Friday, April 25, 2003

Last time on ...delerium, the dastardly shapeshifter/vampire/space-pirate Crwuidth attacked our hero, the Razorclown, with a brutal brain-bursting barrage! Oh, no! How long can our hero survive? Find out on today's episode...

Smurfie********: Then here's where it gets tricky again.

the Razor Clown: huzzah.

Smurfie********: Does this make right and wrong a function of religion, and if so, are atheists fundmentally wrong, merely by inaction? Also, is our government, which seperates religion from justcice, funamentally wrong by the same tenet?
Smurfie********: Are men, by this tenet, to be judged solely by God?

the Razor Clown: religion has not yet entered the question.
the Razor Clown: men are to be judged solely by God.

Smurfie********: Religion is inavoidable if right and wrong are to originate from God.
Smurfie********: i pose again, are Atheists then incapable of morality?

the Razor Clown: certainly not. atheists cannot isolate themselves from God entirely.

Smurfie********: Ah, then we've violated our definition of Society.
Smurfie********: We have a being that is capable of morality, yet without conscious interaction with our hypothetical God.

the Razor Clown: then the interaction must be unconscious.

Smurfie********: Another possibility that is easier on our definition, is that the interaction can take place in one direction; and thus Right and Wrong are instilled in all men, regardless of will.
Smurfie********: By God

the Razor Clown: precicely.

Smurfie********: Then why are other animals ignorant to Right and Wrong?

the Razor Clown: you know that one.

Smurfie********: Lets have it out anyway.

the Razor Clown: ah. the setup.
animals, as far as I know, are not sentient. thus, they have no need of right and wrong.

Smurfie********: But are animals capable of morality?

the Razor Clown: as far as I know, they are not.
the Razor Clown: or, rather, it does not apply to them.

Smurfie********: Does a mother, regardless of species, protecting her young, even to her own death, not act morally?

the Razor Clown: not necessarily.

Smurfie********: explain.

the Razor Clown: there are other motivations for saving one's young.

Smurfie********: Such as?

the Razor Clown: speculating, i'd say... in order to save them for a midnight snack. or out of instinct.

Smurfie********: Ah, but i said defend to her own death; that eliminates the motive of a snack, and cannot instinctive behavior be moral also?

the Razor Clown: *deep sigh* moral, in my book, has to do with motivation.
the Razor Clown: (Crwidth?)

Smurfie********: Cwruidth

the Razor Clown: (can never remember.)

Smurfie********: This presents us with another dilemma. Is morality a function of intention? If so, is a man who means to stop a murder but cannot's action as moral as a man who does? Maybe? No? Or is morality merely a function of action? Is, then, a man who prevents a murder unintentionally, moral, regardless? Maybe? No? Or is morality a combination of intent and result?
Smurfie********: Is a man who stops a shooter as moral as a man who takes the bullet instead? Even though both acted with the intention of preventing the same harm?

the Razor Clown: intuitively, I say morality is intent and action.

Smurfie********: Then animals are sort of but not quite capable of morality?
Smurfie********: At least until we can know their motives?

the Razor Clown: all things are possible. I may be a cybernetic badger, as far as you know. animals may be sentient after all. so yes, since we don't know for sure, animals may be capable of morality.

Smurfie********: Then why are right and wrong reserved solely for the sentient?
Smurfie********: if we say animals are incapable of morality unless sentient, why?

the Razor Clown: feel free to apply them to those who cannot stop themselves from peeing on your foot.
the Razor Clown: check my blog.

Smurfie********: but a dog can be trained not to urinate in designated places.

the Razor Clown: responses to stimuli, or a greater sense of morality? the world may never know.

Smurfie********: are you implying that housebreaking a dog is a form of moral training, or simply a means to a more convenient end?

the Razor Clown: i'm talking about the dog's perspective.

Smurfie********: Good, i'd hate to see you blaspheme once we've spent all this time on definitions.
Smurfie********: ((That was a joke, in case you feel i'm being confrontational, which i am not))

the Razor Clown: goo.

Smurfie********: But honestly, why should right and wrong apply only to sentient animals, when an animal like a dog is capable of equal or greater loyalty than many people?

the Razor Clown: you just said it. we don't know if it applies to them or not. God will judge the wombats as He sees fit.

