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Biggest moral problem?

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MadArchitect

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Re: Biggest moral problem?

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Chris OConnor: There is nothing wrong with accumulating material items if that is what makes you happy and you accumulate through your own hard work and intelligence.If I want to buy a $400,000 RV that is my option in a free society.I'm not so sure. Most large vehicles are manufactured using labor practices that create gross inequality. The consumption of gasoline allows for the disenfranchisement of peasants in Third World countries. Owning and using a $400,000 RV is probably not inherently immoral, but so long as we know that our purchases and consumption patterns are making it difficult or impossible for others to live at even their own poverty level, then I think the action carries some moral weight. We could probably lessen or erase altogether the immorality that goes into a decision like that, but it seems that the efforts to do so are mostly being made by people who can't afford a $400,000 RV.Probably the most vexxing thing about the whole thing is that its systematic -- our nations and lifestyles are organized around patterns of consumption that tend to tip the balance such that people far removed from us suffer because of it. So it becomes incredibly difficult to live within the system without contributing to the inequalities that it creates.
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Dissident Heart

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Re: Biggest moral problem?

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River: If you seriously want to advocate for your position, you must understand the animal you are fighting against, and that is the uber-consumer that really does get satisfaction out of acquisition of material things.Aquiring pleasure and finding happiness are not the same thing. There is great pleasure in smoking Crack-cocaine...profound pleasure. But it certainly doesn't equate to happiness. Just like the first few shots of brandy may being pleasure- whereas the continued pounding of drinks, for most, will bring ugly lunacy. I do think pleasure is part of happiness, but I don't think happiness is part of every pleasure...some pleasures are wretched hell. I think the "uberconsumer" is deluded into thinking their consumption habits produce statisfaction or happiness, much along the same lines of the addict thinking their next hit will make them happy. Actually, I think addiction is a prime agent in our economic system and one ingredient that keeps it steam-rolling along and spiralling our of control and towards biospheric meltdown.Rivercoil: Selfish self interest as always determines our direction as a people, not fulfillment of a dubious meta-physical connection for which there is no proof.I don't think this is always true. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. I think it is just as metaphysical to equate complex social behavior with "self-interest"...your definition of what a Self and Person is, is already deeply steeped in metaphysical assumptions, hopes and dreams...as well as faith.Rivercoil:But I don't see this as a moral issue, but rather a geo-enviro-political issue in which the policies and social structures of humanity are engaged in an invisible struggle against a physical force that is the environment of the Earth.I see it as a moral issue, just as I see most things involving human choices and their impact as moral issues. I think your description of humanity struggling against nature is a metaphysical notion: humanity is one thing, nature another. I do think there is a struggle, and it isnt so invisible: actually it's the most visible thing I see...that's why I called it the biggest moral problem.Chris: The system works. We're sitting here on computers talking to each other across thousands of miles because of the same system some of us are disparaging.It works to what end and for whom? I don't think it really works: if freedom and morality are ends worth acheiving. Just because we can type pixels into existence is no salve for the 10,000 + nuclear warheads (and other thousands not so deadly weapons of mass destruction) we are all sitting on top of.
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Dissident Heart

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Re: Biggest moral problem?

