Must we BE good to DO good?

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Comments

  • sionisais wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    sionisais wrote: »
    No problem, it's not only the basis of a lot of religion but specifically the basis of Christianity. Those biological imperatives and learned behaviours have, at most times and in most places, put man in the position of not being good. Man is a wanting animal. He wants the best and then he wants some more.
    This fails the sniff test as man is a social animal as well. The biological imperative it species survival, and cooperation is part of this. This hold true even if we go to one's own genes being primary.

    I agree that man is a social animal, but he is a very choosy social animal. If he can't get what he wants with who he wants and where and when he wants then he becomes an anti-social animal very quickly unless some external factor steps in. While we have moral codes and ethics to counter these we also have laws and regulations, enforced by other fallible persons, to minimise anti-social actions.

    Quite - mankind is very good at imposing high moral standards on others, but not so good at living by those same standards himself. C. S. Lewis and many others have said much about this.
  • But not only John Calvin...

    Martin Luther:
    “Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works; evil works do not make a wicked man, but a wicked man does evil works.”
  • Dafyd wrote: »
    The historical Aristotle I fear would probably have said, yes, those are barbarians, only Greeks have the right kind of society in which to be properly ethical. A less chauvinistic Aristotelian would probably say that in order for a human society to be more or less functional for human beings it has to have at least a minimum level of virtue. A society with no understanding of virtue would fall apart.

    This seems like a version of the equation "the right thing is doing what all right-thinking Greeks would do", which in turn seems to be "the ethical" in Fear and Trembling.

    Which is all very well.. except that we have examples of deeply flawed societies. The "commonly agreed standard of ethics" is not often particularly useful.

  • Mark Betts wrote: »
    What makes us good? Possible Christian answers:
    1. Baptism - but only for the moment, it's a beginning where the idea is to remain good, confessing our sins when we fail
    2. Evangelicals (i) - The "born again" phenomenon - but a beginning (as above). I would say that so long as they get baptised, there isn't really a problem here - sort of "belt and braces"
    3. Evangelicals (ii) - the ones that think they are good from the moment they are "born again," no matter what they do. Yes, well I'm sure most can see the problem with this.

    However, the idea of it only being possible to do good if you are already "good" is something that we've inherited from Calvinism. He's probably at least partly responsible for option 3 (above) as well.
    The idea of it only being possible to do good if you're already good is about as far from Calvin as one can get, as is option 3 in your list.

    Calvin was pretty clear that we are only "good" and only do "good" through grace.

  • sionisais wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    sionisais wrote: »
    No problem, it's not only the basis of a lot of religion but specifically the basis of Christianity. Those biological imperatives and learned behaviours have, at most times and in most places, put man in the position of not being good. Man is a wanting animal. He wants the best and then he wants some more.
    This fails the sniff test as man is a social animal as well. The biological imperative it species survival, and cooperation is part of this. This hold true even if we go to one's own genes being primary.

    I agree that man is a social animal, but he is a very choosy social animal. If he can't get what he wants with who he wants and where and when he wants then he becomes an anti-social animal very quickly unless some external factor steps in. While we have moral codes and ethics to counter these we also have laws and regulations, enforced by other fallible persons, to minimise anti-social actions.
    We have the laws and moral codes because we, as a group, recognise the value of good behaviour. As has been demonstrated throughout history, laws only work as long as the society constrained by them chooses to be so constrained.

  • Mark Betts wrote: »
    What makes us good? Possible Christian answers:
    1. Baptism - but only for the moment, it's a beginning where the idea is to remain good, confessing our sins when we fail
    2. Evangelicals (i) - The "born again" phenomenon - but a beginning (as above). I would say that so long as they get baptised, there isn't really a problem here - sort of "belt and braces"
    3. Evangelicals (ii) - the ones that think they are good from the moment they are "born again," no matter what they do. Yes, well I'm sure most can see the problem with this.

