Is this Moral Failure?

(selling out)

“I think the term “product” has a bad rap. I blame Wal-Mart.”
“I think Wal-Mart is evil enough to dwarf the combined sin of the rest of mankind to nothing (in comparison).”
“Wal-Mart is ‘selling out’ incarnate. Sold out and morally bankrupt.”

Yay for shopping at Wal-Mart…
…because the ethical implications of doing so just don’t weigh heavily enough on the average middle-class American conscience (conscience? what conscience? that would involve some mechanism of internal reflection. we are too approval-seeking to have developed anything like a conscience.).

The Good Samaritan Experiment
"In the Good Samaritan experiment, even seminary students could not be counted on to stop and help a stranger in need. In the experiment, Princeton seminarians were asked to prepare a report on the parable of the Good Samaritan in one building and report to another building to discuss the parable. The seminarians were randomly assigned to one of three groups, those told that they were running late, right on time, and a little early. While making their way to the other building, each of the seminarians encountered a man slumped on the sidewalk in obvious distress. Of the seminarians told they were early, 63% stopped to help; those on time stopped 45% of the time; and 10% of those running late helped. The researchers found that, “Ironically, a person in a hurry is less likely to help people, even if he is going to speak on the parable of the Good Samaritan. (Some literally stepped over the victim on their way to the next building!) The results seem to show that thinking about norms does not imply that one will act on them.'”
( … avior.html)
( … marit.html)

Moral Care
Why don’t we care?
…about large scale exploitation,
starving children in other countries,
foreign wars…
…when none of it affects our immediate interests and well-being?
Why isn’t it of interest to us!?
Sometimes we feel somewhat guilty about it, but not enough to move us to action.

Only small minority of us are in the humanitarian “business.” Why?
We could all contribute something, and, likely, more than we are.

Moral Obligation
Why don’t I look into everything I buy so as to boycott goods from exploitative companies? Why do I eat meat? (Because it’s customary and I’m used to it and it would be inconvenient to do otherwise?) Why don’t I give money to every television add for charity? Why am I not devoting my life humanitarian causes?

Is this moral failure?
Or is all of the above supererogatory!?
Certainly I am concerned about all of these things, but why haven’t I really tackled any of them with more…gusto?
Am I alone in feeling this way?
I keep settling on the idea that I should concentrate moral efforts locally. I should do good where I am.
But then in today’s world is there really any excuse for not thinking globally?

It feels like such a battle. I’m one of those people who, when he becomes really passionate about something, devotes all his energy to a single thing. So how do you juggle these global issues with personal life goals. How can anyone have the energy for all of this in life? I guess one ought to find some way to compromise?

Two things:
(1) What moral obligations do you think we have?
(2) Any of the issues I mentioned are up for discussion as well.

The good samaritan might be seen as having failed humanity in that we all must do what we have to to survive as individuals and his action prevented his ability to maintain his own life in the world.
It can’t be shown that it’s the case that if everyone were to help those in need every time they needed it, that productivity toward more pressing goals regarding individual survival might be reduced such that it’s no longer a matter of giving 5 minutes of your time to help some stranger, but a matter which has an impact on your quality of life, or even your ability to give attention to bigger humanitarian problems.

Smears - I see your reply. I should be able to respond in a day or so. Life is busy at the moment.

Hello fellow earthlings (this is my first post on ILP),

While I can’t speak for everyone else, I can tell you my own moral obligation reasonings with complete honesty and perhaps that will give you some new perspectives.

The fact that there exists a humanitarian “business” is part of the reason why. I believe humanitarianism is something that should exist completely outside of your own self-interest. C.S. Lewis’s thoughts on charity in The Four Loves goes into further detail on this if you can mind the religious bias (although any questioning of problems with society’s morality has some religious bias in that it assumes a good vs. evil standpoint, just not in the indoctrinated sense). By their definitions, businesses and employees are inherently self-interested beings.