Smurfie********: Hm. Next question then. Is it possible for an animal to act morally purely out of instinct?

the Razor Clown: toughie. perhaps it depends on how the instinct got there. just a thought.

Smurfie********: Ah. What instinct then? Surely not those related to food, water, air, or sex. Can we say that it is possible for an animal to act morally by broadening it's survival instinct to include another animal?

the Razor Clown: you can most certainly say that.
the Razor Clown: I am uninterested in animal morality, since it is based almost entirely on speculation.

Smurfie********: But can a human act in the same way?

the Razor Clown: by doing something good, yet not necessarily moral? i think so.

Smurfie********: Wonderful; since that is exactly my definition of morality: The display of interest in survival on a level above the self.
Smurfie********: Even if we disagree on the origins of this morality.

the Razor Clown: ha. fits for most situations, sounds like.

Smurfie********: However, by my paradigm, the definitions of right and wrong source from morality, and not vice-versa.
Smurfie********: By this definition, can you see how i can say that love of country implies morality, Since the individual places the interests of his homeland above his own?

the Razor Clown: i see it, yes.

Smurfie********: ::Bows:: Glad i could explain.

At that, the unlikely duo called an easy truce and went on to eat bagels and practice kung-fu at a local park. The Razorclown is still bruised.
For the rest of the story, venture to the White Room.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

In today's episode, our hero is thrown into a philosophical tumult by the nefarious Crwuidth!
(believe it or not, that's pronounced COO-roo... Gaelic blows my mind.)

Smurf**********: try and define morality for me, right here

the Razor Clown: I like to think of morality as discerning right and wrong and acting accordingly.
the Razor Clown: regardless of social mores.

Smurf**********: Ah, but right and wrong are functions of society.

the Razor Clown: no.
the Razor Clown: no, no, a thousand times no.

Smurf**********: explain how right and wrong can exist to a man who is entirely alone.

the Razor Clown: that's too hypothetical.
the Razor Clown: entirely. meaningless. no man is entirely alone.

Smurf**********: i'll put boundaries on it then. This hypothetical man is not a product of any society, he was never taught any regard for others, he is merely a function of his cerebrum. Can he know right and wrong? If so, how?

the Razor Clown: i've never met the man. find him and ask him.

Smurf**********: Imagine.

the Razor Clown: why should I? what if I imagine incorrectly? i am not that man.

Smurf**********: then why any faith at all? What if you believe incorrectly?

the Razor Clown: I have enough reason to believe. I have no reason to consider this man at present, for I have not met him. I am more concerned with your case and mine.

Smurf**********: By your argument, for example, unless one is God, it is improper to imagine that one understands God's will. Are you thus denying the validity of biblical texts?

the Razor Clown: preposterous. I have seen and read the Biblical texts. I know of no man who is as you describe him.
...pardon me. i will consider him.

Smurf**********: No, i was referring to the argument that non-existence as a subject makes the subject ineffable.

the Razor Clown: lemme see... I'd like to think that he'd have an innate sense of right and wrong, but that's C.S. Lewis talking. and the scriptures.

Smurf**********: where would it come from? Is right or wrong a basic need, like food, water, air, safety and sex?

the Razor Clown: as far as I know, right wrong are largely crafted around our needs as living beings, and as spiritual beings.

Smurf**********: how do they come to be so crafted?

the Razor Clown: *smirk* God.

Smurf**********: ah, but God and a being indicates a society.

the Razor Clown:
the Razor Clown: that's really stretching it.
the Razor Clown: unnecessarily, i think.
the Razor Clown: (one n?)

Smurf**********: i disagree as soon as isolation ceases and interaction begins, there is society, even with an incorporeal partner.
Smurf**********: ((no, two ns))

the Razor Clown: fine. me and God make a society.
the Razor Clown: thus, morality is based on society. but only, only, only... in that sense.

Smurf**********: Excuse me, i was vague. i will define Sociiety as interaction between any subjects that changes one or more of the subjects involved. Will you still accept my argument based on these premises?

the Razor Clown: works.

Smurf**********: Ah, excuse me again. Let me say "Conscious interaction between any..."

the Razor Clown: all well and good. your point is made.