    However, the idea of it only being possible to do good if you are already "good" is something that we've inherited from Calvinism. He's probably at least partly responsible for option 3 (above) as well.

    The problem with Calvin is that he followed Aquinas in believing God, as its creator, was outside the historical process while most of his followers believe God acts within it. After all, Calvin was trained by Dominicans. For Calvin, therefore, the sign that a person was born again was the good acts that came from that person. As God acted from outside history those acts were part of the process of being born again. Someone who made all the professions of being born again but did not produce good acts was about as born again as an apple tree that bore no apples. This only makes real sense if one holds God to be outside history. If God is subject to history there are all sorts of problems arise. You can fall either into a philosophy of Good works or you can end up with magic formulae. Only when we start to realise our salvation is not for this instance of ourselves but for all of ourselves in all the seconds of our lives and that all these are interdependent do we start to have a basis to interpret Calvin's understanding of Grace and Salvation.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    lilbuddha: We have the laws and moral codes because we, as a group, recognise the value of good behaviour. As has been demonstrated throughout history, laws only work as long as the society constrained by them chooses to be so constrained.

    You may well be right, but that can have very little to do with the inherent goodness of the individuals. Hobbes, for example, held that humans were naturally and dangerously competitive, and left to their own devices would produce a situation in which life was "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short,' and because what humans most feared was "violent death" they should consent to the authoritarian rule of Leviathan, "a mortal God". In other words it is the inherent destructiveness or negative features of human behaviour that what you describe as "good behaviour" is the consequence of the necessity of heavy restraint.
  • Kwesi wrote: »
    lilbuddha: We have the laws and moral codes because we, as a group, recognise the value of good behaviour. As has been demonstrated throughout history, laws only work as long as the society constrained by them chooses to be so constrained.

    You may well be right, but that can have very little to do with the inherent goodness of the individuals. Hobbes, for example, held that humans were naturally and dangerously competitive, and left to their own devices would produce a situation in which life was "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short,' and because what humans most feared was "violent death" they should consent to the authoritarian rule of Leviathan, "a mortal God". In other words it is the inherent destructiveness or negative features of human behaviour that what you describe as "good behaviour" is the consequence of the necessity of heavy restraint.
    We do not have "heavy restraint" for most people in most countries. Were Hobbes correct, we would not have survived long enough to develop the systems we use.

  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    lilbuddha: We do not have "heavy restraint" for most people in most countries. Were Hobbes correct, we would not have survived long enough to develop the systems we use.

    I think Hobbes would ask you, lilbuddha, why if human beings are naturally co-operative there is any necessity for government. He might also suggest that you underestimate the coercive power exercised by the modern state.

  • lilbuddha wrote: »
    Kwesi wrote: »
    lilbuddha: We have the laws and moral codes because we, as a group, recognise the value of good behaviour. As has been demonstrated throughout history, laws only work as long as the society constrained by them chooses to be so constrained.

    You may well be right, but that can have very little to do with the inherent goodness of the individuals. Hobbes, for example, held that humans were naturally and dangerously competitive, and left to their own devices would produce a situation in which life was "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short,' and because what humans most feared was "violent death" they should consent to the authoritarian rule of Leviathan, "a mortal God". In other words it is the inherent destructiveness or negative features of human behaviour that what you describe as "good behaviour" is the consequence of the necessity of heavy restraint.
    We do not have "heavy restraint" for most people in most countries. Were Hobbes correct, we would not have survived long enough to develop the systems we use.

    I don't particularly rate Hobbes personally (bit of a tosser IMO), but I don't think the point of the Leviathan was to actually use heavy restraint, but to be that power in the background with a big stick.

    In contrast to a lawless society where there is no "ultimate" authority outwith of individuals taking offence at each others' behaviour.

    Whether he intended to say something beyond his blind loyalty to the Crown is perhaps debatable, but later political theorists have taken him to be referring to the benefits of having a strong independent legal state system with powers over individuals that actually matter.

    Which, does tangentially relate back to the OP.

