Flickr

  • www.flickr.com
    Abiola_Lapite's photos More of Abiola_Lapite's photos

« Funniest Response Ever | Main | Speak Danish in 10 Days »

November 26, 2004

Comments

Frank McGahon

do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you

Don't these double negatives just cancel each other out?. Joe and Jim from Sausalito presumably would be happy for others to do golden showers unto them (i.e. they would not not have them do unto..) so they wouldn't be restrained from visiting golden showers on others by this formulation alone.

Isn't a better (albeit ineloquent) way of phrasing it: "Do not do unto others what they don't want done unto them if you don't want them to do unto you what you don't want done unto you"?

Stentor

I would suggest one further reformulation: "do not do unto others what they would not have you do unto them." I think that does a better job of capturing the differences in preferences between people. Your version doesn't seem to present a barrier to the scat fetishist. It's no longer a moral obligation for him to fling poo at me, but it's still permissible, since he wouldn't have me refrain from flinging poo at him. My version would allow scat fetishists to indulge their kink among themselves, but bar them from bringin me into it.

Frank McGahon

great minds...

Abiola Lapite

"Don't these double negatives just cancel each other out?. Joe and Jim from Sausalito presumably would be happy for others to do golden showers unto them (i.e. they would not not have them do unto..) so they wouldn't be restrained from visiting golden showers on others by this formulation alone."

One could just impose a recursive nesting limit to rule out sentences of this sort.

Abiola Lapite

That said, I do agree that Stentor's reformulation is superior to even Hillel's.

Temporary

Hmmm...

On the absurdity of the positive imperative as expressed in the NT:

If you read the words of Jesus "do ye even so...etc etc" as "Poeio Humeis Kai Houto", you can make a case that the positive imperative is based on say, the spirit of the action. Since "Kai Houto" may appropriately be rendered as "in this manner", "after this manner", "in this line of behaviour" etc etc (Other formulations of that nature).

In such a case, the positive imperative DOESNT translate to "Dont Hit People on the Head if you dont want them to Hit you", it translates to something more like "Dont H A T E people if you dont want them to H A T E you" - an attitudinal imputation.
In the language of PI - "Love others that they may love you" etc etc etc
The emphasis not being on specific actions.

Hence, in the case of the scat- ists, we might say, "Violate the aversions of others, and they will violate yours" regardless of YOUR own peculiar aversions might be.
Visiting your scattish desires on them might all be well and dandy to you - but since it is a violation of the others aversion, the other would be justified in violating the aversion of the "Scatter" by say, cutting off his procreative parts etc etc etc.

The formulation "Do not do unto others what they would not have you do unto them" ends up with some results that look pretty immoral.
Like Failing a Student on an Exam. After all, most students dont want to be failed.
Or like imprisoning criminals (an extreme example).
Generally, with respect to Punishment, or manifestations of displeasure, disfavor etc etc etc it seems that formulation falls short.

The formulation "Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you" also has some weird consequences.
Especially for Parents, if we treat the child as an "Other".
But as already mentioned, the negatives cancel out in other scenarios.

There are general problems with any imperatives of these sort:

1. The assumption that all have the same moral authority with respect to action.

2. The assumption that all moral scenarios neccesitate the same moral principles etc etc etc.

There is a strong egalitarian streak that runs through most of these imperatives - again, an assumption that leads to funny conclusions.

I think, Jesus' formulation of the PI version of the Golden Rule, if read as applying to the spirit of the action comes to as close a water-tight package that anyone could conjure up.

Franks conditional clause rules out all possibility of pre-emptive moral action and negates certain pre-emptive moral responsibilities that occur purely as a result of the different roles people play in relationships.

Abiola Lapite

"The formulation "Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you" also has some weird consequences.
Especially for Parents, if we treat the child as an "Other"."

But children aren't generally treated as fully autonomous moral agents, which is why they aren't punished with the same force of the law as adults.

Temporary

True. Children arent in fact treated as fully autonomous moral agents.

But we assume that there is moral sphere in which children function; or the whole idea of child rearing makes no sense.

We teach them not to steal and if they do, we punish them for it.

In such scenarios, where the Child may act from within the limited moral sphere and wherein such actions may brook punishment - the formulation would present weird consequences.

I think the reason we treat children thus, is not because we deem them to be limited in the essential fact of agency - but because we deem them to be limited in the sphere of that agency.

But again, on the issue of differential punishment - is this fact established on the idea that children arent fully autonomous, or the idea that they cannot yet fully perceive?
In other words, do we punish them to a lesser extent because they are children and arent fully autonomous - or do we punish them to a lesser extent because they just dont have the capacity to receive punishments of a higher order? And hence punishing them like s wouldnt make any sense.

The formulation would present weird consequences if we assume at all, that Children have responsibilites towards their Parents and that Parents have responsibilities towards their Children. etc etc etc.
Up the definition of Children to include "Teenagers" and it even gets weirder. etc etc etc.

To digress - this issue also raises the perennial problem of the "Age of Accountability" and its attendant issues:

1. Man-Boy, Man-Girl Relations.
2. In theological circles - Does it make any sense to preach to Children? Does it make any sense to speak of children 5 years of age, being "saved"? If it does, children 5 years of age MAY, In fact, burn in Hell. Well then, if the sphere of agency of a child is large enough to encompass its own soul - the idea of morally autonomous children becomes suspect.

