Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

And this is why we need to teach ethical theory in schools

Posted by metaphorical on 22 June 2008


One day, a poor boy who was selling goods from door to door to pay his way through school, found he had only one thin dime left, and he was hungry.

He decided he would ask for a meal at the next house. However, he lost his nerve when a lovely young woman opened the door.

Instead of a meal he asked for a drink of water! She thought he looked hungry so brought him a large glass of milk. He drank it so slowly, and then asked, ‘How much do I owe you?’

‘You don’t owe me anything,’ she replied. ‘Mother has taught us never to accept pay for a kindness.’

He said, ‘Then I thank you from my heart.’

As Howard Kelly left that house, he not only felt stronger physically, but his faith in God and man was strong also. He had been ready to give up and quit.

Many years later, that same young woman became critically ill. The local doctors were baffled. They finally sent her to the big city, where they called in specialists to study her rare disease.

Dr. Howard Kelly was called in for the consultation. When he heard the name of the town she came from, a strange light filled his eyes.

Immediately he rose and went down the hall of the hospital to her room.

Dressed in his doctor’s gow n he went in to see her. He recognized her at once.

He went back to the consultation room determined to do his best to save her life. From that day he gave special attention to her case.

After a long struggle, the battle was won.

Dr. Kelly requested the business office to pass the final bill to him for approval. He looked at it, then wrote something on the edge and the bill was sent to her room. She feared to open it, for she was sure it would take the rest of her life to pay for it all. Finally she looked, and something caught her att ention on the side of the bill. She read these words ..

‘Paid in full with one glass of milk’

(Signed) Dr. Howard Kelly.

Tears of joy flooded her eyes as her happy heart prayed: ‘Thank You, God, that Your love has spread broad through human hearts and hands.’

There’s a saying which goes something like this: Bread cast on the waters comes back to you. The good deed you do today may benefit you or someone you love at the least expected time. If you never see the deed again at least you will have made the world a better place – And, after all, isn’t that what life is all about?

Now you have two choices.
1. You can send this page on and spread a positive message.

2. Or ignore it and pretend it never touched your heart.

If you don’t get “inspirational” spam like this at least once in a while, you lead a truly blessed life. Meanwhile, I’m sick, not so much of the spam, as the stupidity, bordering on turpitude, of the specific message.

Are we being exhorted to emulate the young milkmaiden’s example because it is virtuous and right, or because we will be repaid just when we need it the most? Is there moral reasoning that goes beyond the pragmatism of simple self-interest?

Christians labor under a similar confusion — Christ’s own messages give mixed signals at best. Should do good things for their own sake, or in order to ascend to Heaven? The argument for our very belief in God’s existence wallows in the same mudbath of unclear thinking. Leaving aside its circularity, we’re told to believe in God else we suffer the eternal fires of damnation. Pragmatism, nothing more.

Dr. Howard Kelly, as far as we can tell, had no inclination to alter his patient’s bill except for her being the person who was generous to him when he was in need. Indeed, that’s essential to the story, because if he routinely wrote down large bills, then the actions of this story become unremarkable, or at least, the story would be entirely about Kelly’s saintly nature, and not the unnamed patient.

How much better a story it would be if Kelly didn’t recognize the name of the town, and had written a hundred times in the past on bills, “Paid in full with one glass of milk,” and this one time — unbeknownst to him — it was read by the woman who gave him the milk.

As it stands, either the story has no point, or Kelly’s actions don’t provide an example we ought to emulate, or—and this seems to be the real message—we ought to take a slightly longer-term view of our own selfish best interests.

Somehow, I don’t think that’s the lesson my erstwhile spammer meant to teach. But his blatant moral confusion shows that he needs a lesson of a different sort anyway—day 1 of Ethics 100, wherein we learn the difference between things that are inherently good and those which are merely good as a means.

53 Responses to “And this is why we need to teach ethical theory in schools”

  1. There’s a car in the Kodak parking lot with a message based on Pascal’s Wager. I feel like asking the guy if making sure you get into heaven is the only reason he can think of for believing on God, because it sounds pretty greedy to me.

