Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Update: Your turn #2 (this post closes tomorrow Wed. at 10pm)

Interesting discussion. I like the lecture/discussion format better. It gives us the opportunity to share and argue some of the issues treated in the first half of the class. Let’s summarize some of the points: 1- In addition to a methodology for proper thinking, philosophy can provide wisdom (Σoφíα). I maintain this was the original goal of Greek philosophy, something we lost along the way. What wisdom? Not knowledge: one can be knowledgeable and un-wise. Jainism seems to indicate that if a person is endowed with good mental states, she can produce good verbal-and-bodily conduct: An inner potential that gets realized through concrete actions in the world. This is pretty close to Aristotle’s notion of virtue. 2- Goodness cannot be achieved without intending and repeating -good- thoughts and actions in order to generate good habits. That’s the wisdom-technique, (from techne, craft). Thus, I brought up the idea of auto-poesis (“repeat an action and you create a habit, repeat a habit and you will form a destiny”). 3- Regarding a-himsa, the main point is violence. How can one define it? Obviously, inflicting unnecessary suffering can be seen as a form of violence. But jaina goes deeper: Violence is a “mental form.” See it as an “inner fear” that elicits a conduct characterized by its lack of justice (or fairness). This is the form of himsa we must fight. A just act cannot be violent because it does not stem from a visceral fear (see it at a form of irrationality). Killing doesn’t have to be violent. Killing in self-defense can be just (think of the European Resistance against the Nazis in WWII). How about emotions? Gandhi is subtle here: The right emotion can help. Anger is legitimate when directed against injustice. 4- Let’s not forget jaina as a tool for civil emancipation. Ahimsa was Gandhi’s method of struggle against the British oppression in India throughout the earlier part of the Twentieth-Century. Martin Luther King employed it as a centerpiece for the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s. In both instances, ahimsa proved to be a viable political tool. 5- Later, the discussion shifted to actions: Helping the homeless with the right intention vs. helping just to impress a friend. Which is better? For Jainism the former. But doesn’t the homeless get his money-help regardless? Indeed, that’s part of the homeless’ karma (metaphorically speaking: he deserves it). For the giver, there is more to achieve, though. The right intention, something he doesn’t have yet. Perhaps Aristotle would agree. This giver is not virtuous.


Jiryu02 said...

There needs to be an assumption made to conclude that intention behind an action is more important than the result. That is to assume that Kant and all the deontologist were correct. But why are they correct?

They proposed that actions were inherently right or wrong. Who were they to say?

They said that motivations were more important. What justifies that?

There needs to first be a metaethical discussion on what exactly is good or bad. Which philosophy is correct will be in tune with the definition. However, we as people determine both definition and philosophy which exist corespondingly. This just shows how arbitrary morality is.

If there is nothing inherent about an action itself, there is no way there can be morality.

There is a saying that I've picked up recently: "The wise and the foolish die the same". We've already established that karma is the grand scheme of things that is not concious of our personal problems. In other words, a family's dead son is only a part of the picture.

How is one to go about distinguishing the just from the unjust? Its not up to man so things like sorrow for the just man is inevitable (Bhagavad Gita)

If man creates morality, than karma is not a reward-punishment system!

It is merely the happinings of the universe in general. People could get away with doing evil, thats entirely possible. Good people good die miserable deaths. Of coarse, reincarnation is created to put off justice into a future life.

Still, there is no reason to assume that we will get what we deserve even in the future. Thus reincarnation is still a baseless claim.

Hence "The wise and the foolish die the same"

All there is, I must say, is the advantage of being wise over being foolish.

Cheating, for example, doesn't hurt anyone immediately. However, if one takes a class to cheat, than he probably doesn't get knowledge he may need sometime in the future.

Still, it is not bad inherently, this is just the consequence. It is concievable that this person does not need this knowledge and could get away with it. It is unreasonable to assume that the seeds of karma flowers into reward or punishment.

The only tool that we have to get through our lives is judgement. This is why its better to be wise than foolish; The wise tend to live better lives.

We would not be moral if moral actions did not have the tendency to benefit people. If we had the motivation or a sense of good for actions that always ended up harmful (an example of another supposed world), we would never be moral no matter how we felt.

Morality depends on the tendency to do good. Morality could not be possible without moral concequences. Morality is dependant on the tendency of good not motivations, not the inherent. Motivations are byproducts of observations. In other words "I see that if all men are to be greedy, this would cause problems for our lives here. Therefore I would advise you not to be too greedy."

Judgement is our only instrument, not the categorically good or bad.

This is why the concept of ahimsa bothers me. Yama (restaint) and practice are emphasized.

This implies that the human body is in need of restraint and perfection. Discipline is among the biggest fraud in human history. The body dies just as greedy as it was born. How could we call our ability to restrain ourselves perfection?

