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  1. #1
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    Theory and Practice

    Can we fault someone for protecting their own family at the expense of another when the only certainty is that one or the other will die? If we are not faced with a choice, is it wrong to sit back and watch as injustices are committed? What are our responsibilities as human beings?

    I talk a lot about morality and ethical choice. I talk a lot about how, without God, there is no right an wrong. The theorhetical and the practical are infinitely far apart.

    Every time I see a movie or read a book, (Sophie's Choice, Schindler's List, Good, Defiance etc) that deals with what happened in Nazi Germany, all my babbling about the fact that good and evil are relative flies out the window.

    My heart bleeds, and I know that I couldn't live with myself if I sat back and watched innocents murdered next door to me. But should I risk my own family to help another's?

    Tough questions.

    I'm convinced that the only way anyone could have done anything to help the victims of Hilter's Germany was to escape the country and organize from abroad, where your loved ones wouldn't be threatened directly.

    Theory and practice.

  2. #2
    aka Radone Davis Ashura's Avatar
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    Or, convince the Jews, homosexuals, Gypsies, and others incinerated by the Germans to all carry guns. Lots of guns and learn to use them properly. BTW, first.

  3. #3
    Why is there no right or wrong without God? Atheists know the difference between right and wrong too, and can be just as moral as the religious. Some people define right and wrong by their own code, by society, by what their religion tells them or by what they are taught. Belief in God is just one path to morality.

    At any rate, sometimes when injustices are happening, we are afraid. Afraid for ourselves, afraid for what might happen to loved ones, afraid for consequences. There is also wanting to stay out of it, and letting someone else deal with it. If you heard a woman screaming and crying for help, you would call the police right? Yet when one woman was screaming and crying, she was stabbed, got away, and killed - all the while dozens of people heard but not one called the police until after she was fatally stabbed. Nobody wanted to get involved and everyone assumed someone else would call.

    What we think we would do and what we actually do are very different things.

  4. #4
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    Aurian, you misunderstand me when I speak of right and wrong. What I'm referring to is ultimate right and wrong that's not relative or constructed or created. In other words, there's no definition of right that transcends the society and circumstances from which it arises.

    That's not the worst thing. It's not so awful. But God is supposed to be that definition, or at least to ground that definition, rendering it immutable.

    How do we define our personal right and wrong? When is it okay to allow injustice, assuming we are agreed (within our societal context) on our defintion of injustice? Or must we alter that definition in our consciences in order to turn our backs on it?

  5. #5
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    It seems to me that a sense of helplessness/powerlessness is the excuse for the vast majority of continuing injustice in the world. It's also the reason for voter apathy, strangely enough.

    Helplessness/powerlessness -- is this illusory?

    Take the current situation in Israel. Theory - right or wrong? I say wrong. Damned wrong, in fact. Immutably and relatively. In practice, I want all western nations to utterly abandon Israel and let them fend for themselves. Face their music, reap what they've sown.

    In Canada, I have very little chance of being able to affect this via the usual channels. But, I'd wager there's a much stronger possibility of success that I could (via the democratic channel, assuming a lack of general apathy about the issue) succeed in changing Canada's policy toward Israel than an American citizen would in changing Americas policy toward Israel.

    So, theory vs. practice... Both have a degree of relatively built in.

    So does that change the question at all, or leave it where it was?

  6. #6
    aka Radone Davis Ashura's Avatar
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    Drifting into a bit of politics, Fung, but I will only say that on Israel I disagree with you, totally and completely.
    Where does the relativity of theory come into play? In how we interpret the morality that might spring from God? Muslims have it easier than any other religious folk: the Qu'ran is supposed to be the unaltered Word of God - perfect in all ways - as opposed to the Bible and Torah, which are said to be inspired by God. Or the Vedas, which were also written by men. Even Muslims, though, constantly argue and war over who is interpretting the Qu'ran correctly. If they can't agree on the terms in what to them is the Word of God, who can?

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Wassner View Post
    Aurian, you misunderstand me when I speak of right and wrong. What I'm referring to is ultimate right and wrong that's not relative or constructed or created. In other words, there's no definition of right that transcends the society and circumstances from which it arises.

    That's not the worst thing. It's not so awful. But God is supposed to be that definition, or at least to ground that definition, rendering it immutable.

    How do we define our personal right and wrong? When is it okay to allow injustice, assuming we are agreed (within our societal context) on our defintion of injustice? Or must we alter that definition in our consciences in order to turn our backs on it?
    Someone made a very good point about perceived power.... There are many things I disagree with, that I feel are wrong, but I do not feel like I have the power to change them. My twenty dollars does not make much difference. My letter to the editor does not make much difference. My hour of volunteering does not make much difference. Sure, they might HELP, but they won`t change the problems. It feels like that the ones with the power are the leaders. But my one vote does not affect my leaders (and what if I don`t like ANY of them?). I do not have the temperment, drive or ability to be a leader. I do not have the power to change the laws or the voting format (first-past-the-post voting really kills voter enthusiam!).

    So what can I do about homelessness, laws, Isreal and Darfur?

    I am just one voice amongst many, and mine is not a loud one.

  8. #8
    and I like to party. Seak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aurian View Post
    Someone made a very good point about perceived power.... There are many things I disagree with, that I feel are wrong, but I do not feel like I have the power to change them. My twenty dollars does not make much difference. My letter to the editor does not make much difference. My hour of volunteering does not make much difference. Sure, they might HELP, but they won`t change the problems. It feels like that the ones with the power are the leaders. But my one vote does not affect my leaders (and what if I don`t like ANY of them?). I do not have the temperment, drive or ability to be a leader. I do not have the power to change the laws or the voting format (first-past-the-post voting really kills voter enthusiam!).