  2. Vicki said

    Christians labor under a similar confusion — Christ’s own messages give mixed signals at best. Should do good things for their own sake, or in order to ascend to Heaven?

  3. Vicki said

    Sorry; somehow I hit “post” too soon, and apparently I can’t edit.

    Christians labor under a similar confusion — Christ’s own messages give mixed signals at best. Should do good things for their own sake, or in order to ascend to Heaven?

    This is the way I understand it:

    We should do good things because we’re going to heaven. We can’t earn heaven; it’s been bought and paid for. God sacrificed his own human son for your salvation. You’re getting it. You have no choice, it’s done. So, given that you will receive eternal life through the grace of God, you should pass on that love and caring by feeding the hungry, nursing the sick, clothing the poor and visiting the prisoner.

    I share your distaste for these morality tales. This one is better:

    “A tycoon is interviewed about how he got his start.

    “I hate to admit it, but I got my start gambling,” He relates. “I was a terrible gambler, and had actually lost everything I had. I was in Las Vegas without a penny to my name, I had to go to the bathroom, and as if my life was not going badly enough, the only one I could use nearby was a pay toilet.”

    “I found a man, begged him for a dime. I insisted he give me his name and address, and I would return the dime somehow. He demurred, but I insisted. He gave me the dime, and I returned to the restroom. By my luck, someone had left a stall open. I finished my business, but such was my gambling mania, I took that last dime and put it in a slot machine. It hit for five hundred dollars. Still unable to control myself, I went to a roulette table. By the end of the night, I had made back all of my money, was $50,000 dollars ahead, and was resting in a free room at the hotel.”

    “I knew I had been given a second chance. I walked out of the casino the next morning, invested my money, worked hard, and became the man you see seated before you.”

    “I swear to you, if I I could ever find that man, I would give him half my fortune.”

    “What do you mean?” asked the interviewer. “You said he gave you his name and address.”

    “Not him,” said the tycoon, “The guy who left the bathroom door open!””

    Stolen from a comment at http://www.comicmix.com/news/2008/05/06/wrath-by-dennis-o-neil/.

  4. Thinking said

    I know these emails sometimes don’t have a point but the message—we ought to take is (being the selfish human beings that we are)that we all hope that there is someone out there that is capable of being just a little kinder than rest of us. If we ever are in need of nourishment we can only hope that we meet up with a lovely young lady that would offer us a glass of milk. With the economy the way it is and the news as gloomy as it is, a little inspiration can help us to focus on what is good.
    We have all been inspired. That is why this blog exists.

  5. Consider this bit from the provoking glurge: “He went back to the consultation room determined to do his best to save her life.”

    From this, I infer that until he recognized the name, he wasn’t all that determined to save the patient’s life. (Otherwise, why make a note of it?) In light of this, a folklorist would immediately spot the similarity to tales where two peasants give nothing to a mysterious beggar but the third does, and the first two end up with their lives in ashes…

  6. I have not much to add to my own post (though, Paul, I almost mentioned Pascal’s Wager as being similarly pragmatic; and Stephan, I almost noted that same sentence) except that four of the comments were all bunched up in my email with just one other interleaved. It said, “Ask and you shall be given – extra inches now possible “

  7. digglahhh said

    Shit, if I had a dollar for every time I had an argument that was centered around noting that somebody’s “good deeds” were merely means to their own advancement. Really, you adopted that poor abandoned doggy – so you can use it is a conversation piece to try to meet women on the street and fuck them…

    I don’t like the whole special attention thing either. I knew where Meta was going to go with this right away, but it is certainly important make the note Stephan did. Selfish assholes have as much right to be given the best medical care their physicians can possibly provide too. Nice to know we need collateral for the Hippocratic Oath to apply.

    But, yeah, attempting to explain a nuanced sense of morality especially as an ethical caveat to saccharine pseudo parables like the above drivel makes me wanna prescribe myself a healthy dose of percocet.

  8. Thinking said

    You are very cynical about the human psyche. Is this because you know the history of how your parents met in that park? Yes, go get the medication. It might make you feel better.