I think my stumping point is - Why dont we treat children as fully morally autonomous agents?
Especially in the West; since the Xtians believe that Children CAN be damned forever.

Abiola Lapite

"Does it make any sense to speak of children 5 years of age, being "saved"?"

Does it make sense to speak of anyone being "saved", regardless of age? "Saved" from what, exactly?

"I think my stumping point is - Why dont we treat children as fully morally autonomous agents?"

Because they have neither the life experience nor sufficient powers of reason to be able to soundly reason about right and wrong. It is for similar reasons that the insane and the mentally retarded aren't treated as if they were fully culpable for their misdeeds either.

"the Xtians believe that Children CAN be damned forever."

What's one more irrational belief amongst so many others?

Abiola Lapite

On a more serious note, the very notion of an omnipotent, omniscient and completely benevolent being who sends his creations to hell is already rife with paradox, and the fact that the Bible indicates that "unsaved" children will go to hell, even newborn babies, only sharpens the contradictions that are already there.

Temporary

My reference to Xtians was to show how that a moral system built on Xtian principles might not neccessarily consider children to be as non-autonomous as we imagine (following an extrapolation from its basic tenets).
Like for instance in the West.
Call it a kink in the system.

Ergo, under such a system, the formulation would produce weird results, as noted (i.e. Another example, albeit a digressive one).

Of course one may quarrel about whether the West is really founded on Xtian principles, etc etc etc.

You say that Children arent held to be fully autonomous MAs because of their powers of reason etc - Very True - but under a system where the Point of Origin for many is Xtian Tenets - Can a child which has responsibility for its soul really be denied such "Powers of Reason"?
Again - a kink in the system.

Like I noted, the reference was a digression.

Temporary

True of course, the Xtian system is rife with Paradox, but the reference to it is speculative and digressive.

The very nature of many Religions puts them outside the scope of formulated Imperatives.

Abiola Lapite

"but under a system where the Point of Origin for many is Xtian Tenets - Can a child which has responsibility for its soul really be denied such "Powers of Reason"?"

As I've said, if Christians can manage to live with all sorts of logical absurdities raised by their faith, pointing out one more is hardly going to prove an impossible burden for them to bear.

"Again - a kink in the system."

Maybe in some future scenario under which Dominion Theology is the law of the land, but as of now, this is a problem only for the religiously devout, and but one of very many, at that.

captainblak

People will not go to hell because of things they have done, rather for one thing they have not done (accepting jesus christ as personal bla bla bla)...
In other words, HELL is the default destination for all humanity.

lamin

There's nothing intrinsically wrong with Kant's Categorical Imperative as a mere ethical rule. Recall that Kant was only trying to establish ethics on ontological foundations similar to those on which Newton formulated his laws of nature. Kant's goal was to establish ethical rules befitting humans as rational agents whose actions would be universalizable as exceptionless general laws--as were the perceived laws of mechanics. The rational agent himself/herself would have no coercive powers beyond that of choosing actions that would be like the timeless and universal laws of nature. For example,a strict Kantian would prefer heterosexuality over its complement because the results of homosexual choices, like promise breaking would be necessarily limited in time. Similarly those who like pornography would not necessarily will that their children or wives share the same inclinations.

Note too that the CI has a second version which states that humans should be treated as "ends in themselves" not as "means to other ends". In other words we should accord adequate agency to others in our interactions with them.

Again, one must note that Kant's ethics are NOT based on likes(inclinations as relevant to "hypothetical imperatives) or dislikes but are based strictly on the timeless universalizability of the maxim in question.

Like all fallible humans Kant, of course, did not live up to his maxims: he wrote unabashedly on the best ways to whip African servants or bondsmen given their peculiar(sic) epidermis. He also thought of Africans as incorrigibly "stupid"(sic).

And of course in the real world humans as lay persons and statesmen tend to conform more to Hobbes's principles given that operate in this world usually on the basis of a consequentialist ethical egoism.

Temporary

Lamin:

Homosexuality and promise breaking? What does this have to do with the Kantian Imperative? How does this rationalize prefering the Heterosexual complement?
Rational agents DO have co-ercive and pre-emptive powers because of different moral spheres and differing responsibilities.

CB:

I think you mis-read the theology. Hell(in the general sense) is not a default destination per se. You dont GO to Hell, you are BORN there; i.e. Human beings are born under the reign of the Kingdom of Darkness.
So for the believer, Heaven (as a broad general term) is not a destination. Thus Paul says: "We ARE COME (Present Tense) unto Mount Zion"
It doesnt make much of a deontological difference though, because the responsibility for action under both scenarios remains the same.
Just a slight twist.

lamin

O Tempora, O Mores:

In fact promise keeping and promise breaking are one of the examples the sage from Konisberg used to make his case for the validity of the CI. Kant would also throw abortion and homosexuality into the set of maxims that any dutiful rational agent would not engage in. Surely if abortion and homosexual acts were maxims such kinds of behaviour would soon be limited in universalizable scope--a feature that does not apply to scientific laws as universal statements as Kant and Newton thought. Recall that for Kant the laws of mathematics and science(mechanics in his time) were synthetic a priori statements. Kant wanted to formulate principles of ethical behaviour that would also be synthetic a priori. It's the a priori part of the law that really counts because it confers logical necessity--hence a timeless universality--on the law itself. That's why promise breaking, abortion, and homosexuality would not fit the Kantian bill.

Human nature being what it is guess who is more popular today Kant or Mick Jagger? So don't worry.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Notes for Readers