    So what can I do about homelessness, laws, Isreal and Darfur?

    I am just one voice amongst many, and mine is not a loud one.
    There have been papers and books published discussing the problem with democracy where it doesn't choose the right people for the job.

    In essence, this theory discusses the fact that because our votes don't matter, no one takes the effort to become informed. Thus, we are ignorant in democratic nations; voting in ignorance and choosing ignorant people for the job.

    I hate to say it, but I don't think this is that far off.

  9. #9
    Ataraxic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Wassner View Post
    Can we fault someone for protecting their own family at the expense of another when the only certainty is that one or the other will die? If we are not faced with a choice, is it wrong to sit back and watch as injustices are committed? What are our responsibilities as human beings?

    I talk a lot about morality and ethical choice. I talk a lot about how, without God, there is no right an wrong. The theorhetical and the practical are infinitely far apart.

    Every time I see a movie or read a book, (Sophie's Choice, Schindler's List, Good, Defiance etc) that deals with what happened in Nazi Germany, all my babbling about the fact that good and evil are relative flies out the window.

    My heart bleeds, and I know that I couldn't live with myself if I sat back and watched innocents murdered next door to me. But should I risk my own family to help another's?

    Tough questions.

    I'm convinced that the only way anyone could have done anything to help the victims of Hilter's Germany was to escape the country and organize from abroad, where your loved ones wouldn't be threatened directly.

    Theory and practice.
    Well, the Danes might disagree with you on that one.

    The theory is our beliefs and hopes. The practice is about context and choice, about whether one has a choice, about how much time one has to process information and weigh options, about how much one knows and doesn't know about what's going on, about physical reactions over which we don't always have a lot of control, and about plans that go awry and what is available as resources and abilities to deal with logistics. There are situations where I might risk my loved ones to help others. There are situations where I might not. And if I'm starving, feverish, and can't really understand what is happening around me, my behavior would be different than if I'm not. If I have thirty seconds to assess what is happening, my action is likely to be different, more instinctual and very possibly not what I would have picked if I had an hour to think it over.

    Good and evil aren't relative, but they aren't iron-clad absolutes either. Instead, perception, context, motivation, cultural pressures, personal beliefs, biology and other factors all play a part in both what we do and how we and others judge what we do. So of course you would be conflicted and not feel the same way every time about hypothetical or real life dilemmas.

  10. #10
    aka Radone Davis Ashura's Avatar
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    I find myself wondering why it is that private groups want to take over the government, either as elected officials or through violent means. What is it about being the government that is so desirable. It seems that being the government gives a group more efficient and powerful means to enact the issues that are important to them. In a democracy, we think this is usually doesn't happen because elections tend to be self-correcting. It isn't always so, though. After all, Germany was a democracy before atheist fanatics came to power - after first annhiliting their atheist Commie opponents. Currently, Russia slid from proto-democratic to proto-totalitarian with an old KGB atheist hand at the helm. (Yes, RAD, I'm tweaking you here).
    Here in America, we've had a long history of localities that are corrupt due to the entrenched office holders. The same holds true at the federal level and state level. Entrenched politicians and bureacrats fight hard to keep their turf and prevent accountability (Everyone from LBJ to Hoover to any Illinois Chicago pol).
    So is a powerful elected government necessary to insure the rights of everyone, or does a powerful elected government simply become the means by which an elected group disenfranchises the rights of those who think differently.
    I would say the latter. In all the global-warming hysteria, the global warmers want to shut up anyone who disagrees with them by labelling them deniers. The worst want to bring Crimes Against Humanity charges against deniers who dare to speak. This is explicitly using the power of the State to destroy people. In Canada there is mis-named Human Rights Commision that, if you dare to speak in a non-PC way, will hammer you hard. It is not a criminal trial, but the penalties can be just as severe. Again, these were set up by a well-meaning group within the government. That they have run roughshod over the rights of Canadians seems not to matter.
    So, does a well-armed citizenry help keep the balance so a government doesn't think that it can do as it pleases without consequence? I certainly think it can and does, but as RAD said, groups that organize can also seek to destablize ta government that is otherwise fairly benign.

  11. #11
    Germany was a democracy before atheist fanatics came to power - after first annhiliting their atheist Commie opponents.

    I would say 'mystic wacko fanatics occasionally supported by various Christian groups' came to power, but your more or less accurate with the rest.

    And for yet another look at how theory and practice aren't jiving, this time on the international front where that declaration of human rights is on the fast track to irrelevence and is being rewritten for the very opposite interests it was meant to uphold.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion...s-1517789.html

    Use it or lose it.

  12. #12
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    Methinks the power of the gun is being grossly over-estimated here.
    Let us build a scary situation in our imaginations: let us imagine an all-volunteer force that is much better equipped than the aggregate civilian populace, even those whose fascination with automatic weapons exceeds common sense. In such an imaginary situation, please explain to me how an armed citizenry can possibly resist an armed force whose oath of enlistment includes the requirement to defend the government from all enemies, foreign and domestic.
    An armed populace may have its merits, a point I do not choose to argue over. But to think that an armed population can prevent a government from acting in a disagreeable manner, seems like the ostrich stratagem to me.

  13. #13
    aka Radone Davis Ashura's Avatar
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    Well, in the U.S., or another country with a modern military, you would be right. The U.S. military could easily overcome the armed resistance of most citizens on a case by case basis. It can even easily overcome many of the somewhat organized militias in this country without much effort. Would the soldiers in those units carry out their orders to eradicate such militias? Probably, but they'd probably suffer losses as well. At such a point, would the military be able to pacify the whole country? Not a chance. They certainly couldn't do it in Iraq.

  14. #14
    And a single person or a small group with a dirty bomb or two can do a fair job of overturning the whole chessboard. Then who picks up the pieces?

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