  9. ClaireDePlume said

    Digglahhh, I don’t know about your neighborhood, but I’ve yet to see someone walking a dog AND getting laid at the same time. Did I miss that segment of Letterman’s weird pet tricks?

    “Those” forwards are primarily written by children and old women. They conspire together to see if they can break the internet by wearing it out.

    Human kindness is a work in progress, and has been since Hippocrates had his 3rd birthday and was learning to distinguish art. I believe he would have prescribed an herbal based rescue remedy over percoset.

    We humans benefit best from encouragement. Let’s all try to find something positive to say about one another.

    And smile :D

  10. Something positive to say about each other… hmn… “Even the saccharine make good mulch.”

  11. Thinking said

    Stephan, I’m sure there is someone out there for you. Check out the garden one more time.
    Claire, thank you for the positive energy.

  12. digglahhh said


    Hey, dude, if you’re naive and intellectually shallow enough to derive inspiration and warm tingly feelings from contrived fables like the one above – rock the fuck on. But, if you want to make use of your handle for something beyond ironic humor, take a little deeper look at the message(s) here.

    And, um, nice “yo mama” joke. I may have considered it a zinger if this was the school yard in ’92 and you had just seen it on last night’s episode of In Living Color. I try to treat my fellow humans with compassion (though not necessarily on message boards) for the inherent good in it, not in pursuit of some potential, ever-deferred gratitude. Thanks for playing though, be sure not to forget your copy of the home version of this game.


    You always make me smile.

    And, Letterman, no. But this is the wonderful place called the internet, I’m sure if you wanted to see anything that involves sexual acts, it can be easily found :).

  13. Thinking said


    Wisdom in the words of inspirational stories and motivational stories is a form of communication that has been used for generations. Reading someone’s story can make us feel better especially if we are experiencing a similar situation. Words of wisdom are often found in stories. We all have a story (Don’t we Digglahhh?). The ending of our story depends solely on us. I am happy to know that you try to treat your fellow humans with compassion.
    Apologies to “yo mama” in 2008.

    “All stories teach us something, and promise us something, whether they’re true or invented, legend or fact.” ~Stewart O’Nan

  14. Tiltmom said

    I’m just awed that Digg knew where Meta was going with this right away.

    I was sure this was going to be a post about the dairy industry.

    Attributed to Lauren Bacall, “If goodness is its own reward, then shouldn’t bad behavior merit a little something?”

  15. ClaireDePlume said


    Wisdom does indeed come by way of inspirational stories. Aesop’s Fables and Hans Christian Andersen immediately come to mind for me. “These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves.” — Gilbert Highet.

    And some of “those forwards” are sometimes entertaining, just not the ones rife with spelling errors and misquoted “little known facts”. I imagine people writing them and market testing the Internet, perhaps out of curiousity, perhaps out of playfulness. I might even write one of them myself some day… :D


    I almost missed your comment – too busy reading my maudlin forwards and letters from Nigeria with incredibly generous offers to claim my $9.482 million US Dollars. Really, with all of THIS going on, when is there time for sex on the Internet I ax you.

  16. Thinking said

    A good deal of any behavior (bad or good) is learned by casual observation and imitation of others. The merit in bad behavior could be stimulation, adulation and or material gains. I myself feel that when a person is knowingly and maliciously harming others, the only merit should be jail time.
    your comments are always well said! :)

  17. ClaireDePlume said


    I think you, like me, bristled ever so slightly at the snippet penned by Lauren Bacall. Personally, I’m not fond of off-hand, glib remarks that are dubious in intent, often leaving room (some is too much) for poor behaviour. Here comes the mark where we rely on our moral compass and rally ethical conduct. I once asked a question and was surprised at the depth of the answer; “The purpose of life is to live and be happy and in so doing, not cause harm to anyone or anything.”

    As for forwards which frequent and clutter our in boxes, it seems to me that their primary purpose is to compromise privacy by advertising email addresses and otherwise waste time as we sift through the garble to find perhaps one possible gem. Books retain their merit far and above these ramblings. If we quest for wisdom, then we are more apt to find it when we seek it out by living life.