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Chris: You believe people cannot be happy while exploiting the environment?I think when people are made aware of the truth of their interdependency and identity with the biosphere, they will not be happy in willfully participating in its destruction. They will have to deny what they know, minimize the havoc of their actions, and rationalize their behavior...and they will not find happiness in anything that openly poisons the earth they belong to.Chris: And where did this rule or principle come from? Who determines if hard work and intelligence is valuable? You? You're trying to force your views on other people.I'm offering my perspective. I think it's reasonable and makes sense: reflecting the actual state of affairs for humans on this planet. I'm not forcing it on anyone.Chris: You see employees building an RV as something evil and exploitive, while I see it as a testament to the beauty and power of a free market.I see an automotive industry, tied to a petroleum and other less prominent industries, where the vast majority of workers lack any meaningful participatory power in their daily jobs; and a tiny percentage control the lion's share of decision making power. I see this as detrimental to political democracy (which as I've labored to describe elsewhere as anything but mob-rule) as well as devastating to the biosphere. I recognize the serene beauty of travelling America's roadways and enjoying the great natural and human wonders. I also know the cost for such pleasure is something I think is not worth paying.Chris: Freedom is nothing more than a lack of coercion.I think your economic vision requires massive coercion on many levels: the worst of which involving the commodification of the biosphere, turning the earth into property under the control of private tyrannies fueled by greed and egocentric self-interest. Chris: What you're doing is attempting to jam your political and economic views down our throats all the while pretending that we're having an intellectual discussion about freedom.You don't have to read anything I write Chris. I've got no power here beyond pixels on a screen and the arguments they convey. I think the biggest moral problem of today has a great deal to do with economics and politics, and both of these are intimately related to our vision and hope for freedom. You, by the way, introduced freedom into the discussion. Edited by: Dissident Heart at: 5/24/06 12:11 pm
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Re: Biggest moral problem?

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DH, I respect your opinion. I share many of your views regarding negative aspects of civilization; however, similar views in this case result in different conclusions. I once shared your conclusions more closely and wanted a total overhaul of the system. I have parred down many of my views and beliefs and advocations for what I believe is actually attainable and for what I believe I can actually convince other people are worth while pursuits and alterations to lifestyle and maybe even society (doubtful but worth arguing for). Also, I decided to take into account the values, beliefs, and lifestyles of others and decided that there is no right answer and my preference for society is no better than any one else's.Perhaps my use of the term metaphysical was not appropriate or inaccurate. However, I stand by my sentiment that linking happiness with care of the Earth is erronious. Perhaps that works for you, but not for everyone (again, I value and feel very close to nature for the record. As an athiest, I still consider myself to have a 'spritiual' relationship with nature, in the most non-thiestic use of the word spirit). You derive happiness from something and force your experience of happiness on others or believe everyone must experience happiness in the way that you do? Sorry, but to be blunt, that sounds very egotistical that you have happiness figured out on such a higher level than any one else. This could break down into much philosophical discourse on the human connection to happiness, what it is, and how to obtain it. Ask a hundred famous philosophers and you would likely get a hundred different answers. For most people, the ever long lasting search for happiness is meaningless, it is a perception of our disposition and has more to do with our view of reality than reality itself or what we do in it. What works for you might not work for someone else or vise versa. Your comments come off sounding like you are essentially telling other people that you have seen the light and other people can too if they live like you live and adopt your beliefs.Mad said it better than I did regarding the Earth and pollution/resource issues being an enviromental issue not a moral issue. Moral issues could involve how our environmental decisions effect other people. But the physical world in and of itself is morally neutral. I do not see the world in moral terms unless it involves a person inflicting change on the world that effects someone else.Chris raises an interesting point about using computers when advocating for globalization issues. Myself and Mad mentioned this interesting conflict we must resolve if we choose to be a part of this soceity (for those of us living in developed western nations, which I think is most of us). Many of the products we rely on utilize methods we disagree with. It is impossible to avoid without becoming a hermit. What is the difference between the huge RV or buying a computer? Perhaps it is what end we put those items to use. Or perhaps that is just a justification so we won't feel bad about India lower class peoples getting paid 50 cents an hour to make keys for a keyboard. That is a whole nuther moral issue right there.Perhaps the question should be rephrased. The biggest moral problem (that most of us will probably never agree on any ways) is likely a collective moral problem that we as individuals could never do anything about. Perhaps the question could be rephrased what is the single biggest moral problem that we as individuals could address in our own lives, those around us, and in any communities we are a part of. Then again, moral judgement calls often sets up an us vs. them system and what makes our conclusion better than someone elses? That is why I always try to come back to concensus buidling, let's find out what we all agree on about morality and build on our common elements.
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Re: Biggest moral problem?

