12/5/12 questions and discussion
1-how do we know we’re doing good?5
2-is there any kind of morals or ethics that aren’t just plain justice?3
3-how can we stop Congress from blackmailing America over the debt limit?
4-can we say farewell to war?5
how do we know we’re doing good?
Jon: I just watched the movie Lincoln. It portrays the man as aware of possible, even likely illegal actions he took before, during, and after the Civil War. We all consider the results of his presidency good, but it also seems clear that such certainty did not exist for him or for most anyone else as they were being considered/taken.
Tor: does the end justify the means? Slavery was used in the Middle Ages in Europe. Slavery was basically an economic issue. Here in the US, Northerners' businesses were threatened by low priced labor in the South. This is studied by economics students all through Europe. Europe has no ethical edge. Kings and feudal economics were not pleasant events for most of the people alive then.
Mary: I can decide I know what is good, or I can say it’s when I do more good than harm or because I have a specific group in mind and am only measuring it by how that group is doings as the result of my actions.
Sean: I do know if Lincoln broke the law. Using him as an example makes I
It clear that following the law is not it the exclusive way to do right. I won’t go so far as to say what is good is always impossible to know, but in terms of war and peace it’s incredibly difficult. The Civil War was our worst war, with the greatest number of deaths. A way of life, a culture (the South), was almost destroyed; massive trauma. I don't think it’s knowing what’s good that matters most; it’s weighing competing goods and making a choice. This can’t be done without taking seriously one's opponents’ opinions. Lincoln went through this for sure. If not for the eventual slavery issue in that conflict we may not now view his support for war as good. It becomes problematic when war becomes the tool. Belief has a great deal to do with right/wrong decisions.
Mike: at this time of year it’s said that giving makes us happier than receiving (happy puppies don’t buy dog treats!). We get a good feeling when we do a good. Sometimes we get a plaque! That isn’t enough to sustain the good needed. We must rely on our own internal feedback that we’re doing well. Lincoln relied on war reports to realize how much good he was doing.
Tor: in my hometown my boy scout leader sabotaged the Germans during WWII. As a consequence, the Germans picked the 10 most popular people in town and shot them. This is the most memorable thing in our town about the war. It takes time before we can weigh goodness. How do we do good when we're oppressed? Two things resulted from Nazi occupation in our small town: our political parties ceased to be divisive, and we look back at this time period when we couldn’t buy anything bad for us and we see that lived longer partially as the result of having no access to foods that are bad for your health (sugar, fat, etc.)! Not until after the war did we realize these goods. Being united against a common enemy is special. It’s difficult to judge, there are always unintended consequences to any action.
Mary: the thing about doing good is it’s not an insular act. Reconstruction is why the South failed post-Civil War. To be able to have the ability to say there is no way to do good see the Afghanistan or Iraq examples.
Art: doing good is for principles. Judgement is not useful. If one is just and honest you can do good. If not, the results are unjust no matter what. It’s impossible to read the mind of Lincoln, but there is and was no way to justify slavery. Historically England had an issue with slavery and chose to end it in their colonies 20 years earlier. As to unintended consequences, these are unavoidable.
Sean: there are two answers: 1) good is based on principle (deontological) 2) it's teleological -- towards a certain end. An extreme of the teleological is Utilitarianism. Lincoln was using #1, a principled approach. Tax policy is approached in terms of principle. Obama says he's using calculus when talking about our potential involvement in the Syrian civil war. That's very teleological. It’s one of the reasons for his popularity. Teleological thinking has gained the upper hand. Most people are uncomfortable with values from on high. Most are in the middle. Kant said do good no matter the outcome.
Eric: sometimes my happiest moments are irrational! Sometimes we do need the rules just for the sake of the rules. Most intention is involved in good. Sometimes feeling good and doing good are not the same thing. There is a betterment, one can do a lot of good things and not feel good about it.