If it matters how you live your life, then how do you decide what to do? Is there an absolute standard of good and evil? Would Good and Evil exist in the absence of human beings? Does this concept have any relevance to human beings and their choices in life?
This meet up will ask participants to look at an annoying problem that comes with free will. How do you decide what choices to make? Of course you could avoid choice altogether by denying the existence of free will, and then just dance to the ticking of your clockwork world. You could also look to the words of other, wiser entities and do whatever they tell you to do. Two contenders weigh in below.
The God of quid pro quo versus the Buddha
Western religions focus on adherence to God given rules with mind boggling reward or punishment just over the horizon. On the other hand, Eastern religions focus more on perfecting the self and that higher self is itself the reward. The “punishment” part is that you have to sit down at the table again and again until you eat all the enlightenment on your plate. (Unfortunately for me, there probably is a special punishment reserved for those who oversimplify ancient, profound belief systems.) But wait! Is reward and punishment integral to human beings choosing good over evil? Are we that shallow?
Many have taken the approach of clinging to the idea of situational ethics and putting the question off with a shrug and a glib comment like, “I’ll know it when I see it.”or ,”It depends...” Sadly, you cannot really escape choice by putting it off in this manner because people will always pursue you with hypotheticals such as those below.
“If a tree falls in the forest ...” And someone is standing underneath it, is that event evil or just bad luck? How does a five-year-old stealing a quarter from a parent’s purse compare to a parent stealing a quarter from a child’s piggy bank? What’s the difference between a tsunami sweeping 40,000 people to their death and 40,000 people dying because a corporation refuses to sell a vaccine in Africa for a smaller profit margin than in the United States?
Then there’s the commonly encountered problem you must face when you come upon a railroad track with five people tied to it so firmly that you will be unable to untie them before the approaching train gets to them. It just so happens that there is a switch further up that can divert the train on to a siding where some capricious entity has tied one person, also very firmly. I don’t know about you but I avoid going on walks anywhere within sight of a railroad track unless accompanied by an Hasidic scholar and a Jesuit. Once they start arguing about what to do I can slip away unseen.
Seriously, it’s important to live a good life and not easy to see the best way to do so. This meet up is a forum where the problem can be dissected and perhaps understood a little bit better.