us to do what is evil because that would contradict his own nature. So there can be no conflict between the Moral Law and God's law- they are one and the same. Whether this makes sense or not is a question in the Philosophy of Religion.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Suqraati Ethics (part 1): Moral Responsibility.




The idea that moral harm is a distinctive kind of harm that we can inflict on others or have inflicted on us, is the key insight into the nature of morality of Socrates and Plato. In moral philosophy or ethics, the point is sometimes put by saying that moral goodness and moral harm are sui generis(a kind of their own). The view of morality that takes this point as its fundamental principle is often called Socratic ethics.

There is an episode in Tolstoys novel, Anna Karenina, where Anna flirts with a vain young man named Veslovsky who is visiting her home. She does this, not because she is attracted to Veslovsky, but because she wants to amuse her bored lover, Vronsky, and to show him that she is still attractive to men.

'He is just a boy,' she says of Veslovsky, 'and like wax in my hands...I can do what I like with him.'

Tolstoys's emphasis in this episode falls on the harm that Anna does to herself in misusing her beauty and intelligence; but he also makes it clear that Anna wrongs Veslovsky. Not that Veslovsky suffers any natural harm- he enjoys the flirtation and never discovers Anna's real attitude towards him. No, the wrong Anna does him is that she cynically treats him as a pawn in her relationship with Vronsky. Veslovsky suffers a moral harm rather than a natural one.

Normally, of course, moral harm also involves some kind of natural harm- violent rape involves terrible physical and mental distress; murder involves death. But sometimes we can recognize a moral harm without any accompanying natural harm- and Anna's treatment of Veslosky seems to be a case in point.
 
However, if Anna were to ask Veslovsky's forgiveness for manipulating him and exploiting his naivety, she would be extending to him a moral good- the good of her honesty and her remorse- rather than any natural good. In fact, Veslovsky might be angered and distressed by her confession of wrongdoing. Socrates' insight also implies that every human being- even foolish ones like Veslovsky- have a profound value that demands our restecpa(heh). Every human being is my moral equal because every human being can be wronged as I can. What the Socratic view assumes is that I am pained or outraged when an innocent person is blamed or punished and moved when one of that individual's accusers acknowledges her innocence and seeks to make ammends for that false accusation.

Socrates' insight implies that morality is groundless. This means that the practice of judging that someone has suffered a moral harm- like being betrayed or benefited by a moral good- like having another refuse to betray them, is just something we human beings do that requires no further justification. The Socratic view is said to be a non-naturalistic view of the nature of morality. 

By contrast, philosophers like Aristotle and St Thomas Aquinas ( I like to call them the "frandshippers") claim that morality is grounded in what is naturally good for human beings and what naturally harms them. They think that betraying a friend is wrong because it damages friendship and friendship is one of the basic goods in human life- one of the things that helps us to mature and flourish as human beings. So, unlike Socrates, they hold a naturalistic view of morality; and their view is often called Natural Law Theory.
 
Vain talk, slander etc is a moral harm according to Socratic ethics, as the business of the moral life involves refraining from doing evil to others or wronging them; and, more positively, the moral life involves respecting others as our moral equals and responding to them accordingly. This will inevitably involve using the rich vocabulary that we have in our language that enables us to charecterize one another in moral terms. I suppose one can call Socrates an early proponent of political correctness.

Socrates went on to claim that the one thing that is essential to a life that is worthy of a human being is precisely the moral virtue he called justice- respecting others as your moral equals and refusing to do them evil or to wrong them.

"It is better to suffer evil", Socrates famously said, "than to do it". But to live up to this principle may require great courage- the kind of courage Socrates himself displayed when he refused the order of the Thirty Tyrants to bring in Leon of Salamis for summary execution even though he risked execution himself.


References:

Louise J. Pojman, How We Should Live?, Thomson Wadsworth, 2006. (Chapters 3 and 4).

B.Williams 'The Truth in Relativism' in Moral Luck, CUP, Cambridge, 1981. (pg 132 - 143).