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Thomas Covenant and Ethics
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2004 4:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Dreaming wrote:
It is easy to be kind to a person; it is much harder to be kind to humanity. This is my own experience though. The more personal the interaction is, the more likely a person is to do the right thing, and obey his conscience.


Its easy to be kind to an individual person because, as you say, its a personal interaction and you can see at first hand the results of your actions.

Humanity on the whole though, may not even be deserving of that much kindness. As somebody once said, people are almost all reasonable in person. It is when they band together in a group, a mob if you will, that reason becomes subsumed in something else. Something far less reasonable.

Perhaps if people learned to always act as responsible individuals, rather than faceless entities of the mass, humanity itself would be kinder.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2004 9:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Exactly Av, personal responsibility is the key to morality. The more society diminishes the Responsibility a person has for his actions, the easier it is for evil to spread. The "Twinky Defenders" are, in my mind, primarily responsible for the evils of modern society.

Sure, we can find causation for the actions of a person, but causation should never diminish responsibility. When we examine the cause of evil, we must be careful to be always empathetic, but never eschew personal responsibility for one's own actions.

Example, in school if a child fails a test, it is never because he was too lazy to study, it was because he wasn't raised in a proper environment, Or, if the parent have their say, because he has a learning disability. If a child has a discipline problem, the exact same problem arises.

I am being a bit more cryptic than I intended to be. My thoughts on this subject do not easily make the conversion into words. It is hard to strike a careful balance between understanding and responsibility, but that line must always be clear. If that child fails a test, he will face every consequence that is coming to him, however, understand that the child may have a problem and need help.

Just take this formula and apply it to criminal justice... Oh boy!
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2004 10:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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Example, in school if a child fails a test, it is never because he was too lazy to study, it was because he wasn't raised in a proper environment, Or, if the parent have their say, because he has a learning disability. If a child has a discipline problem, the exact same problem arises.


First of all, I take this personally, so it'll probly make my message more hostile. Especially the part about 'if the parents have their say'. That being said, I'm sure I'll get over it and realize that you didn't imply that a parent is necessarily bad for looking into the possibility that there might be a learning disability involved with their childs difficulties. moving on....

.... So where exactly do children get their personalities? What is it that makes a child decide to not be so lazy? Or if they have a discipline problem? Are you suggesting the children are just inherently bad? Maybe I'm just confused...


PLEASE tell me how the decline of personal responsibility is causing the spread of evil. Tell it to me like it's not obvious and can't be taken for granted, because I don't think it's obvious. In fact, I think that it's absolutely incorrect.
My foundation for this belief is actually my personal experience. I used to feel like I was totally responsible for my flaws. That led me to despair, and generally self hatred. It took me a long time to realize that my personality and actions are based on my past experiences, my genetic structure, and lots of other things. Once I discovered that, I was able to accept it, and then move on to what I was going to do about it.
As far as I can tell, the only room I have for responsibility is that I am responsible for changing myself, no one else is responsible for that. Although the help of others has taken me a long way. Ever since I let go of personal responsibility for my past mistakes and flaws, I've been able to grow and become more stable. When I make mistakes now, instead of abusing myself for them, I try to find out what I did wrong, and how I will fix it.
This seems to be a pretty functional way of life, and I'm curious to hear what's wrong with it, since it's done me so much good.
I know this is a radical idea, and I don't think many people would agree with me. However, I'm getting a bit tired of the 'that's what's wrong with this world' statements about it.
The mirror of responsibility is Blame. In other words, if someone is responsible for something, then they are to blame. Ideas like this place the emphasis on revenge rather than rehabilitation in the justice system, and in peoples lives. I don't 'blame' my past, or my parents, or anything else on who I am today. I simply accept it, and move on from there.
Let me just reiterate what I'm looking for: What fundamental part of ethics is lost when someone adopts the viewpoint that I'm currently living out of?