Smurf**********: So you will accept that given such a definition, right and wrong are functions of said society?

the Razor Clown: only given that definition, and only in a very specific context: society being composed of God and the individual.

Smurf**********: i accept, for the moment. May we continue hypothesizing?

the Razor Clown: you may go ahead.

Smurf**********: In the case of an individual and God in isolation (Not necessarily alone, but we will say, from our definition, that the only interactions that affect this individual are his interactions with God), will the individual's sense of right and wrong come from himelf, from God, or both?
Smurf**********: think carefully about that.
Smurf**********: himself, that is.

the Razor Clown: the answer, O Sphinx, is both. if the man did not exist, why would God bother with morality? God is innately correct and right.

Smurf**********: Are you feeling strangled?

the Razor Clown: not strangled, no.
the Razor Clown: I feel like a controversial senator surrounded by flashing cameras and microphones.

Smurf**********: i ask because the word "Sphynx" means "Strangler" in Greek. If you are not adverse to our conversation continuing, then my response would follow thus: My question is not, is right and wrong present with man, god or both. My question refers to the origin of right and wrong. Do right and wrong, as our currently defined moral sense, originate from God to man alone, from man alone, or from both together?

the Razor Clown: hmm. that's a bit tricky.

Smurf**********: that is why i suggest you be careful in answering.
Smurf**********: Unfortunately, the answer cannot be "None of the above" without us changing definitions again.

the Razor Clown: can't it? gimme a sec.

Smurf**********: it can if we redefine right and wrong to be outside of society again, but that makes them immutable by either man or god, which is likely to be distasteful, we can also redefine man to include God, but that presents religious/moral complications. There are surely others, but i can't see them yet.

the Razor Clown: without man (or angels, or what have you), there is no need for morality. thus, the existence of morality would depend on man. however, it is God who creates the morality, crafts it, defines it... not man. man is a part of it, but not the author. that is my answer.

Smurf**********: That would fit the first basic answer.

the Razor Clown: so be it.

Smurf**********: Then here's where it gets tricky again.

the Razor Clown: huzzah.

Will the Razorclown survive this merciless mental melee? Stay tuned for part two!

For a closer look at the Razorclown's assailant, check out his blog.

Monday, April 14, 2003

It’s tough, being stranded. See, my car isn’t working just now, because the radiator is apparently supposed to hold water and not dribble it on the road. And today, due to my tendency to put things down in random locations and forget them, my wallet and keys are across town. This makes it harder to open the lock securing my bike, and get to work. As soon as I discovered my situation, I called into work to let them know I was stranded, and set to work finding a bus route to get to my friend’s house, where my keys and wallet lay happily on the floor. The route was plotted and I was almost ready to leave when I realized I had no money for bus fare and promptly slapped myself on the forehead. After a few minutes, I called another compatriot of mine, who agreed to give me a ride when he had a chance. Thus began the waiting game.

Waiting drives me nuts. Especially waiting in futility. I found myself pacing about the house between fitful, squirming bouts of watching TV, always glancing at the clock. I felt like a shark: as though if I stopped moving, I would die. I felt as though I were being held in place, drowning in time… and I thought to myself, this is why sloth is a sin.

Next to murder, lust and greed, sloth seems like one of those minor sins, like cursing might be. It’s not. Time spent sprawled on a couch waiting for something to happen could easily be spent on a thousand better things… and today I felt it. I felt this strange inner fire, trying to tell me something. Trying to get me on my feet. This isn’t right, it says. Get up. Do something. For the love of God, don’t waste time. Interesting that impatience can be a good thing sometimes. It reminded me that time flees.

I don’t think my situation today was particularly sinful, but it left me thinking about how I spend my time. About how destructive procrastination can be. About how many opportunities I can miss if I’m simply not… active enough. There is a time to wait, and a time to throw asphalt in the air behind you as you run. If I’m sitting when I’m supposed to be running, I may lose my only chance to run.

Sloth, I realized, is a sin because I have no reason to expect that my life will last longer than the next keystroke I type. I have no reason to expect that since I can run today, I’ll be able to walk tomorrow. I can’t control the hypothetical meteorite that could at any moment blast through the ceiling and smash my kneecap to gelatin. To a greater degree, I can control leaving my keys at someone else’s house… but these things still happen.

