Saturday, June 26, 2010
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Culture is a sociological term for learned behavior: behavior that a person does not possess a priori (innately); behavior that one learns anew from the elders of their generation. A lot of cultural beliefs are essential for the progression of a civilization, while others could be without eruditional merit. The relationship between progression and culture is dynamic and with time most norms in a society change or evolve. Stages at which a society risks devolution – when quintessential traditional aspects of a society are at risk of elimination, movements to reinforce those norms come about. Cultural reinforcement can be described as such a movement that aims to restore, but more often instill culture. With the advent of the radio, television, and internet, ideas can be communicated to a larger demographic more rapidly. The instruments of such large scale communication are known individually and collectively as the mass media. The following passages will examine briefly, the medias role in propagating some negative cultural beliefs and the outcome of this activity. Naturally this would entail starting from the beginning, i.e, from whence consumerism was instilled in the public psyche.
The truth is that the Ahmadiyyah community is still widely viewed by a majority of muslim coalition parties as wajib-ul-qatl (deserving death). Using this sort of propaganda earns politicians competing for election with these parties easy votes; simply because Maududi’s thought is embedded in much of the Pakistani mindset, and he himself, is venerated as a hero. The Pakistani media has however, seldom given the voices against this theocratic mindset any limelight. The status-quo it seems here is to be maintained, and it is most likely that sooner or later; if anything were to try and change this, then they could be dealt with by either the cultural reinforcement of the media or the terrorists that define vice and virtue. However, rest assured that even still, history will see these times through the same lenses that it views the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany.
So if culture is learned manner, especially via the teachings of ones elders, promoting this mindless ethic that makes anyone deserving of death because of their religious/political beliefs is nothing short of preaching terrorism. Once raised in this manner, it's already too late for most people that have this belief ingrained in their psyche. However, this is a call to the future generations (parents and children inclusive) of not just Pakistan but the world over to think for themselves and not let some bearded dunce or the telemarketer mold their mindset. Be critical of information until you feel convinced of its infallibility. Do not embrace another persons opinions blindly. Break away from the "heard"!
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Most people are too lethargic to break away from the "heard". It isn't just your fellow citizens. Hiding behind customs and opinions is the easier way. Introspective knowledge is always harder to obtain. With modern life being so engaging and hectic, people hardly have time to form opinions away from the media, "hear say" (a.k.a " the heard") and cultural beliefs (a.k.a the herd).
In many cases people have in fact started to "believe in believing" rather than letting the belief convince them. Transubstantiation in Christianity is one such instance that I can think of in the west . It's moral relativism at work really; that is to say that a persons morality is relative to their surrounding. It is rarer that people recognize the nature of morals and come out slightly more informed about why people act like ignoramuses.
A lot of people imagine that it is impossible and impractical to be a relativist- but this is short sighted- it is in fact easier than being a "preference utilitarian"( a moral position that considers all things pleasurable to the self worth cherishing and all else worth diminishing). Relativism is by default our morality. Especially since according to relativism there are no right or wrong morals but simply relative ones; making all other moral beliefs sub-moral.
If you don't know every "thing", then you know nothing about any "thing". For what is a "thing"?
Is everything a thing in itself or, is it a thing made of everything else? Is a white teacup a thing? or is the color white a thing? what then is this combination of things that is the tea cup itself?
Furthermore, is this combination of things (porcelain, white color, atom and subatomic particles etc) enough to make this thing? What about the shape of the tea cup itself- is that an ingredient as well? Does "everything" have a shape as well?
How should I know, I don't know anything. I wish you did. Although, I do know something about "everything" i.e I can not know everything.