  18. Thinking said

    Who was Lauren Bacall? Her real name was Betty Joan Perske. Like her stage name, her view of life is only a whimsacal image of what is truth and reality.

  19. ClaireDePlume said


    How ironic to have her words juxtaposed against an Orwellian backdrop.

  20. Thinking said

    “The implied objective of this line of thought is a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past.” George Orwell
    Claire you hit the nail on the head!

  21. ClaireDePlume said

    It’s no mystery that our world/reality is manipulated, quite possibly by countless layers of hierarchy in all of it’s various forms, and for those even partially aware, this is indeed an environment of half truths, untruths and false images.

    Yet ask anyone – “Do you seek truth and live truth?” Ten times out of ten, the answer will be a resounding Yes.

    I can only wonder, “How?”

  22. Thinking said


    Unfortunately, most people do not understand that religious devotion to false idols leads us to worship false wisdom. Passion for knowledge that is not grounded in wisdom will lead us to ruin. The answer to your question is that some will pass and some will fail. The bigger question is who is in command?

  23. ClaireDePlume said

    Your comment opens the field to many thoughts. “Religion”, for me, has a negative connotation and is reminiscent of hypocrisy.

    How others are progressing in this quest we refer to as life is not for us to grade, although at times, maneuvering through this complex arena is much like playing in a very large schoolyard.

    As for how and who? It’s all a matter of degrees and perceptions. Are we referring to the material or the ethereal worlds? As far as I can currently see, we are all captains of our own souls, free to make choices, free to take ownership. Who controls the material world is of little consequence in the general scheme, for it’s all temporal and dynamic. And in the end, we are all born alone and die alone. What happens in between is what we choose. I’d just like everyone else to live consciously and to take care not to impose on others.

  24. Thinking said

    Fate, Destiny, Kismet… All relate the idea that what happens to us in this lifetime is fixed, predetermined, inescapable.

    Depending on your point of view ( Not yours Claire.) it could be horrifying to think we are mere robots, unable to deviate one iota from our fixed pathway. Indeed, if we have no Will, we – as individuals – do not really exist.

    Or it might be comforting. For if all that happens would have happened regardless we are relieved of blame, responsibility and guilt.

    Modern society certainly doesn’t subscribe to this view. The legal system assumes responsibility for action, and hence freedom of the Will, by punishing those guilty of sin (ie crime). And capitalism rewards enterprise.

    And what of our own experience. Surely there are numerous occasions each day when we are called upon to make decisions. The problem is that as mortals time appears as ever-flowing and unidirectional. So once we’ve made a decision, and acted upon it, it seems that things couldn’t possibly have turned out any other way.
    I agree with your view on taking ownership for your time here.

  25. digglahhh said


    I’ve had a lot of practice. Meta would only be quoting this sort of chain mail pablum for the purposes of questioning its ethics somehow. But, when in doubt, dairy industry bashing is as good a guess as any as to where he’ll go with something (other good choices are slamming religion and appreciating rock climbing). Of course, he’s got me down pretty well too.


    I’m not ripping the value of Aesop. There’s (limited) value in fables and parables, but slop this thick stopped resonating with me around about the age I able to read it on my own. Personal ethics are a complex matter, I could never glean inspiration from something so generic and neat. I find inspiration in lots of things. I’ve read countless inspiring stories, textured accounts of struggle and triumph by real people. This shit isn’t a “story;” it’s a sermon.

    I find it difficult to negotiate the idea that the same person who is involved in the above discussion with Claire is defending the value of the crap in the original post.

  26. ClaireDePlume said

    In the matrix of the material world, we might all succumb to becoming drones and simply sources of energy for others to siphon off. Perhaps it is wise to be of the world, but not particularly in it.

    “He had suggested that perhaps a human life was a simple parabola in which one never knew when the apogee — the highest, most sublime point — had been.” — Dan Simmons, ‘A Winter Haunting’

  27. Philip J C said

    A study of Dr Howard Kelly’s life shows that he reduced or remitted costs for those too poor and charged highly those who could afford it. This email story is a fictionalised account of a true event which was not as dramatic as in the email, but it makes you think – as a Christian my reaction to need is a result of the love I have received from God – not a desire to get to heaven through good works.