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Rivercoil: I have parred down many of my views and beliefs and advocations for what I believe is actually attainable and for what I believe I can actually convince other people are worth while pursuits and alterations to lifestyle and maybe even society (doubtful but worth arguing for). I appreciate any effort towards: a. getting honest about the mess we are in; b. taking responsibility for whatever part of the mess we've made; and c. doing what we can to clean it up.I think your efforts reflect that. I don't think we do ourselves any favor by minimizing the extent of damage our lifestyles create, or by denying the true costs it requires to maintain them. Perhaps your approach will gain more listeners, but I'm not sure they'll be hearing what needs to be said.Rivercoil: I decided to take into account the values, beliefs, and lifestyles of others and decided that there is no right answer and my preference for society is no better than any one else's.Are you aware that your preference to not choose is still a choice? In other words, the right answer for you is that there is no right answers. The better preference is to have no preference at all, which is a preference nonetheless. I think you reject a whole host of social models, political structures and economic systems; and for good reasons too. Some visions of the "good society" are wretched and immoral; others are noble and worthy of effort. We all make choices, have preferrences, and end up supporting some while rejecting others. Rivercoil: I stand by my sentiment that linking happiness with care of the Earth is erronious. Perhaps that works for you, but not for everyone And I stand by the fact that if we don't care for the Earth, there will be no one left to be happy- nor nothing worth the term "happiness". I don't see this as simply my bad taste: it is scientific fact tied to moral reasoning. Either we revaluate what we mean by happiness, and decide it must equate with a deeper love of the earth, or we lose the earth and us with it. Rivercoil: You derive happiness from something and force your experience of happiness on others or believe everyone must experience happiness in the way that you do?I don't see how I am forcing this onto anyone. I'm offering my take on the affairs that concern me. I think they are concerns that reverberate far beyond my little circle of intellect and imagination. I think morality is about setting boundaries, defining limits and creating expectations for our behavior. I do not think it is simply an individualist exercise of personal navel-gazing and self-control (although it demands rigorous self-examination and discipline). I think it is a communal effort between interdependent agents who's behaviors impact much more than their little neck of the woods.Rivercoil: Your comments come off sounding like you are essentially telling other people that you have seen the light and other people can too if they live like you live and adopt your beliefs.I appreciate the feedback. I think I've tried to present my perspective here as just one view, based on sound science and justifiable moral reasoning. An analogy might help. This boat is sinking, fast. I am not interested in a debate about what color we should paint the deck, or how many chairs to set up in Captain's quarters. I want to know how we can avoid the impending disaster. I do not take seriously, and here I will plead telling others what to do, those who deny the sinking vessel and argue: sure, we're taking on a little water here and there; but we just need to stay on course and keep positive that the Captain knows where we are going. I'm not saying you are taking this line, but I think it is clear why I won't.Rivercoil: Mad said it better than I did regarding the Earth and pollution/resource issues being an enviromental issue not a moral issue. Moral issues could involve how our environmental decisions effect other people. But the physical world in and of itself is morally neutral. I do not see the world in moral terms unless it involves a person inflicting change on the world that effects someone else.I am making the case about how our behavior impacts the biosphere. I think our behavior is a moral issue. I am not concerned with the moral neutrality of the physical world. I do know that humans are not something apart from the physical world: we are nature struggling to be moral. I am not neutral in this struggle, nor are you, or anyone. Environmental impact issues are moral issues.Rivercoil: Myself and Mad mentioned this interesting conflict we must resolve if we choose to be a part of this soceity (for those of us living in developed western nations, which I think is most of us). Many of the products we rely on utilize methods we disagree with.I agree wholeheartedly with you and Mad here. I think it is more than simply interesting, I think it is crucial. I think, in many ways, it is the defining conflict of our time: especially for those of us who have benefitted so opulently from the last 500 years of modernity. I think it is a profound moral dilemma we need to face up to. I think it defines our integrity and authenticity as humans willing to be honest about our behavior and willing to change what is poisoning ourselves and the world around us. I also know it is terribly difficult to do it. I think George Orwell said it best: Quote:In his essay on Kipling, "All left-wing parties in the highly industrialized countries are at bottom a sham, because they make it their business to fight against something which they do not really wish to destroy. They have internationalist aims, and at the same time they struggle to keep up a standard of life with which those aims are incompatible. We all live by robbing Asiatic coolies, and those of us who are 'enlightened' all maintain that those coolies ought to be set free; but our standard of living, and hence our 'enlightenment,' demands that the robbery shall continue."Rivercoil: Perhaps the question could be rephrased what is the single biggest moral problem that we as individuals could address in our own lives, those around us, and in any communities we are a part of. I think this is how I have addressed the original question. As I see it, there is no individual approach to anything. We are already woven into countless webs of relationships that determine, shape, drive and influence who and what we are. I think morality is where we draw the borders and boundaries of what is acceptable and non-acceptable behavior within those complex networks. I also think these issues define our character and reflect the depth of soul we bring to the issues at hand. I think the wider the net of relationships we see as truly part of our identity, the deeper and more powerful our soul, and the greater oppotunity to change behavior. I think the converse is also true: the more narrowly we define ourselves, rigid ego-centric agents alone and at war with other atomistic selves separate and apart from the biosphere...the more shallow the soul and the less hopeful the change.
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Re: Biggest moral problem?

