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The Moral Traveler: Choice and Decision, 2

  • Nov 15, 2012 · 7:00 PM
  • This location is shown only to members

Building on the prior meetings "Self, Sense of Self, Self-Image" (Oct. 25), "The Moral Traveler: Value and Virtue" (Sept. 6), and last time (Nov. 1), let us continue exploring the basic problem of the moral traveler in choosing and deciding.

  1. What is the nature of choice? (Sept. 6)
  2. Why do you do this rather than that? (Oct. 25)
  3. Who gets to decide? (Nov. 1)
  4. How do you decide which choice of doing to do?

How indeed does anyone go about making a decision?

For example, you are attending a meeting now (perhaps not this meeting). Could you have chosen otherwise? What choices before you did you have for your deliberation? Did you choose, or did it just happen? Was it a necessary decision?

A short summary of the previous meeting is available for your review. So feel free to RSVP even if you didn't get to attend the previous one.

Update--Saturday, Nov. 3, 6:00 p.m.:

As material for further analysis, given the metaethical ideas we have been discussing, I am forwarding a terrific suggestion from Patricia that we all watch the documentary film, Happy (2011, IMDb), by Roko Belic, before this meeting.

What do you think of it? What do you think of the theory of values presented from 28:10 and on? Do you agree, or do you challenge it? Post your questions and comments here or bring them to the meeting. We'll append this topic to the agenda.

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  • Tom O.


    November 17, 2012

  • Jae A.

    All participants were in top form. Tom provided expert leadership. It was a pleasure to be surrounded by so many engaged minds. Thanks to one & all!

    November 16, 2012

  • Jae A.

    I don't think the film presented a *philosophical* theory of values of any sort whatsoever. Using such terms as "altruism", "selfish", or "community" does not lend this film any intellectual standing.

    The film never *defined* "happiness or explained why the communitarian subjects *should* be happy. They simply picked subjects - who were "benevolent" & "content" for whatever reason (i.e., no real reason at all). The neurological stuff was a complete non-sequitur (violent criminals get a dopamine rush too, so what!)

    Finally, most of the subjects were "grounded" in the traditions of a homogeneous culture or subculture where value-pursuit is primarily contingent on getting on well with the group or tribe within tight magical or mystical social strictures (e.g., the Okinawans, the Bush people, as well as Denmark's Nordic daycare society, aka Big Brother House). Finally, I thought the "big guy on campus" was pushing egalitarianism as the antidote to nihilism... scary stuff!

    November 8, 2012

    • Jae A.

      November 16, 2012

    • Mark G.

      I think that it's important to identify the standard of value, in any ethical system. So, what is the standard of value in the ethical system, discussed in the movie Happy?

      November 16, 2012

  • Mark G.

    Here's an interesting quotes taken from Ayn Rand's work about altruism. The point I want to make here is not that giving to or being of service to others is bad or wrong; but that those values stressed in the movie "Happy", don't offer any guidance for how a person should live his own life, but only how he ought to serve others.

    "Apart from such times as he manages to perform some act of self-sacrifice, he possesses no moral significance: morality takes no cognizance of him and has nothing to say to him for guidance in the crucial issues of his life; it is only his own personal, private, “selfish” life and, as such, it is regarded either as evil or, at best, amoral."

    "There are two moral questions which altruism lumps together into one “package-deal”: (1) What are values? (2) Who should be the beneficiary of values? Altruism substitutes the second for the first; it evades the task of defining a code of moral values, thus leaving man, in fact, without moral guidance."

    November 15, 2012

  • Jae A.

    From the Press-Kit, here are the film-makers' list of "key points":

    "• Connectedness: strong relationships with friends, family and community make people happier.

    • Generosity: giving increases happiness.

    • Novelty: breaking out of routine makes people happier.

    • Play: people who experience physical aerobic exercise are happier.

    • Flow: engaging in a fully absorbing hobby makes people happier.

    • Health and Longevity: people who are happy are healthier and even live longer.

    • The formula for happiness is not the same for everyone, but research shows that almost everyone can become happier."

    My issue with all of the above is the abysmal lack of any explicit philosophical ideas at all. The implication: thinking is not really conducive to happiness.

    Whatever one's overall sense-of-life, it is wholly contingent on one's sense-of-reality; sense-of-certainty; moral ambitiousness; principled political convictions; and the experience of life-affirming works of art.

    November 13, 2012

    • Tom O.

      I grant you the above list to be lacking in philosophical material for discussion, but that is why I suggest everyone to look specifically at the film, at 28:10 and thereabout, for a very fascinating mention of a theory of values. I am curious to find out how each of you categorize this theory into the overall philosophical framework.

      Then too don't forget that the film is but one component of the meeting's discussion. The main topic is about choice and decision. Start thinking about that. What questions or issues do you want to bring to the meeting in light of the previous meeting (Nov. 1)?­

      1 · November 13, 2012

    • Jae A.

      Will do Tom, thanks.

      November 13, 2012

  • Mark G.

    Here is an interesting read of the philosophical underpinnings of collectivism. It's a great overview of philosophy, especially since Hume, some of which we've discussed in our meeups.

    November 11, 2012

    • A former member
      A former member

      And is there an example of one I can work with, that is an example of an objective moral truth?

      November 11, 2012

    • Tom O.

      Chris, recall that at the meeting you organized "Evolutionary Epistemology" (Oct. 18), I rejected JTB+G for a simpler theory.­

      Multiple examples of the moral are provided at the description of the meeting "X, Moral X, Cardinal X" (Sept. 13).­

      November 11, 2012

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