  28. ClaireDePlume said

    Philip, you’ve neglected to quote your source, so I’ll paste it here on your behalf:

    Messengers of God (Love) and those who shine light in dark places need no membership card to prove worth, or integrity of purpose, or seek earthly accreditation or approval. To state membership in a particular sect need not be stated for our benefit. If a light is genuine, it’s redundant to label it, and only diminishes the possibility of it’s earnestness.

    “You are the light of the world.” — Philippians 2:15). Translated, Jesus asks people to conduct themselves in such as way that others will be drawn toward God by their works, to not hide their light under a bushel.

    However, kindness is an act of Love not one of self-aggrandizement.

    “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” –Matthew 6:3-4

    I’ve met some Christians, particularly lately who do well with both self-promotion and the selling of indulgences. It seems to serve their sense of worth, while ironically casting shadows on the consistencies of the philosophies they embrace. They also trumpet their membership unabashedly. It appears that the light they shine is on themselves.

    Christianity is a wonderful venue for some to find their purpose and rise to their highest good through it’s teachings. It’s also interesting to note that there have been many others through the ages who have shared their wisdoms and even those on the very act of kindness:

    “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” -~Aesop

  29. Thinking said

    My point is that in life, we are challenged to walk with one foot in the spiritual realm and one in the material. We struggle daily to live by the values that bring us happiness and keep us centered.
    Since we sometimes risk losing sight of the things that make us good human beings, inspirational thoughts whether they be a fable or an internet “crappy” message, are unimportant. We are individuals and therefore what inspires you may not inspire me.
    \Let it go and just let life set you free…

  30. ClaireDePlume said

    Perhaps “letting it go” is where some of us falter. It’s akin to compromising and making “It’s good enough” our mantras.

    I’ve made a pact with myself, and it’s my commitment to speak. If something “riles” me, I speak.

    While this may or may not be of benefit to others, I cannot say. Is it of benefit to me? Yes most certainly. For all of those behaviours in others which are disconcerting, they do serve a purpose. Often that which upsets our own equilibrium is “nothing more” than that which upsets us about ourselves. Verbalizing these frictions releases what we may have bottled up.

    Therefore, to work through such exercises may not only benefit who we are, it may also benefit what and who we affect. It’s not only a point of potential ethical theory in application, it’s a liberation of sorts.

    And I still suspect that “crappy” forwards are just that. They are an engineered conspiracy to deflect focus from those things that really matter, yet with perfect literary irony, they draw attention to precisely that which does matter.

  31. Thinking said

    You verbalized what I felt in looking at some of the comments above. Since I am not facing the other commentators I
    appear as one sided. Yet if we were at a table discussing the topics of the spiritual, material, wisdom, philosophy etc.- we would probobly find much common ground.

  32. “Yet if we were at a table discussing the topics of the spiritual, material, wisdom, philosophy etc.- we would probably find much common ground.”

    Not with me. We need to walk with both feet in the material world; that’s where ethics must be grounded, literally and figuratively. In separating these into different realms, we quickly confine ethics to a ghetto of “spiritualism,” where, on the one hand, it quickly becomes inaccessible to facts, theory, and rational dispute, and on the other hand the material world is stripped of its moral dimension.

    And so we arrive at the world of today, where, for example, the great engines of business have no other goals than quarterly profits, to the exclusion of worker satisfaction, customer health, and communal well-being. Exxon is allowed profit margins of 35%, cattle merchants ship diseased animals to market, and tobacco companies are still legal corporations.

    “Spiritualism” can’t be blamed for all of that, but it is certainly true that moral discourse is by and large excluded from finance, business, economics, and even, increasingly, politics. And assigning ethics to the spirit world has made that almost inevitable.