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Chris OConnor: Let's put our heads together and address the weaknesses of the system, but let's not waste precious time and emotional energy bitching about the system in general.What, to your mind, are the weaknesses of the system? And if it turns out that the (moral) weaknesses of the system are necessary in order to produce the (technological) strengths, then how do we mediate between them? I don't ask that as a rhetorical question, mind you; these are questions that I'm in the process of asking myself, and I'm interested in your point of view.The system works. We're sitting here on computers talking to each other across thousands of miles because of the same system some of us are disparaging.The system works to what end? It looks to me like the primary justifications for the "system" are a) technological advance, and b) personal satisfaction in the sense of economic reward. The second would seem to have some intrinsic moral value, but it has to be weighed against the potential loss inflicted on others. The first has, at best, ambiguous moral value, as some technological advances have apparantly resulted in a net loss -- medications that cause more problems than they solve, greater potential for damage from advanced weaponry, increasing rate of consumption, etc.If we're really going to address the system of consumption (and I'm starting to think it makes more sense to look at it as a set of customs rather than a fixed system) in terms of its moral effect, then we have to fix on what its intended end is, and compare that to the effects that it actually has on individuals, cultures and societies. riverc0il: First of all, I wrote "perhaps" we will find something... that is hardly faith and you took the comment quite out of context.Not when it's simply written, but when you conduct yourself as though it were probable that we'd find a technological solution to these problems, there seems to be more than disinterested speculation involved. That, for me, is the crux of faith: not what is pronounced, but what directs a person's behavior. (Ps. I am, of course, using "you" generally; I don't personally know whether or not you act in accordance with the idea of inevitable progress.)Once oil is gone or gets to expensive, other sources of energy won't seem so expensive any more. So I need not have faith because we already have much of the technology.I don't think that's entirely true. When you talk about looking to agricultural alternatives, for example, you're talking about an investment of space and an investment of agricultural labor, all of which will draw resources away from food agriculture. Part of the reason that that kind of alternative fuel source is currently more expensive than oil is that we need those resources for other, more fundamental purposes. Falling back on them is only going to tax us in other ways.There seems to be an understanding that we can draw from natural resources without paying a long term cost. That doesn't make any sense to me. Any redirection of the systems of energy is bound to have effects. I suspect that even solar energy, if consumed on a large scale, would have effects on the way that the ecosystem transmits and utilizes that energy -- I don't see how it couldn't. The most reasonable way out of these problems, as I see it, is to depend more upon our own power.Dissident: I see it as a moral issue, just as I see most things involving human choices and their impact as moral issues.Out of interest, did you read the Joan Didion essay that I linked to? I wonder what you'd think of the conclusion she draws.riverc0il: Chris raises an interesting point about using computers when advocating for globalization issues. Myself and Mad mentioned this interesting conflict we must resolve if we choose to be a part of this soceity (for those of us living in developed western nations, which I think is most of us).I think it is an interesting point, and I wonder if sometimes we wouldn't be better served using some sort of snail-mail system. There'd be less instant gratification, of course, but we'd also be less likely to make asses of ourselves.I don't think the existence and use of a computer is all that damaging. The existence and use of an RV, for that matter, probably has a negligible effect on the environment. It's when you have 7 million RVs cruising about the nation, when the owners are driving their RVs two blocks to pick up a quart of milk, when they trade in their RVs every five years to get the newest model. That's where the problem arises. And our society adjusts itself to not only accomodate gratuitious consumption like this, but to encourage it as well. Therein lies the problem.The biggest moral problem (that most of us will probably never agree on any ways) is likely a collective moral problem that we as individuals could never do anything about.If it's not something that takes place on an individual level, then I'm not sure it really qualifies as a moral problem. To my mind, morality is all about the conscious choices that we, as individuals, make. Those choices may contribute to a collective effect, but they begin as individual choices.
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Good Consciences