Here’s a thought: as far as we are concerned, neither the past nor the future exists. The only moment that is is now. Now, I would say, is all we’ve got. We’ll have eternity later. But now is the single place where time and eternity intersect. Think about it.

Tempus fugit.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Bear with me... I'm a little tired, and it's kinda late.

That's probably not the best way to preface an observation of mine, but hey... best to be honest, I suppose. Even if that means a little self-defacement.

I hear people say "that's just how I am" quite a bit. It sounds to me like an excuse. Self-improvement is a big issue for me... quite simply, I'm not content with how I currently am. That's not to say I'm one big heap of self-loathing. That ain't right. I just know I'm not perfect. I dream of being a better person, and when I take steps forward, it feels wonderful. I know I am incapable of reaching perfection, and that doesn't bother me. It's the pursuit that matters.

This, of course, brings up a terribly sticky issue: how you determine what constitutes self-improvement? To what standard should you aspire, by what guidelines should you attempt to live? As I mentioned in previous posts (3/30), I mentioned my waning faith in philosophy, which is especially true of this issue. It's very easy to decide what's good for ourselves... since we know what makes us feel good (read: "feel good for a few days/hours/minutes"). It's also pretty easy to learn that what's good for ourselves is quite often not what makes us feel good immediately. Just ask anyone who's eaten a banana split in under five minutes. Or ever had a romantic relationship for any significant length of time.

It also brings up issues of identity. Are we nothing more than a sum of our urges? When I hear, "that's just how I am," it's usually in regard to being lazy, forgetful, mean, or something similar. Every so often, someone will use the phrase in regard to generosity or kindnesss - which may be a sign of pride - but that's not what I'm talking about. The thing is, I don't see things like laziness and whatnot as truly part of someone's persona. Certainly, they are part of us, but I see them as more temporary.

I see a greater design to the universe, apparent even in people. I believe wholeheartedly that everyone alive has a purpose, a predetermined function, on some level... but that we can - again, on some level - accept or reject said purpose.

It just seems to me that most times I hear, "that's just how I am" sounds like a rejection.

Sunday, April 06, 2003

Love is a bad word.

I don’t mean it’s a four-letter word, a curse or something… it’s just not a good word. English is a confusing language, full of broken rules and embarrassing double-meanings; the word love is a prime example.

Consider this: Girl X tells Guy Y that she loves him. What she means is that she feels a deep emotional connection to him, and that what he says to her has a pronounced effect on her mental state. Guy Y responds in kind: "I love you." What he means, however, is that he is physically attracted to her, and that he thinks about her all the time. X and Y smile at each other in that drippy romantic comedy kinda way, assuming that I love you means one thing.

This is a problem.

Even outside of the I love you context, love does not have a solid definition in everyday speech. Primarily, people use it to refer to being in love, the strange, inconsistent array of feelings tied to intense affection. Affection is a much better word for what most people think of as love. However, love has a much more sexual overtone; this is where we find the heart of the problem with the word. Love is sometimes used to refer to nothing more than intense lust, which, in my book, is hideous.

Lust is an expression of desire. It’s a statement: "I want you." It has little to do with the person lusted after, and more to do with getting what you want. What does that have to do with love?

I define the word love thus: concern over the wellbeing of another, or a desire to do what is best for someone. Also, I agree with d.c. Talk: love is a verb. Love is not a barrage of fleeting, up-and-down feelings. Love is what you do. It is manifest in a thank-you card, a hug, a kind word… something real. It’s something you do because you care, independent of your feelings. Love can be both, or either, as I define it: concern, or action. I still use the phrase I love you, meaning specifically that I have a deep, abiding affection for someone. That they matter to me.

Being in love, I think of as a different concept. This is the vernacular love everyone is so worried about – the mish-mash of overpowering emotion which drives people to previously unseen heights, and never-deeper lows. Being in love is the stuff of sitcoms, and movies starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. I try to give it as little weight in my life as possible, since it seems to have more to do with lust than love. It’s a sick world indeed where those two concepts can be confused.

Lately, I’ve found myself clarifying what I mean when the word love comes up in conversation. Try it sometime.