  33. At the request of the commenter, I’ve deleted a comment made here yesterday (4 July).

  34. Thinking said

    I agree with you somewhat but at the subtle level, we all have a mind that feels, an intellect that thinks and the collection of mind body experiences that determines what we are at any one particular time. We are very much alike. Science has shown that at the physical and subtle levels, our apparent diversity is underlain by the unity of one single substance. Similarly, mystical experience shows that there is something at the causal level that energizes, animates, and enlightens both mind and body without which there would be no consciousness. It is due to this causal entity that our intellect thinks, we have awareness of our experiences, and we feel our physical existence. Spiritual experiences show the existence of a spiritual unity at the causal level underlying what appears to be diverse consciousness. Thus, mystical and scientific experiences both point toward the existence of a unity underlying diversity in their respective animate and inanimate domains.

  35. digglahhh said

    This might be, partially, an issue of semantics.

    One the one hand, you have Terrence McKenna, on the other you have magical underwear.

  36. Thinking said

    Terrence has long ago departed this world so I don’t think I “have” him unless I’m chaneling. As far as my underware is concerned, You can get it at Macy’s. :)

  37. digglahhh said

    Oh, wait a minute, channeling insight from fringe thinkers of yore is a little kooky – too bad most of the country hasn’t gotten the memo…

  38. Thinking said

    Kooky or cookie what does it matter? There is a taste for every thinker fringe or closer to home. All I know is I think better with loose underware purchased at Macy’s. If I were you I would go shopping today.

  39. ClaireDePlume said

    Looks like there are too many loose threads. Let’s get this straight: Terrence wore what kind of underwear? (And are we speaking of Terrence the thinker or Terrence the tinkerer?)

    Lest there be guides and scouts and other girls lurking in the shadows, I’d be very very careful about mentioning cookies in these parts.

  40. Thinking said

    Hello Claire nice to hear from you again.
    Semantics does play a part in how we percieve things. In this case it is Dig’s inability to receive a message which threatens his self concept. If he would only loosen up a little he might get my drift. (I still feel he should shop at Macy’s.) Cookies are better shared off line. Meet you at Mrs Field’s.

  41. ClaireDePlume said

    As long as we don’t get our semantics in a knot and our underwear scrambled, we might not get cast adrift with loose thoughts. It’s a matter of ethics.

    Further afield, one might be tempted to ask, “cookies with that”?

  42. Thinking said

    Yes, Aristotle and Socrates would agree with you. It is a shame to deviate from what is ethical (Dig?). I guess it is necessary to constantly examen our actions. We also must also acquire, through practice, those emotional, and social skills that enable us to put our understanding into practice in ways that are suitable to each occasion.
    In this occasion I shall have some cookies since this conversation started with a glass of milk!

  43. ClaireDePlume said

    “…Aristotle and Socrates would agree with you.”

    I cannot speak for others and seriously wonder if either of these philosophical luminaries would entangle themselves with the semantics in this thread, much less agree with me or any of us for that matter.

    “It is a shame to deviate from what is ethical (Dig?).”

    If you’re suggesting that there is anything remiss in Dig’s adherence to ethics, then it’s here we draw a line in our exchange. I may question the words and philosophies of others, but I shall not judge their ethics.

    …”put our understanding into practice in ways that are suitable to each occasion.”

    Acquired knowledge is impotent if unused. And ethics in my understanding of them, are constant no matter the occasion.

  44. Thinking said

    “And ethics in my understanding of them, are constant no matter the ocasion”

    Was the trip to the park with the puppy to find someone to sleep with ethical?

    “… virtue is but how to become good, and that is the sole benefit of it. We must, therefore, consider the right way of performing actions, for it is acts that determine the character of the resulting moral states.” Aristotle

  45. If the trip to the park was in accord with the principles of right action, then yes. If not, then no.

    It is those principles that Aristotle is referring to (“the right way of performing actions”).

  46. Thinking said

    Aristotle remarks near the beginning of his discussion of virtue and the good life: “our discussion will be adequate if it has as much clearness as the subject matter admits of.”

    He does not tell us just what circumstances warrant certain actions but I would like to infer that what he meant was too obvious to have to explain. Therefore we are back to the begining. I can only agree to diagree.