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Quote:Because when we start deceiving ourselves into thinking not that we want something or need something, not that it is a pragmatic necessity for us to have it, but that it is a moral imperative that we have it, then is when we join the fashionable madmen, and then is when the thin whine of hysteria is heard in the land, and then is when we are in bad trouble. And I suspect we are already there. Joan Didion: On MoralityDidion is challenging us to see where our personal resentments and passion for vengeance color our moral vision and infect our moral reasoning. Our clamour for justice and rights and fairness rise, magically and fantastically, beyond the ancient foundations of survival necessities and outward into metaphysical, universal demands. These demands become clubs to force an otherwise unruly nature into an un-natural submission: but with good conscience. This good conscience becomes a kind of madness. We become mad with self-righteous vigor and delight in imparting justice on the unrighteous and unjust.I wonder how many lynch-mobs, witch burnings, crusades, international wars have been fueled into bloody frenzy by such good consciences?
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Re: Good Consciences

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MadI'll respond to your questions, but I'd really rather see them presented in a new thread. This one is frustrating me to hell. My post will get lost in the mix and few of my points will be read or replied to here. I'm slammed tonight with work so I won't be able to reply till tomorrow...probably.
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Re: Good Consciences

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Dissident Heart: Didion is challenging us to see where our personal resentments and passion for vengeance color our moral vision and infect our moral reasoning.No, Didion is very clear on this point: she isn't talking about "personal resentment" or "passion for vengeance". She's talking about personal wants or needs, pragmattic necessities -- the things that are genuinely important, not merely the luxuries that petty people afford themselves. What she's challenging us to see is a distinction between necessity and morality, and I think it's a challenge worth considering. And it's a challenge that is, I would say, particularly anathema to a lot of the moral assumptions that you make in your arguments.Chris OConnor: I'll respond to your questions, but I'd really rather see them presented in a new thread.Feel free to cut and paste any points that you'd like to respond to. I wouldn't know which one's to move. You might also throw in a link to this thread, so that people know the context of my original comments.
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Re: Good Consciences

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Mad: What she's challenging us to see is a distinction between necessity and morality, and I think it's a challenge worth considering.I don't disagree with that, nor does my post. In fact, my post elaborates upon the process that transforms necessity into morality: changing what is "genuinely important" into fantasies of self-importance and universal domination. I think the link is resentment and a passion to punish; self-pity and disgust with our personal powerlessness given moral justification and maintained via a delusionary good conscience.I think the quotation below supports what I'm arguing:Quote:There is something quite facile going on, some self-indulgence at work. Of course we would all like to "believe" in something, like to assuage our private guilts in public causes, like to lose our tiresome selves; like, perhaps, to transform the white flag of defeat at home into the brave white banner of battle away from home. And of course it is all right to do that; that is how, immemorially, things have gotten done. But I think it is all right only so long as we do not delude ourselves about what we are doing, and why.Mad; And it's a challenge that is, I would say, particularly anathema to a lot of the moral assumptions that you make in your arguments.I think I've worked to bridge private and public, individual and communal, human and environmental within my moral assumptions. I've directly addressed her challenge to avoid the delusion of acheiving a God's eye universal perspective on any moral issue: keeping my concerns grounded in practical, tangible everyday survival of the biosphere. Care to spell out my anathematic assumptions? Edited by: Dissident Heart at: 5/24/06 3:50 pm
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