Moral Decisions Are Not Hard

Posted by Anti Citizen One on September 19th, 2011

Let us be on our guard against thinking that moral decisions are hard. It is true we cannot deterministically determine what course of action is moral, but we cannot pretend that that moral decisions are simply the result of logically thinking through the issue. We can think we have found a solution but then realise it has unacceptable consequences and we have this as a reason to reject that course of action. But how do we determine, systematically, what is relevant to a moral decision and what is not? Of course, there is no logical basis for this criteria. We just use a hybrid of logic and instinct and social pressure and so on – although the use of logic is usually restricted to creating an ad-hoc justification of our conclusion.

If there is anything hard about moral decisions, it is because we have different impulses and priorities that play out in our minds. I would not be surprised if this mostly happens subconsciously. But when our subconscious cannot come to a firm conclusions, it is referred to our conscious mind and we need to make a decisions – but the parameters for the decision have largely been determined already in our minds. We then have a war of priorities and logical thought is allowed to have a role, along side our instinct. This is when we experience that wavering before deciding on the moral action. When a particular decision has the upper hand in our conscious mind, we should not forget it has only the upper hand in the landscape of our subconscious. The hard part of decisions is only us suffering under the uncertainty of reality as these tendencies resolve themselves.

Anti Citizen One

All history is the experimental refutation of the theory of the so-called moral order of things

Nietzsche

Sport, whats it all about?

Posted by on July 9th, 2007

Was prompted to ask this question yesterday whilst watching the Wimbledon Men’s Singles Tennis final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

I’m not usually a fan of tennis, but this was a captivating match of highs and lows, or emotional and physical fluctuations. It was also considered one of the great tennis finals of all time, and the eventual winner Roger Federer equalled Bjorn Borgs record of 5 Wimbledon titles in a row. It was hard not to disagree with the analysis that I was watching history in the making (which is a tautology) and that I was watching a sporting legend in the making.

But I wondered why is sport of such social and cultural importance to us?

I know the obvious answers that sport has its origins in the martial activity of man. That athletes, wrestlers, javelin throwers, archers, horse-racing, shot-putters were all engaged in a false-war activity. It’s sometimes easy to forget that medieval jousting contests (despite the danger to limb and life, including to the spectator) was a sporting event.

Then there is the tribal element to sport, that peoples unite in a common support for the nation, their district, their community. The modern support that many young men and women give to Football clubs is a manifestation of this. Replace sense of community with a sense of pride in the badge, the jersey. Supporters feel they own the club they support, that they employ the players to represent their hopes and ambitions.

But then nowadays any martial element to sport as a preperation for war is just a social memory. Soldiers are not expected to complete their training these days on ‘the playing fields of Eton’ or elsewhere for that matter. Though admittedly it is still a means of learning about and engaging with competative behaviour, as important on the battlefield and sports field as it is in the world of business.

And culturally sport is perhaps less cohesive than it once was. There is television for example, where a particular sports team may have its supporters situated on the opposite side of the globe, paying supporters even who may have no idea where Manchester (for example) really is. And of course people have a very different idea of social identity as cultures intermingle.

Of course there is the simple answer, it is all just a game, a recreation, a bit of fun, maybe even an act of escapism. But I can’t help but think that it is slightly more purposeful, that there is something more cohesive about sport than its purely being fun. I dont pretend to know what the answer is, but having watched the great Tennis final yesterday I pondered whether it was a sense of shared hope, of myth-making, of taking joy from arbitrary beliefs (i.e. the idea that sport matters) that draw so many people to it.

Imaginary friends are good for you!

Posted by on July 9th, 2007

This was my favourite news article of the day, perhaps even of the week so far. Research from the Institute of Education in London has shown that children who have an imaginary friend (with whom they are not afraid to interact with) have enhanced creativity which furthers their communication and articulacy skills whilst boosting their self-confidence.

Contrary to previously held beliefs that such behaviour was either abnormal or escapist, educational psychologists now believe that it is a perfectly acceptable coping mechanism for a variety of challenging issues from parental break-up to bullying or lack of self-esteem.

This seems like a nice example of arbitrary beliefs* being useful.

*Beliefs without justification or evidence, (similar to faith style beliefs).

It is also the imaginary and intellectual equivalent of the transitional object, such as the teddy-bear or comfort blanket that very young children use to start their developmental differentiation between self and other, me and not me.

Another example posited in the article was this one. “But it is not just children who converse with invisible companions. Explorer Dave Mill created his imaginary friend Nobody at the age of 34 as a survival mechanism during a solo walk to the North Pole.”