About four times every week someone tries to hand me a pamphlet or get me to sign up for some moral cause. These people act as salesmen trying to exploit the natural psychological tendencies that all human beings have (an interesting read that describes in adequate detail several experiments on this is Robert B. Cialdini’s Influence), but because they are doing it for a “good cause,” we see nothing wrong in this. As soon as I feel I am being marketed to I completely shut myself off to the cause I am trying to be sold to. I am also left to wonder why they are standing there talking to me about all the problems in the world I already know about instead of going off and trying to improve the state of the world themselves, it all seems so hypocritical. I also have yet to understand how walking a lot with a bunch of other people helps to fight cancer or any other disease, and the same goes with wrist bands and t-shirts. These are what I think of as a diversion of resources and man-hours away from the core issue. If you want to raise awareness, I say bring the topics up in conversation because you care about them so much. Educate yourself and really understand what is going on within the issue, then teach your friends. End rant.

In my own life, I am spending all my resources on my education and technical skills so that I can produce charity in a much more efficient manner than I would currently be able to. I see nothing wrong with my unwillingness to support the humanitarian causes with my wallet, nor do I see anything wrong with my unwillingness to provide unskilled labor to the these causes. Securing my own well-being becomes a necessity in my goal to devote myself to humanitarian causes. Perhaps before the development of modern society this was not the case, but this certainly is the case now when trying to effect the economic well-being of large societies.

Next I’ll raise some questions that are meant to be very difficult to answer, but philosophy is just our feeble attempts at these types of questions anyway. They take a step back to look at what we define as morally good.
While we may have a sense of what is right and wrong, how should we actually measure the effects of our direct actions? If eating meat was cheaper than any other alternative in providing a nutrient we needed to survive would it be better to eat the meat and give the extra money we have to starving children (Just assume eating meat is morally wrong whether it is or isn’t)? Are the effects that occur immediately because of what we have done somehow more important than the effects ten years from now when judging from a moral standpoint, even though the latter effects may be infinitely more grand? Say you returned a stranger’s wallet that you found on the street, but because you did this it somehow results in the extinction of the human race 150 years later. Was it wrong that you returned the wallet? What if you somehow knew that it would result in the human race if you returned this man’s wallet, no matter in what manner or when you returned it. Now what is the morally correct decision? My belief in this conundrum is what leads me to a more macro-economic pursuit of humanitarianism. While going into the details of how I reasoned to this point would require some massive digressions from the topic at hand, I believe there is a correct balance between the two ways of living that entails a micro-economic viewpoint of morality when dealing with personal interaction and those closest to us and a macro-economic viewpoint of morality when trying to shape outcomes of those we have never met and only feel the need to help because of the fact that they are unable to help themselves.

If I could communicate more eloquently I would give a more generalized and abstract view on this. Also, I had a few other points I wanted to make but I need to sleep so maybe another day.

Thanks for your thoughts, DRayB. I will think about what you have said. For some reason, life happened and I completely lost interest in this thread. I suppose I have “bigger” things to worry about than worrying about worrying about grandiose ideas of moral obligation. I’d rather not respond right now because I no longer feel philosophically “bothered” by this issue. Anything I say right now will be me responding for the sake of responding. This goes for Smears’s comments as well. Sorry about that, guys. I’m kind of a bad OP-er. I will see if I can muster up responses at some point. Also, welcome to ILP, DRayB.

Moral failure? You first must believe that morality exists for it to be failure considering that other people might just call it effective business etiquette.

You would not have much of a world if every purely abstract concept were removed from…Though only examples of morality in action may be shown, and not morality as a thing, you might have to settle for the foot print…I know it is not much to put on the supper table, but you can always talk about the one that got away…

A world would still exist if metaphysical concepts were effectively stripped away just not one to your liking.

Moral actions for me don’t exist because for me altruism doesn’t exist.

Infact I think the prime basis for so called moral thinking is one of selfishness or self interests in that all metaphysical moral or ethical concepts require some form where one group is sacrificed for another and then is labelled as being good in conceptual form.

That which is in error usually exists inconsistently as to not exist at all.

You know yourself best, and you are the person who knows how to help yourself best. If everyone took the well-being of others above the well-being of themselves, it would end up being highly inefficient. Think of how communism ended up flopping - people aren’t able to help others as easily as they are able to help themselves… of course, there is a certain point where helping others is more efficient (when people are in groups that are family-sized or so).

Look at an ant hive or a bee hive. Those are species where individuals work for “the greater good”, and are more concerned about the well-being of others instead of themselves - and as a result, there is no emotion or free will for an ant or a bee, as these things come around usually only in species where individuals are self-reliant.