Perfection is nothing but an romantic ideal. "Eliminate greed, eliminate anger, hatred, violence" But I bet you a satyagrahi suffers to his last breath the same. Ahimsa is no solution, infact it is just another way to restrict an unimaginably complex organism.

Consider how wolves could be violent at one time and peaceful the next. There is no contradiction!

But we people see a contradiction and vow that we can never be violent, never be greedy or angry or have any fear. Why? This is because we have perfection in mind.

"There is no defeat in ahimsa" There is already defeat. We've made a problem just by asking.

Matthew Lenz-Diaz

A.T. said...

"There needs to first be a metaethical discussion on what exactly is good or bad."

Why should I need to go outside ethics to determine that breaking a promise is wrong? The action seems to bring more trouble than solve it. Maybe that is why it's sanctioned as a guiding principle in most ancient moral codes.

"However, we as people determine both definition and philosophy which exist correspondingly. This just shows how arbitrary morality is."

Although we determine the definitions, some definitions seem to have value -even- independently of human existence. Slavery cannot both be right and wrong at the same time, no matter who believes it.

Quazo said...

In regards to the discussion we had about experiencing all aspects of life, we cannot claim that every experience is worthy of trying. This is not to say that one cannot learn greatly valuable insight from a negative experience, but rather conscious evaluation of a situation should be exercised in order to benefit the most. Instinct and “gut feeling” must also be taken into account for there are situations our intellect may not comprehend. Above all, one should not react in any extreme end of the spectrum and overanalyze or be consumed by fear. Moderation is key.
It is great to experiment and evaluate the reasons one does anything, does he smoke cigarettes because he wants to or because he feels he needs to? But if all assessment is made and one understands they are very harmful, then once again why does he smoke?
Moderation is key! One will always remain in control as long as whatever actions are being done, are controlled in moderation. Whether its drugs, food or sex; having the will power to know what’s enough? allows for the freedom to be independent from these substances or experiences. It is when one neglects control and fails to stop that he/she is addicted or is suffering some consequence for these actions.
The action of moderating may perhaps be the most powerful tool in the course of self discovery and enlightenment. I studied for a brief period of time under Tibetan Monks on the art of meditation. On the last day with them, I spoke privately with one of the Gurus as to why I feel that I cannot moderate my life.” I sleep too much, I smoke too much, I’ll overeat and then I won’t eat at all” and so forth.
In a comforting tone he looked at me, and with a smile of having a complete understanding of my situation he just said “Tame Your Mind.” Learn how to moderate as a horse is trained to be controlled. A wild and savage horse can be of no benefit to you if it will not respond or cooperate with you, but a tame and domesticated one will aid you greatly.
We must have a conscious effort to tame our mind and have moderation of our thoughts and body.

Victoria said...

Mathew, I can see that your ideals are a bit polarized but i think you're missing how to gel them together.

How can i assume intention behind action is better than the result when terrible circumstances sprout wonderful results all the time?

If we look at it in the perspective of very finely tuned individual actions, this scale is too small to even be able to judge an action, its intention, or any minute result that will come out of it. I'll give an example, If a mobster decides to give money to charity in order to keep under federal radar and from that money an innocent boy goes to school and becomes a doctor. I think looking at that picture (as a whole) the result absolutely supersedes the intention of the initial action.
But if i look at it through the intention of the mobster (who gets nothing but bad karma) his intentions are selfish, evil, dangerous all of the above. But i think that the result outshines any intention behind the action.

"If man creates morality, than karma is not a reward-punishment system!"
Does what we as humans establish as morality not aim at a sort of reward/punishment system? the idealized version of it does, and therefor i see morality as we know it as a simplified more tangible expression of reward/punishment or action/reaction it does not have to directly say: KARMA for it to be the essence of it.
I think you need to see that karma is simply a metaphor for the greater balance of the universe. It is not a input/output system of events. I believe we create our own destiny but i also believe that what i put out into the world as my actions will somehow find its way somewhere either to me or to whom/what ever.

"Judgment is out only instrument, not the categorical right or wrong"
Do we not judge what we find right or wrong? they are simply choices. I hope to have a lot more tools than my judgment my philosophy my intentions, my impulses also guide me. I believe that what we judge, the way we judge and what we choose to judge run deeply in our fibers as humans. our way of judging is not inherent, it is taught by our parents, by our experiences by our own impulses. so that tool is a very complex one.

I think that the Jaina and yogic concept of restraint and keeping our minds pure and at peace are goals we hope to achieve not doomed paths. I need a deep breath before making a decision and i see this breath as a simple exercise to keep my mind at peace. we need restraint because we are creatures capable of horrific things. restraint even at it's most basic is absolutely necessary to exist in society. Furthermore, i believe we don't have enough of it. We over consume just about everything, and not because we are complex beings but spoiled ones.

susan marie said...

I agree with Quazo on the subject of experience; straying away from extremes and embracing moderation is more often than not the best way to handle most scenarios. It is when one undermines the very essence of being human (the ability to exceed expectations) and considers oneself a slave to genetic predispositions or a slave to self-imposed notions, that I find to be an erroneous approach to undertake when in the wake of various situations. Extending on this is the concept of making choices- in order for someone to make a choice, one has to consider all avenues potential routes to take, and not ostracize the chance of taking either one. When entirely rejecting a potential experience, it is not considered a choice.
Therefore, one acts in a narrow-minded and robotic manner; void of any possible growth or enlightenment to transpire.

"How could we call our ability to restrain ourselves perfection?"
I perceive the term "perfection" used to mean something more, in a figurative sense rather than literal. I believe that the embodiment of this "perfection" is meant to demonstrate growth, change, redemption. In restraining oneself in a healthy manner we allow room for the possibility to evolve because we are in equilibrium with our soul, mind, and body- escaping from the contagious "zombie-like" state. If we do not restrain ourselves in some way, we are not questioning our actions nor are we learning from them.

The underlying meaning is that humans have control; we have control over our lives, over ourselves, and much of the time we do not espouse it to the benevolent magnitude that should be met. The fact that we possess logic and the ability to reason implies that we not only do we attain control, but we should be able to use it as well. No growth or transcendence can occur if we perpetually drench ourselves in the consumerist and materialistic lifestyle that surrounds us all. This restraint/control allows us to decipher what holds intrinsic and inherent value, as long as it's viewed through the lens of someone who is thinking genuinely and sincerely.

Shane said...

Do the wise and the foolish die the same? I guess in some small way, perhaps in some large way. But the question isn't so much if they die the same, but what wisdom truly means. And even in some sense, they die differently. Reminds me of a Dylan Thomas poem, "Do Not Go Gentle Into that Goodnight". In the end that phrase, of them dying the same, implies they will see the same outcome which is obviously death and nothing else. Still, if that is all there is to it, just death, then the wise person has the advantage. The fool dies with nothing, for the wise person its not so black and white.

The idea of inherent wrong or right is an interesting one. I don't think there is an inherent meaning or purpose to life, existence precedes essence; however one would should entertain the notion of Justice.

Is Justice just an abstract metaphor to describe the small benefits we receive from acting the "right" way?

I don't think so.

I think the concept of Justice is probably the most important thing to consider in what we have learned thus far. What makes karma so attractive? When an entire race is annihilated, what is left of that unspeakable tragedy but the hope that retribution will come someday, if not after our life?

So is karma/universal justice just a poetic way to describe an evolutionary skill to go on with life? To accept the unspeakable and procreate, because there is no other way?

I hope not. Still, like the mind perhaps Justice is an emergent property. I think that makes sense, especially in the living world. Universal Justice though? Could karma be an emergent property of the universe?

Karma is heavy. It seems inescapable. There is the possibility of redemption though, and I think that saves it. I'm not willing to believe that we act the way we do because we must, that removes my autonomy and freedom. But karma as a metaphor, as a way to think about our consequences...I don't think that's bad at all.

Carla Abad said...

Some of us might agree with the thought that Christian religions push people into doing the “right thing” by a fear of what might happen in the afterlife. Something some of us don’t agree with. Not doing certain things because of fear (like me mentioned in the discussion a couple of classes ago) is not really living, or at least not living to the fullest. As we explore eastern religions, and come across the idea of karma I found that it too can push people into not acting out of fear but in a different way.

Now if I know all my actions will “come back”, I am aware that what I do will affect my future either on this planet or in my other life. And I really don’t to come back as a dog or a snake, so I will try to behave and follow all rules so that doesn’t happen. Just like I will follow the rules because I don’t want to spend eternity in hell.

Is this right? Should I be just and good because of fear? Or because I want to be? Does the intent behind my actions matter at all for either case? How can we ever know if we are truly free of this fear or if it is hidden in our unconscious and guiding all our actions?

Or maybe these religions have it right, maybe as human beings we need a bit of fear to push us and guide us into doing what is right. Or maybe as Susie was saying, we shouldn’t undermine the ability to exceed expectations, maybe that is what makes us truly human.

Anyhow, I think the difference between karma and some of the western religions is that with karma it seems like it is entirely our actions that bring us either good or bad things, we don’t suppose there is a greater being who is examining all the actions and determining which one should come back to us as a consequence. It seems like there is more power given to the people when in the Christian view it seems like we are entirely at the mercy of a greater being who will judge our actions and decide our fait. Please correct me if I’m completely off.

Alex Uribe said...

Is the giver never virtuous? Is there a case in which someone gives while not receiving? I may give a homeless man a dollar, without a single soul to witness, I then go home and not tell anyone what I've done; but is it wrong to "feel" good about the act of giving? Should I feel good or should I benumb the action? Now this is only one instance, how about the next time I see a homeless person, this time I buy them a meal, I still tell no one, but I know how it’ll make me feel (good), have I now become selfish?

There's a significant role of conditioning, as one grows we learn right from wrong from those around us, parents, siblings, teachers and society.

If we were in a utopia, how would we deem all things to be perfect? Could something such as slavery exist even then? I mention this because a perfect world is in the eye of the beholder, perfection is an opinion. Also keep in mind that the human being is capable of manipulation and will often follow rather than lead.

Ahimsa, to do no harm to all things, whether it be a chair, a tree, or another human being.

You can now argue that the fundamental rule of life should be Ahimsa, because without it, I could say that the physicians at the concentration camps in Poland were not evil, because that was their destiny/duty/dharma?

I also want to keep in mind how we regard the ways of individuals, Ghandi and MLK, as peaceful warriors but we only see as much as we have been allowed to. For example, reading from Ghandi’s autobiography it becomes clear that in his journey of life he was no less vulnerable to wrong decisions than anyone else. However, unlike most people he was quite wise, constantly reflecting and redefining himself. (this now leads into another tangent about age and wisdom.)

To wrap it up, I think it is easiest to say that as human beings we must believe in the oneness of things, in ahimsa, and also follow jainism, constantly deconstructing what we’ve learned to accept and reconstructing something new and hopefully better.

Now to spur an interesting discussion, is it in bad karma to kill the bacteria that infects us human beings? It too is living, who are we to interfere in its dharma? At what point will medicine/society draw the line between immortality and being human with all our imperfections and vulnerabilities?

A.T. said...

...but is it wrong to "feel" good about the act of giving? Should I feel good or should I benumb the action?

Feeling good is normal. After all you've done a good deed. I don't see why Jaina or Yoga would want you to benumb the action.

J.V said...

Helping homeless for right intention or for impressing a friend? Which is better? But doesn’t the homeless get his money anyways? Why should he deserve to get it?

Does the person really mean it anyways, even when he/she thinks that they are doing it for the right reasons? Aren’t they just also doing it because of fear of how society might vie them.
Let’s say that person decides to give money to the homeless even when the friend is not there for him to impress and the only reason he gave the homeless money is because that individual felt guilt. Wouldn’t guilt be just as if you were trying to impress someone? There is something about both actions that its common; that each alleviates the self – by supposedly helping the homeless in front of a friend there is a sign of power, developed through the theme of kindness, the power to appear superior and more human in the heights of society.
By helping the homeless just out of guilt you are also alleviating the self by presumably erasing yourself off the list of people that are selfish. Neither of these two acts really helps the homeless, even if he gets his money he will still linger in the same life pattern that he is in. Although he got his money and the giver does not really care what the homeless will do with such money (here is when you realize that you really didn’t help them because it came from your soul but because you just wanted to appear kind in the ideals of humanity and the eyes of the homeless individual. ) the homeless will perhaps go get crack, alcohol or maybe he will really get food who knows... but in actuality, helping the homeless individual would be to go and buy the food yourself and then give it to the homeless guy because then you know that he will really eat the food. See, because giving him food and giving him what he needs instead of the money would make it easier for the homeless guy. This unique form of action would be label as a more natural sense of kindness than a staged one, as the character is going beyond what is expected of him to do.
There is something interesting about this giver & homeless relationship, the giver gives because he wants to hear an specific sentence that in the givers mind will make him/her feel better for everything else he/she has done wrong, and that is (god bless you, you are an angel .. etc) wouldn’t you say that it’s a mental mechanism developed to play with our troubled minds?

Yvette said...

J.V - I think that in the last paragraph of your blog the giver is using giving as a pick me up for maybe having had an awful day. Maybe his/her boss didn't recognize all the amount of hours he/she has been putting in. Maybe he/she has fought with a significant other. Etc, etc. You are saying they wanna hear a specific sentence, a compliment. They probably wanna feel superior for a moment instead of how the world has made them feel that day, inferior. Is this the same as giving to impress a friend? Nobody is around to see them give. I think they are in a way trying to impress themselves.

You ask "Wouldn't you say its a mental mechanism developed to play with our troubled minds?" and I say yes. Some people help the homeless just to feel good about themselves for a minute. Yet now we have come full circle b/c as Prof. Triff pointed out earlier. "Feeling good is normal. After all you've done a good deed" he goes on to say that Jaina or Yoga wouldn't want you not to feel good. So in this case we have somebody that is helping a homeless person specifically to feel good about themselves and their own existance. This is a major motive, to feel good about one's existance.