    Are people only good when others are watching (Ring of Gyges, Glaucon?)?

  • Kwesi wrote: »
    lilbuddha: We do not have "heavy restraint" for most people in most countries. Were Hobbes correct, we would not have survived long enough to develop the systems we use.

    I think Hobbes would ask you, lilbuddha, why if human beings are naturally co-operative there is any necessity for government.
    We are cooperative, just not perfectly cooperative. We are evolved to be cooperative within small groups. Any large group will be less homogeneous than it might appear from the outside and government evolves, in part, to manage that.
    Organisations are also entities in themselves, so the government we have v. the government we need will be fluid and imperfect even before adding the government we¹ want.
    Libertarians are fools. Freedom isn't small government; it is large government, properly managed.² The problem is that, to an individual, large government feels mildly oppressive. But this is necessary to give the most freedom to the largest number of people.

    ¹We, individuals and smaller groups and the variations inherent within that.
    ²A medium sized government would probably be able to maintain the best balance, but also probably unable to exist. Large government's weakness of slow change is also a protection for the governed.
    He might also suggest that you underestimate the coercive power exercised by the modern state.
    It is a conundrum. In order for power to be effective, it must be strong. Power had is power abused. At least at some point and to some extent. But protection and freedom are opposites, so we must play the balance.


  • mr cheesy wrote: »

    I don't particularly rate Hobbes personally (bit of a tosser IMO), but I don't think the point of the Leviathan was to actually use heavy restraint, but to be that power in the background with a big stick.

    In contrast to a lawless society where there is no "ultimate" authority outwith of individuals taking offence at each others' behaviour.
    Truly lawless societies don't last long and do not grow.
    Whether he intended to say something beyond his blind loyalty to the Crown is perhaps debatable, but later political theorists have taken him to be referring to the benefits of having a strong independent legal state system with powers over individuals that actually matter.
    As I mentioned in my reply to Kwesi, we are not as homogeneous as we prefer to think, therefore what actually matters will be up for debate.
    Are people only good when others are watching (Ring of Gyges, Glaucon?)?
    I think this is rubbish. We are social and part of that is acceptance by society. We are eveolved, and conditioned, to maintain our groups and part of that is supporting the group and part of that is sublimation into the group.
    Philosophy is all well and fine, but it often fails to come to complete grasp with nuance or reality.

  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    edited February 2
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Philosophy is all well and fine, but it often fails to come to complete grasp with nuance or reality.

    Well said, madam. But also complete bollocks.

    Without Socrates there would not be Hobbes, without Hobbes there would not be the Social Contract, without the Social Contract there would not be the modern understanding of the state.

    The idea that philosophy fails in the face of reality is laughable given how dependent our perception of reality is on philosophy.
  • mr cheesy wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Philosophy is all well and fine, but it often fails to come to complete grasp with nuance or reality.

    Well said, madam. But also complete bollocks.

    Without Socrates there would not be Hobbes, without Hobbes there would not be the Social Contract, without the Social Contract there would not be the modern understanding of the state.

    The idea that philosophy fails in the face of reality is laughable given how dependent our perception of reality is on philosophy.
    You missed that what I said is indeed philosophical itself. Also, I would not slam philosophy entirely, regardless. Just that one can follow a path dwon the rabbit hole to another land if one is not careful and philosophy often does this. Also, one person's "oppression" is another's freedom. Sometimes literally.

  • lilbuddha wrote: »
    mr cheesy wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Philosophy is all well and fine, but it often fails to come to complete grasp with nuance or reality.

    Well said, madam. But also complete bollocks.

    Without Socrates there would not be Hobbes, without Hobbes there would not be the Social Contract, without the Social Contract there would not be the modern understanding of the state.

    The idea that philosophy fails in the face of reality is laughable given how dependent our perception of reality is on philosophy.
    You missed that what I said is indeed philosophical itself. Also, I would not slam philosophy entirely, regardless. Just that one can follow a path dwon the rabbit hole to another land if one is not careful and philosophy often does this. Also, one person's "oppression" is another's freedom. Sometimes literally.