One time I was in a poorer region of the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico, and a kid there asked me if he could have some of the chips I was eating. I felt bad for the kid (as any good samaritan would), and gave him some chips. I was immediately swarmed with about a dozen or so kids who were all begging me for chips. Being startled, I ended up just giving away the bag of chips, and then the kids started fighting for it.

Imagine this happening in more primitive times - one peasant asks a noble for some food, the noble gives him some food, and then the noble is swarmed by peasants who ultimately end up mugging him and taking all of his food.

So now, when you ask why there is a lack of morality in our society, I’d have to tell you that it is just the way that humanity is. We’ve evolved to learn that we should only be generous and charitable towards people that we know and trust.

Communism has hardly flopped, unless we go bankrupt, and leave the commies holding the bag…Russian Communiism could not keep pace with us…They suffered two world wars, and went from being the fifth most industrialized country to the second…Yet, the Vietnam war which was a military defeat for us was a terrible economic defeat for them… They simply do not have the magic with numbers… If they could not just manage their economies, but manipulate them as well then they could not compete with us… That is how we beat them, with the dollar because the dollar could buy a piece of America…We corrupted them… We made them think that they could have it all, and that under communism they would have nothing…

You need a lesson in critters, and I will give you one: and ant colony or a bee hive is the equivalent of a single individual, and in that group are all the functions of a person… Drones or workers, or soldiers do not have an indivudal life…If the queen dies, they die, no matter how many survive after…In one respect, they are the same as any closely related community… People give up their lives so that their communities can live- so that their common life, and genes can survive…It is not a desirable end, but is a statagy of survival…And, you will find that no person ever belongs to any relationship for which they will not sacrifice…No one wants to die; but if the choice is offered, you life for the life of your children, or you entire family, then that is a rational choice…Primitives were more certain where their lives came from and what their obligation to society was… That is the fact that made them moral…

Humans were not meant to live in such slavery - to let our already handicapped “human condition” be broken down even further as sacrifice to some illusionary “greater good”; it is slave morality, and it is a pathetic resort for individuals who are too insecure living their own lives that they feel the need to drag others down with them.

If you want an example of “true virtue”, look at ancient Greece, where morality wasn’t enforced but instead it was placed upon a pedestal.

The idea of communism sounds nice and dandy, but it doesn’t work - it is a pipe dream. Even your esteemed eastern communist nations have had to resort to introducing capitalistic properties to save themselves from impending economic collapse, and they needed despotism and a long-held cultural stress on “discipline” to even make it that far. The Russians weren’t so lucky - the mindset of Russia’s people was far too European to actually pull off some half-baked communist shenanigan.

I believe Marx said himself that true communism couldn’t be sustained without ultimately resorting to an oligarchy, and communism is more of a societal movement than a feasible way of running a nation.

People have often made idols of their ideals…Okay; in the last few hundred year we have suffered a tyranny of ideas…People use ideas instead of thought, when in it natural light ideas are the product of thought and the vehicle of thought… We also construct social forms out of moral forms, and that is what communism is ann example of… No one can create the ideal society out of ideas…People need to be free to form their own relationships…And as an economy socialism has much to recommend it; but it is usually only accepted out of desparation… Well; don’t look now, but we are suffering the miserable socialism of poverty so that we can have a few splendidly rich people…Capitalism no less than communism is great on paper, but so is poop…No economy can justify the betrayal of democracy, but capitalism could not survive democracy…If the rich could not bend governmment to their will they would soon and justly lose all they have to the commonwealth…There is nothing incompatible btween socialism and democracy…Socialism is the economic expression of democracy… But look closely at your ancient Greece…By the time Plato was writing unequal wealth was already well along in the destruction of the democracy…The people were already demoralized…They had political rights without the economic equality to make those rights meaningful… And you see what the rich did…One of them once complained that No Athenian could dare strike a slave who blocked his way in the market place for fear of hitting an empoverished free citizen…How does a society carry on with the smaller part holding the larger in contempt, and jealous of their rights…As long as property has rights our rights will be seen as property for the rich to buy and the poor to try to afford…

Nice. :slight_smile: