The Dallas Examined Life Philosophy Group Message Board › Is Death a Bad Thing?

Is Death a Bad Thing?

Jim B.
user 4260314
Arlington, TX
Post #: 361
In fact, as this discussion continues I’ve discovered that I have less of a problem using the term, “good” than I do using the term “bad”. Correctly or incorrectly I’ve come to associate these terms with some sort of permanence.

I would think that if the context of using a word remains the same, then the meaning remains the same. Contexts are very often changing and can be very fluid, and maybe that's what you mean when you express your resistance to the idea of permanence. As long as the context for using the word 'murder' remains the same, as long as there are things that are persons, innocence, and killing, then murder would always be wrong and a bad thing. But if the context changes that radically to where there are no longer any persons, innocence, or killing, then it seems that the word 'murder' would lose its meaning, except maybe as a historical artifact.

BTW, IF all statements other than direct observation statements are impermanent and nothing more than expressions of opinion, then how could that statement that "All statements other than direct observation statements are impermanent and nothing more than opinion"be anything more than an impermanent expression of personal opinion? How could that statement be 'true' and how could it be argued for? You like peppermint and I don't - philosophical argument is beside the point in matters of strictly personal opinion

If you told me of being cheated out of your pay and called this a bad thing, I wouldn’t disagree with you. But, objectively speaking, I don’t have enough information to personally say whether it’s good or bad.

In your story about your car breaking down saving you from the tornado, your missing the tornado may also lead to some other catastrophe: For instance, in your mad dash to avoid the tornado, you swerve into a playground filled with children, but then the deaths of those kids may lead to positive circumstances, and so on. Causes and effects ripple and ramify endlessly so that we can never say how all the 'pluses' and 'minuses' tally up, or if they ever do. But those aren't the meanings of 'good' and 'bad' I had in mind. You're arguing for consequentialism, but since we can never know what the consequences of our action ( or of any events for that matter) will ultimately be, or even how to quantify very different kinds of goodness and badness, and for other reasons, consequentialism is not very persuasive for me.

If someone is murdered, and if that murder brings family members together who had been estranged from each other, then the benefit that results from the murder does not in any way mitigate the badness of the murder. Without some kind of moral principle, such as "Murder is wrong," you're left with having to try to weigh the badness of the loss of an innocent life versus the benefits of a family coming together, a calculus that cannot be done because such things cannot be quantified. They represent qualitative, not quantitative, values.

I’m unfamiliar with the phrases “language of private disclosure” or “language of public discourse”. I use the same language for everything, whether in public or private so I’m currently unable to differentiate the two phrases.

It's similar to the difference between what is subjectively true and what is objectively true. It's a way of distinguishing between my personal preferences and what I know to be true or good from a perspective outside of my own personal preferences. If I say that a rotten apple is a good apple because I happen to like rotten apples, it's in a different sense than if I say that health, friendship, telling the truth, being fair, are good, whether or not these things happen to line up with my desires. Ideally, they line up with my desires because they are good; my desiring them is not what makes them good.

You write:
I certainly agree. And, not just with the worm in the apple, but with the examples you gave of the crook, the congregation, the parents, or the tyrant. When each of these people makes the statement “He’s a good man.” they have differing criteria for “good”. And, everyone of us could be wrong.

But then you write:
There seems to be no intrinsic meaning for what constitutes “good” outside of individual or group opinion.

How could opinions be wrong, as in your first quote, if opinion is what constitutes "good," according to your second quote? "Good" according to what criteria? I think it was Aristotle (I could be wrong) who said that morality is the "art of right desiring." To this could be added "the art of right opinion." These definitions imply that desire and opinion are not what ultimately constitute what is good and bad.

Rinda G.
user 7444310
Dallas, TX
Post #: 130
Jim, when you say:
These definitions imply that desire and opinion are not what ultimately constitute what is good and bad.

If when you said “these definitions” you meant the separate statements I made, you’ve accurately read my intention in making the two statements. I don’t think that opinion or desire is what constitutes ‘good’. I don’t know what constitutes “good” and question whether anyone knows.

What I do know is that I choose to surround myself with people who have similar values to mine, people who appear through their actions to have similar criteria to mine as to what is “good”. Whereas my idea of a good time centers on an interesting conversation, someone else’s idea of a good time is going to bars and getting drunk. Since these people’s values differ from mine I don’t seek them out as friends, but I wouldn’t call them “bad” people. Nor would I call myself “good” because I’ve learned to make different choices as to how I want to spend my time.

On a daily basis I rarely think about good and bad. I simply go along doing the best I can to live harmoniously with others. Sometimes I succeed; sometimes I don’t. If I have a disagreement with someone, I attempt to figure out what went wrong and to fix it if possible. After multiple unsuccessful attempts to come to some agreement, I decide the disagreement may be unfixable (at least by me) so I choose not to frustrate myself further and move on to something else.
Jim B.
user 4260314
Arlington, TX
Post #: 362
I don’t know what constitutes “good” and question whether anyone knows.

You make "good" points, Rinda. I agree with you when you say you doubt that anyone knows what constitutes "good," if by that term you mean something like "The Good" understood as a proper noun. "Good" is more likely to be a functional noun (or adjective, depending on the use). For me, it's like the term "nobody." If I say "I see nobody on the street," it wouldn't make much sense for someone to ask "How tall is s/he?" or "What direction is s/he walking in?" In this case, an indefinite functional pronoun is being mistaken for a proper noun.

Although it may not be possible to define "The Good," I think it is possible to say with some confidence what things are good for rational beings and for sentient beings. Just as there are rules for using the term "nobody" in sentences, I would also guess that there are rules for using "good" and "bad" in the contexts of rational and sentient beings. There can always be exceptions to rules, but those exceptions only make sense against the background of those rules.

I also agree with you when you write that you don't think about "good" and "bad' on a daily basis. Very few if any people do. But I would say that what is "good" and "bad" informs every single action anyone takes. It's these things that are so implicitly a part of who and what we are, things that are so close to us that we never or rarely think about them explicitly, that occasionally examining them is part of what I would think an "examined life" is about.

My only point was that harm does not require consciousness but maybe we're done beating that horse.
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