    This is certainly true.

    But I dunno, for me when we are talking about doing or not doing the right thing, it makes sense to frame it in philosophical ways.

    Particularly when there are philosophical discussions that go back millennia like the Ring of Gyges.
  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, Hell Host
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    ...Libertarians are fools. ...
    Not necessarily. The idea that consenting adults should be able to engage in behaviors not endorsed by most of society (homosexual relations, ingesting recreational drugs, reading unpopular opinions) in a private setting, as long as they're not harming any other creatures, is a libertarian concept. Society has to be on guard against the tyranny of the majority.

  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Mark Betts wrote: »
    What makes us good? Possible Christian answers:
    1. Baptism - but only for the moment, it's a beginning where the idea is to remain good, confessing our sins when we fail
    2. Evangelicals (i) - The "born again" phenomenon - but a beginning (as above). I would say that so long as they get baptised, there isn't really a problem here - sort of "belt and braces"
    3. Evangelicals (ii) - the ones that think they are good from the moment they are "born again," no matter what they do. Yes, well I'm sure most can see the problem with this.

    However, the idea of it only being possible to do good if you are already "good" is something that we've inherited from Calvinism. He's probably at least partly responsible for option 3 (above) as well.

    What makes us not bad is constant grace. Constant forgiveness means starting again. Constantly. So we can fail better.
  • Rossweisse wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    ...Libertarians are fools. ...
    Not necessarily. The idea that consenting adults should be able to engage in behaviors not endorsed by most of society (homosexual relations, ingesting recreational drugs, reading unpopular opinions) in a private setting, as long as they're not harming any other creatures, is a libertarian concept. Society has to be on guard against the tyranny of the majority.
    Representative Democracy is a guard against the tyranny of the majority. Small government encourages the tyranny of the majority. I suppose that theoretically a small government could do this, but in practice...

  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, Hell Host
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Representative Democracy is a guard against the tyranny of the majority. ...
    Not necessarily.

    A majority of voters (and their elected representatives) prevented women from becoming full citizens under the law in the United States, because they defeated the Equal Rights Amendment.

    I live in a state where LGBT citizens can legally be fired or denied rental housing because of their sexual orientations, just because the majority are fine with that.

    I believe that all adult citizens should share the same rights and responsibilities, but that is not the law of the land.


  • Rossweisse wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Representative Democracy is a guard against the tyranny of the majority. ...
    Not necessarily.

    A majority of voters (and their elected representatives) prevented women from becoming full citizens under the law in the United States, because they defeated the Equal Rights Amendment.

    I live in a state where LGBT citizens can legally be fired or denied rental housing because of their sexual orientations, just because the majority are fine with that.

    I believe that all adult citizens should share the same rights and responsibilities, but that is not the law of the land.
    I don't see how small government would make that better. More likely it would be what we see with the states, that small governments within oppress groups even more than the larger, federal government.
    I did not say that large government was perfect, it isn't. The fight for rights is slow, but the erosion of rights is slower as well.
  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, Hell Host
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    ...I did not say that large government was perfect, it isn't. The fight for rights is slow, but the erosion of rights is slower as well.
    A brief survey of 20th century history should both confirm your first statement and disprove your second.


  • Rossweisse wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    ...I did not say that large government was perfect, it isn't. The fight for rights is slow, but the erosion of rights is slower as well.
    A brief survey of 20th century history should both confirm your first statement and disprove your second.
    I disagree. But my main contention is that less government isn't going to make that better. It just erodes the governments ability to do anything about the laws it makes. The shutdown should give an example of how that works, albeit an extreme one.

  • RussRuss Shipmate
    I think one can believe in a small government (one that does few things) whilst still counting enforcement of a Bill of Rights that applies to all adult citizens as one of those few things.
    Kwesi wrote: »
    What do we mean when we say a person is good or an action is good?