Thanks for your time.
Jem
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2004 11:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What I was trying to express JC was that a delicate balance is necessary. I was being a bit satirical on the part about "if the parent's have their say" I meant to imply that often times if a parent hears "you have been raising your kids wrong" (in so many words) they will look to having the kid diagnosed ADD.

Basically what I am denouncing is the culture of victimhood. I was not saying that a person had to feel responsible for their flaws, I am saying that a person has to be responsible for his actions. The murderer with a psychological complex that is a result of his abusive childhood is pitiable, but he is still responsible. The man who was one of 4 men arrested from a mob of thousands may be in a sympathetic position, but HE still is responsible for the actions he performed while a part of the mob.

Your assertion that someone cannot feel responsible for their flaws is, in my opinion, partially true. On the opposite pole, we cannot be unaware of our flaws. The attitude "I am a just fine the way I am!" is good for self esteem, but somewhat of stagnation I think. If one is truly aware of his flaws, he can seek to better himself. Refusing to better one's self is ok, it's what the majority of human beings do, but I just can't live that way. If I know my flaws, I can fix them. If I know I just did something hurtful, I can stop doing it.

I am also not saying that problems just spring up out of nowhere. If a child is lazy because his parents just arenít interested enough in him that is certainly pitiable. If we understand that is the cause, we can seek to correct it, however I don't think knowing Why someone does something makes him all the sudden no longer responsible for his actions. I am not saying he should be punished, but often times that is the most effective way to make the child know that he WAS responsible.

Say this child beats up another child in school. The real reason he did this was because he doesn't get enough love at home. The psychologists discover this, and make the school administration and the parents aware. Said child is now a victim. Is he, however, off the hook? Didn't he hurt another person? Is it now OK that he hurts people because he just needs more love? Of course not. The bully needs to be made aware of his responsibility. How do we do that? Well, the consequences need to become real and personal. A good spanking, or a withholding of allowance, anything at all, is preferable to getting to be on Oprah because the little shit likes to bully the weak.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2004 4:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Perhaps the reality of it lies somewhere in between these two excellent posts. On the one hand, JemCheeta is absolutely right about the need to accept things and move on. But on the other, The Dreaming is right (IMO) about a culture of victimhood.

Responsibility does not necessarily have to equal blame. In fact, responsibility should, in some measure, negate the need for blame.

If one has a responsibility to change themselves, that comes through a willingness to accept that they are able to alter their own actions, and the way in which they react to things.

As The Dreaming says, we are responsible for our actions. And I don't think that the statement is too far from JemCheeta's idea that we are responsible for changing ourselves.

To blame somebody for something makes it their problem. To say, "it's my parents fault", implies that there is nothing that you can do about it. You may not be responsible for the cause of your flaws, but you are responsible for allowing them to continue. Once recognised, they should be rooted out insofar as possible.

It's not easy, but hell, almost nothing worthwhile is.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 17, 2004 2:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dreaming Said:
Quote:
The attitude "I am a just fine the way I am!" is good for self esteem, but somewhat of stagnation I think.


I couldn't agree with this more. It's like they're going halfway into the process, and then quitting when it gets difficult. I think a lot of people do this, too. They go as far as identifying reasons for their behavior, and then think to themselves "Well, now I know why I am the way that I am. What a marvelous excuse!"
I don't mind if they use it as an excuse. Just don't expect anything in your life to change. Definately rewarding them for acknowledging the reasons for their behaviour is a positive thing, but you can't go overboard. If you reward them too much for simply acknowledging the reasons for their behaviour, they'll think that they've gone far enough. The real rewards come when you change your behaviour for the better, alter the reasons for the behaviour. When you do that, no one has to give you the rewards, because the rewards come naturally.
Punishments don't necessarily have to change, just the spirit in which they're administered. For example, if there's a kid that doesn't understand that someone else is actually a thinking, feeling person, I think that we need to find a way to impress upon the kid that other people hurt too. I think that would work much better than a 'time out' or a loss in allowance. The punishment needs to better fix the crime, and I think that extends all the way through the justice system.
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