Theories On The Good

As the title says, this is a new idea on the current good man, with a focus on where it came from.  I am dealing with this since it is an interesting theory that came to me and creating a complete system is daunting and intimidating so putting that off for longer is something I will naturally do.  Plus I am writing this post later than I usually prefer.

The topic now is the “good” and why it is “good.”  This time by “good” I mean the actions themselves-what people call doing good.  Volunteering, giving and helping someone out when they ask for it, even something as simple as holding the door.  That type of good is what I am talking about now, I just do not know of a good way to define it.

If you want further information on how some people think that this type of good came about I recommend reading Nietzsche since his writings have been a large influence on me.  Although, my approach takes a different view than he discusses but I do not believe the theories are mutually exclusive, I think they can actually work together overall.

So now, onto the theory.

The theory is: that doing good in the way I previously loosely defined was a way for someone to show off their “vitality.”  Vitality in this sense can mean many different things: a person’s power, wealth, strength, sheer will, their connection with their life, essentially vitality as I understand it, I just want to make sure I am clear.  Doing good then, was a way for someone to basically display their vitality since they could spare the time, money, energy or combination thereof to give/apply to another person/people without gaining anything back other than pride and getting to display their power: this is that warm fuzzy feeling people claim they get when doing good.  People like having power and being able to show it off (reference every status symbol that exists).  Those that do not have vitality to spare are then grateful for being able to get some extra for free or very little effort and not being crushed by those with more vitality since, that could have been an option too (I did not mention before, but this theory is supposed to have basically been carried out before modern times.  I am not sure when but think more tribal society and it will help with perspective I think).  So, that warm fuzzy feeling people claim is accounted for, what about feeling guilt or shame for not helping?

This feeling of guilt or shame for not doing good comes from embarrassment in this theory.  A person feels ashamed because they do not have the vitality to spare to another and therefor are considered weaker and arguably, below those that do have the vitality to spare.  That is an embarrassment to end up in that position (see: how everyone always wants status symbols and many feel inadequate if they do not have them).  Maybe someone did have the vitality to share to do good for another though, but they were afraid to let it go in case those that he helped became his enemy.  This is another reason to be embarrassed and thus, feel shameful or guilty for not doing good-fear.  Those that do have the vitality to spare and do spend it are showing that they are certain that even if those they help become antagonists they will be able to overcome them and are not afraid of having to go against them.  So it was more impetus to do good, to show your vitality, whether or not you actually have it, and show bravery; both of which bring honor and pride to the actor from the others who help or who see the good being done thus moving the actor up in society.

I hope to come back to this theory at some point but for now I had to get something down in writing and give some food for thought to anyone who may come around this blog at some point.

The Good Man Today

Alright, the current good man.  Really, the best case scenario for the “good” man in the current sense would be schizophrenia.  I say this because currently there is no unified type of “good man” in society.  There are multiple types of the good man instead: there is the family person, the giving person, the rich/successful person, the celebrity, the cool guy or gal, the nice/polite guy, the gentleperson, the feminist person, the patriot, the cosmopolitan, the pragmatist/scientist, the idealist/artist, the “good” leader, the co-operative person, the supportive person….this list could keep going on.  There can be and is cross-over amongst these types of good person but they can generally be considered their own type of good person.  The type of good person they represent can mostly be figured out through the name, but just to make sure I will go over a few of these in more detail.

First on the list, so first to be approached is the “family person” this is the person who is supposed to put their family above all other things in life: the awesome dad who is always there, never cheats on his wife and is at the same time the successful man and can provide for his family.  Or the awesome mom who the children love for various reasons, takes care of her children and is also the successful mother bringing in money for the family too BUT is not the main provider for the family-leaving that for the dad to do (just how it works currently).

As can be seen there is already a huge amount of tension in this situation.  The successful man would spend more time at work to make more money and get rich, but you have to be the good father too.  So what to do? You end up having to choose on your own and that choice can quickly become incredibly difficult for someone.  Or the mother, she has to be successful too since she has to be the feminist type of woman in current society whether or not she agrees (that is a discussion for later, just assume that it is possible that someone could be comfortable with fitting into the older stereotype position of a woman in the household).  She then has to decide to, be the good mom, be the successful business woman, be the feminist, be the gentlewoman all just in dealing with her own family.  These two people have not even left their own home yet and have a multitude of baffling signals coming at them! Imagine what happens upon leaving the home!  Suddenly these people have to show both the persona of a good family member, successful/rich along with being “nice”, being a leader yet being a group player at the same time, being patriotic and cosmopolitan, being a cool person and trying to become a celebrity, showing an artistic side and a pragmatic side-all at the same time! Thinking about it causes my head to spin.

Next you have to be a giving person too; volunteer as much time as you can, give as much as you can, care about everyone etc. etc. So you have to be able to provide for your family, be rich overall (and able to show it), and give as much as possible at the same time.  While providing for your family and giving are compatible, trying to be rich at the same time as these two does not appear to be in my opinion.  By my understanding of rich you need money in a bank account, giving it away does not meet that goal, also, if you’re so busy giving your extra money away, how can you show it off on the fancy new piece of technology or clothing or whatever?  Or, in order to make being rich more compatible, a person would have to use how much they donate as their showing off of the money they happen to have.  This would, at least proof beneficial for donations across the nation, but who has thought that any remotely popular/rich person giving a lot of money to a charity was doing it for free advertisement? Let’s be honest, all of us are cynics and thought that, so that point of view will not work either.

Next comes being both the rich/successful and the “nice”/polite/cooperative person.  You can’t do both.  In order to be successful you have to be able to be a leader, take the initiative and work as hard as you can all the time.  Being polite wastes time and effort that shouldn’t be wasted on the way to success unless you actually respect that person.  In general though, why in the world should a successful business man be super “nice” to someone who is doing their job?  I am not saying that the successful person should treat they’re chauffer like dirt, but why should he treat him like he’s an extra special little snowflake when all the driver does is his job-drive his employer to the places he needs to be.  It is a waste of time and energy trying to be a “nice” guy to everyone if you’re trying to be successful.  Yet the successful person has to play along with everyone else and be “nice” otherwise people will not respect him.  So how would a person deal with this?

As I hope I have begun to show, these various types of a good person, since currently in society you have to be all of them, causes mixed signals and a schizophrenia of a terrible magnitude upon delving further into the thought processes that have to be considered when trying to balance all of these “good” people.  This schizophrenia can lead to mental illnesses (possibly, mostly just trying to wake a reader up at this point if they’ve stuck with me), paralysis in that a person doesn’t know how to make all of these types align and just becomes essentially lost in life and goes through motions (there are other types of paralysis, this is just one type), having to pick one, or a couple of compatible types and go for that and being both good and bad depending on who is being asked, or just scrapping the entire project and creating your own.

Being lost in life is what I have seen in most of my society today, people just go through motions and try to make life as easy as possible so they do not have to think or get out of their paralysis so that they don’t have to think.  This, in my opinion, has led to multiple problems within society, but that discussion is for a later date.  Those that pick their type and go for that type essentially end up either being stepped on by everyone in trying to be nice or hated by everyone for being successful; neither of which are ideal since I am not aware of anyone who enjoys feeling terrible about themselves or feeling alone in the world.  This leaves building your own system, that requires thought though which most people want to avoid at all costs and an originality that those who pick a certain type apparently don’t have since they couldn’t create their own version of a good man.  So let us see if we can build our own, more aligned and healthier version of a good person though, toss this around for a while and I will begin walking through my own construction next week.

The Good Man

Today’s topic: the good man. What is this person? How can you tell them apart? What are this person’s characteristics, etc.?

First off, I want to clarify; I’m discussing the good person, not the “nice” person nor the polite person.  No, I am talking about the GOOD person, a person who has a system of ethics to which they hold as steadfastly as they can to help lead their life so that they can achieve what that person considers the good life.  This type of person is not required to be “nice” or “polite” in the current sense of these terms, sometimes this person is not at all “nice” or polite, this person has a will and courage to follow that will.  Although most good people can probably be considered polite in some ways, they have principals behind their actions and reasons for them.  They are not simply following the crowd or current practices/standards.

Now, that hopefully I have been clear enough for any reader stumbling into this tiny niche of cyberspace, there are a few things that have to be considered when thinking about the “good” man: The first being, what is good? This then leads to questions about why that is good: where does it come from? How is this good better than other goods or the absolute good instead of something else? Why is that good? The second part being, how is this good applied to life? How do you take this idea of the good and what it is and make it into something that is real enough to actually be implementable by a human being?  Basically, how does this good form what the “good life” is? So now, you have what the good life is at the end of this line.  The next part of the good man to consider is: who is he? Is it everyone, only the smart, maybe just the lucky, the dumb, needy, poor, rich, famous, etc.? Who is this man and where could you expect to find him? What sort of characteristics would he have: would he be calm or quick to anger? Would he be sociable or aloof, etc.?

Dear Women, I am using the masculine pronoun of “he/him” since the English language does not have a very useful gender neutral term besides “it” and the phrase the “good it” just does not work.  Plus, to fit gender stereotypes: I am a guy. So this is assuming women too in this picture.

The good, the good life, who the good man is…  Sounds like that should be all the ingredients to really figure out who the good man is right? Not quite, now that we have this information, how is the good person to actually begin living a good life?  Is it just a dive-in, a process, does it just slowly happen as a person realizes certain things, is it subjective, do you have to plan or just go with the flow?  Is it just a new year’s resolution or a committed life’s work?

So this is basically how I plan to go about talking about your own sort of good man (with the inevitable side-tracks and not quite on topic discussions involved in the process).  I challenge anyone who finds this to start thinking about their “good man.” I will be taking on today’s current good man first before talking about my own in later posts.

First Look

This is going to be the useless post that will hopefully help any readers out there understand the story behind this blog.
This blog is going to be mostly a place for an odd college student to comment on life. This student is odd in that he usually feels out of place wherever he is, comes off as more mature than many peers, likes to try to think once in a while and thinks that many people don’t do this often enough anymore. Other quirks: English is my primary language yet I write terribly in it, I like to attempt to write poetry (expect some to pop up maybe), stopped living permanently at home after first year of high school in the U.S. Maybe more will be shared later on, but for now maybe this can get someone interested.

Teaching Ethics Today

Today I am going to be dealing with how ethics is taught in schools today.

First I want to just mention that I think philosophy in general and ethics more specifically should be required courses at much lower levels than university undergraduates.

Now, the actual part:

Walking into seemingly any introduction to ethics course in university during the first few days of the semester will lead to you hearing the teacher supplying an “ethical dilemma” in the form of some sort of absurd and extreme situation.  Try it one day.  Two situations that seem quite popular are based upon train tracks.

The first situation is that you are in some form of control over a tracked vehicle: train, trolley, whatever so long as the vehicle is stuck on very specific paths and you cannot just drive around something like you, theoretically, could do in a normal car.  You, the driver/pilot/conductor (whatever you happen to want to be called), look up and notice on the tracks ahead of you is a young child/baby on the tracks and somehow unable to move off of the tracks, there is no way you can stop in time to not hit the child.  But, there is also a split in the tracks where you could keep going straight towards the child, or turn down another set of tracks and instead hit a larger group of people, say about 5 adults who also are incapable of moving.  You also happen to have the ability to hit a switch so your vehicle will go down that path instead; now choose who do you kill?

The other situation used is fairly similar: a tracked vehicle is still the main problem, only now you are outside of it and watching it hurtling towards a group of people.  You also happen to notice this incredibly large person nearby and if you roll them onto the tracks and into the path of the vehicle you can stop the others from being killed, but this large person is going to die.  Do you roll the larger person onto the track or not?

So, aside from just the absolute somewhat laughable absurdity of these situations, which admittedly I phrased to come off that way,  there are serious issues with using these types of situations as the introduction to ethical thinking.

The first issue is the absurdity and extremity of the situations themselves: these are simply not situations that arise in everyday life for most people.  Therefore, I think, they are not remotely applicable to real people as real ways to deal with ethical issues.  You can attempt to argue that they are akin to situations that could happen in real life: say you are driving a car and about to get in a crash, you can either aim for a car or a group of pedestrians.  But, in my opinion, these are similar situations in the characteristic of having two choices, both of which are not ideal, that is all though.  In this car wreck incident you have to take into account the fact that the pedestrians probably can and will move if they take notice of the situation, they are not magically stuck in place.  Also, the other person in the car can also notice the situation and will react accordingly changing the circumstances drastically.  Again, you can attempt to claim that both sets of people will not notice that you’re about to get in a wreck but you, as the driver, have a set of breaks which probably will be working and a horn which is loud and obnoxious.  Not to mention that in the end, the person in the car should be wearing their own seat-belt (it is assumed in all ethical dilemmas that the people are perfectly law abiding citizens in every way except those times they screw up to cause the dilemma) along with having a car that is designed to protect them in the event of a crash.  Also, who is going to take the time to try to reason through the decision anyway? It is going to be a reaction and it will be an automatic decision as to the best way to go, no logical discussion involved.

This lack of reasoning is the second issue with these extreme situations.  They are designed to create a reaction in people, no one reacts logically, they react spontaneously, emotionally, instinctually, no one reacts by wondering “hmmm, what is the best option?” and taking the time to consider the situation.  By basic understanding, reactions are not logical, not philosophical meaning not helpful in dealing with ethics.  You can propose these situations and have a group argue it out as to what is the better choice, but they are using reasons to attempt to justify their reactions not to actually come to a decision about the better option.  The people will be split up according to what their “gut instinct” says is the better option and then they will attempt to justify it after the fact.  This is useless for ethics, ethics is supposed to help a person make a decision, not just justify it later on.  Ethics should be a priori not a posteriori.

Finally, no matter what anyone claims, you cannot spend your life considering every decision in a rational discussion as people attempt to do in these ethical dilemma examples.  You would die before you could figure out what to wear, and if you did make it past that, food.  There could be so many ethical issues in dealing with food it would take probably three lifetimes to make any head-way in that part of life.  As such, ethics should be more of a lifestyle, not a decision making apparatus, you simply cannot try to deal with every single situation ethically.  It is sort of like programming: you cannot build a program that deals with every single situation individually, you have to build up a set of rules by which most situations are dealt with automatically and then deal with the unique circumstances as they come.  Sorry, you have to put some parts of life on auto-pilot in order to live a fulfilling life overall, just how it works.

So, I will now propose a new type of ethical dilemma by which to deal with ethics.  This is a much simpler situation, in my opinion.  You are walking to class, as a university student (a.k.a. in North America, you are paying a lot of money for this class you cannot afford to just skip them always and fail) and you notice someone is trying to probably get to work and their car is stuck.  Do you just keep walking or actually stop and help them?  This is the sort of decision that has to be made in real life, so what would you actually decide?