  47. Thinking said

    disagree I tend to hit the submit too quickly. I guess I have to learn the proper actions at the designated time…

  48. digglahhh said

    Well, for one, it’s nice to know that Aristotle is the only esteemed philosopher to make any sort of attempt to clarify morality.

    More to the point, I don’t really follow what you’re talking about, Thinking. Throughout this thread, there’s been something of a murkiness (one might argue primarily due to your imprecise choice of words) involving spirituality and religion.

    Much of the rest of your contribution here has been in the form of clumsy attempts at insults and humor at my expense, and equally clumsy attempts at flirting with Claire.

    My whole point in the McKenna post was that you’re basically speaking in platitudes. What does any of post about spiritualism that precedes the McKenna post mean? Nothing. Spiritualism, in the way you seem to be talking about it here, is defined (or not) broadly enough that it doesn’t mean anything, or means everything. Either way, I don’t know how to respond to something that I find to be borderline incoherent.

    I don’t like sappy, contrived, palaver force-fed as a morality tale and I don’t find it inspiring. Draw from that whatever conclusions you wish. To me, I don’t think this conversation ever really progressed past that point.

  49. Thinking said

    Moral virtues,for any philosopher should be distinguished from intellectual virtues. Moral virtue has to do with feeling, choosing, and acting well. The example you gave was not (in my opinion) acting in an ethical or virtuous manner. You started the insults by calleding me naive and shallow remember?
    As far as flirting with Claire is concerned, I simply admire her way of expressing herself.
    Inchoherent or coherent my opinions are mine and I have expressed them. Dig?

  50. “Moral virtues,for any philosopher should be distinguished from intellectual virtues.”

    That’s not a distinction that either Aristotle or Socrates would be okay with.

  51. Thinking said

    You know, I agree with your comment but my opinions have still not changed.

  52. ClaireDePlume said

    —>Insert musical interlude here<—

    It’s time for some freakin’ humor – all these ethics are giving me a headache.

    Ethics, Canadian Style:

    Two Canadians go camping and pack a cooler with sandwiches and beer.

    After three days of walking, they arrive at a great spot but realize they’ve forgotten a bottle opener.

    The first one turns to the second and says, “You’ve gotta go back and get the opener or else we have no beer.”

    “No way,” says the second. “By the time I get back, you will have eaten all the food.”

    “I promise I won’t,” says the Canadian. “Just hurry!”

    Nine full days pass and there’s still no sign of the second Canadian.

    Exasperated and starving, the first Canadian digs into the sandwiches.

    Suddenly, the second Canadian pops out from behind a rock and yells, “I knew it! I’m not freaking going!”

    (humor provided via the Internet and it’s offspring, the miracle of forwarding)

    So. What is the lesson of ethics here? Well, it’s all about trust. Sometimes we’ve just got to trust in the ethics of others, else we’ll just freakin’ perish.

  53. Thinking said

    Where do we start, or where should we start, a serious philosophical inquiry into humor? Perhaps humor is objective. Perhaps there is a right or wrong answer to the question of whether a joke is funny or not. But if I think a joke is funny and you don’t, does that make one of us right and the other wrong? Your joke was good, but here is a better one:

    Ethical Behavior
    A defendant in a lawsuit involving large sums of money was talking to his lawyer.

    “If I lose this case, I’ll be ruined.”

    “It’s in the judge’s hands now,” said the lawyer.

    “Would it help if I sent the judge a box of

    “Oh no! This judge is a stickler or ethical
    behavior. A stunt like that would prejudice him against you. He might even hold you in
    contempt of court. In fact, you shouldn’t even smile at the judge.”

    Within the course of time, the judge rendered a decision in favor of the defendant.

    As the defendant left the courthouse, he said to his lawyer, “Thanks for the tip about the cigars. It worked!”

    “I’m sure we would have lost the case if
    you’d sent them.” “But, I did send them.”

    “What? You did?” said the lawyer, incredulously.

    “Yes. That’s how we won the case.”

    “I don’t understand,” said the lawyer.

    “It’s easy. I sent the cigars to the judge,
    but enclosed the plaintiff’s business card.”

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