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March 2012

March 6, 2012

…while the decision to preserve our sentiment of justice might be rational, we may in the end suffer a very great loss or even be ruined by it. As we have seen, a just person is not prepared to do certain things, and so in the face of evil circumstances he may decide to chance death rather than to act unjustly. Yet although it is true enough that for the sake of justice a man may lose his life where another would live to a later day, the just man does what all things considered he most wants; in this sense he is not defeated by ill fortune the possibility of which he foresaw. The question is on a par with the hazards of love; indeed, it is simply a special case. Those who love one another, or who acquire strong attachments to persons and to forms of life, at the same time become liable to ruin: their love makes them hostages to misfortune and the injustice of others. Friends and lovers take great chances to help each other; and members of families willingly do the same. Their being so disposed belongs to their attachments as much as any other inclination. Once we love we are vulnerable…

– John Rawls, A Theory of Justice

This is entirely Faun’s fault, as she is taking her moral philosophy class (and herself, likely) far too seriously. When she sent this to Miriam, Miriam’s main criticism was that the quotation (using love as a ‘case study’ to show that it is irrational to say that we are moral for profit) was too theoretical, and provided no clear moral instructions.

Faun thinks that unquestioned morality is dangerous, and that this makes theory necessary, but Miriam takes a very different approach. Love is, for her, the foundation of all morality, from whence all things come. She never had to make an effort to prove that assigning profit to morality is wrong because she comes from a position that supports selflessness and self-sacrifice in the first place. Anyways, our too-convenient resolution of the month is that neither criticality nor practicality should be abandoned ever! World problems solved. Mostly, though, this quotation when comprehensively deciphered (with attention paid to more than just the last line) is an interesting one to mull over for a few days. Faun should know; she has to write a paper about it.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. miriamthewalrus permalink*
    March 6, 2012 4:55 pm

    Ha! I love how you summarized our conversation! Thanks for making something of my muddled thoughts; you did a wonderful job.

  2. April 17, 2012 11:57 pm

    Love what you are doing with the blog man!

  3. May 22, 2012 12:49 pm

    Thanks for the thoughts:o)

    So what was the result of the mulling?

    Besides, shouldn’t the basis of all morality rather be based on not doing to others, what you don’t want others to do to you? That is, putting oneself in the other’s place? To put love as the basis, especially if we understand love as risking ourselves, then we are basically, I hope, doing something else to others than putting ourselves in their place, but rather putting them in our place, and by that somehow putting them in a situation where they would have to risk themselves, something we – out of love – shouldn’t wish for others(?)

    What I mean is, if love is risking one self for others, and that should be the basis of all morality, then the basis of all morality would be risking ourselves for others. Love wouldn’t encourage your expectation for others to risk themselves, and by that – putting love as the basis – you are basically going against the love you would harbor for others. No?

    Anyway, just some thoughts. Thanks again.

    All the best

    Shmuel

    • May 23, 2012 3:27 am

      Interesting comment!
      As I understand your argument, it is:

      Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (put yourself in their shoes)
      Love is risky
      Therefore, taking risks for others implies that we want others to risk themselves
      This is a paradox; if we love someone we shouldn’t want him or her at risk.

      I think that in an ideal world, it could be rephrased to look like:

      Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
      Love is only risky if it isn’t universal
      Loving others implies that we want others to love us
      If we use Love as a basis for morality, the hope is that it will spread. An ideal system would then minimize risk.

      Is that a fair response? I think that this is getting quite abstract, but I do see what you mean.

      • May 23, 2012 6:55 am

        It is a very fair response, and you expressed it better than me.

        The question then is, do we live in an ideal world or do we need to take a more pragmatic approach? At least until the world, as a whole, improve? Or should we maybe relate different to different part of the world, or would that destroy the whole premise?

        I mean, in some parts of the world the tolerance or idea and acceptance of tolerance (which is a prerequisite for love, I think) is more dominant than others. In some parts of the world, I believe, we can allow ourselves to be more idealistic than others. But if we limit the extent of our love or where it is practiced, then it wouldn’t be universal anymore. Does that give sense?

        Or maybe it’s just me wanting to establish a practical morality, instead of keeping it theoretic. The approach would most likely change depending on which we are dealing with.

        Thanks for thinking with me:o) And thanks for making me think in the first place;o)

        All the best

        • May 24, 2012 11:31 am

          I think it’s impossible to establish one framework that is perfect for each and every situation, and the best thing to do is act pragmatically but always consider our actions. That’s sort of the compromise that Miriam and I came to in the original post.
          Many thanks!

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