    I'd say that a good person is a person who customarily makes good choices. That choices are the domain to which the concept of morality primarily applies. Actions we do not choose (sneezing ?) cannot be morally good or bad.
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    sionisais wrote: »
    Man is a wanting animal. He wants the best and then he wants some more.
    ...man is a social animal as well.

    Yes. Because man is a social animal, his wants include having status within his community. So he can be led by peer pressure to do various bad things.

    And also, one of his wants is to see whatever is considered good in his community happening everywhere. For a social animal, it's really easy to mix up what is good with what one's culture counts as good.

    ("Truth, Justice and the American Way")
  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, Hell Host
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    ...I did not say that large government was perfect, it isn't. The fight for rights is slow, but the erosion of rights is slower as well.
    Tell that to the victims of Bolshevism, of Naziism, of Maoism; tell that to the Uighers, and to other current victims of powerful governments.

    As for the shutdown, that's a different set of issues.


  • Rossweisse wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    ...I did not say that large government was perfect, it isn't. The fight for rights is slow, but the erosion of rights is slower as well.
    Tell that to the victims of Bolshevism, of Naziism, of Maoism; tell that to the Uighers, and to other current victims of powerful governments.
    Size and power are two different things and none of those examples are democratic. Form is a factor as well.





  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, Hell Host
    Well, I gave you a couple of rights failures in the democracy known as the United States, and you brushed them off. You wanted big government; I gave you big government.

  • Rossweisse wrote: »
    Well, I gave you a couple of rights failures in the democracy known as the United States, and you brushed them off. You wanted big government; I gave you big government.
    Becaause your examples don't mean what you think they mean. LGBT+ rights are on the rise, just not as fast as they should be. However, in a libertarian scenario, they would be safe in Southern California + San Francisco, Atlanta and New York. Most everywhere else rights would be non-existent.
    Women's right would be a bit more spread out, but still not equal and brown people would be fucked pretty much everywhere. The other side to the coin for the slow erosion of rights can be the slow growth of them. However, big government in America made the Civil Rights Act possible. Giving a swifter push than any of the state governments were doing.

  • It doesn't matter to me if I am in a minority and the majority of people in democracy think my group should be enslaved or otherwise oppressed, or if I'm in a divine rights type of monarchy and the plutocrats think the same way. If there are nor firm controls on the majority to restrain their crowd impulses there's trouble.

    The problems as I see them are the combining of democracy with economic systems which are fully anti-democratic, conflating them and thinking they're integral parts of each other. We're seeing right now that minority rights are becoming brandname and corporate rights, and are protected from the majority's rule.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    The questions to ask of Libertarians is why they think there should be any government at all, and how government came about in the first place. Come to think of it, those are questions to be asked of us all!
  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, Hell Host
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    ...However, big government in America made the Civil Rights Act possible. Giving a swifter push than any of the state governments were doing.
    Big government in America also made the interment of Japanese-American citizens (and the confiscation of their property) possible. What you don't seem to recognize is that a better balance is needed.


  • Rossweisse wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    ...However, big government in America made the Civil Rights Act possible. Giving a swifter push than any of the state governments were doing.
    Big government in America also made the interment of Japanese-American citizens (and the confiscation of their property) possible. What you don't seem to recognize is that a better balance is needed.
    If there had been racial equality, then you might have the beginning of a point. But there wasn’t and less government might’ve led to worse treatment.

  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, Hell Host
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    [If there had been racial equality, then you might have the beginning of a point. But there wasn’t and less government might’ve led to worse treatment.
    You always have an answer, even if it's not apropos.


  • Rossweisse wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    [If there had been racial equality, then you might have the beginning of a point. But there wasn’t and less government might’ve led to worse treatment.
    You always have an answer, even if it's not apropos.
    how is this not apropos? Government staying out of people’s business (aka small government) is what allowed lynching in the South.

  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, Hell Host
    No, that was wrong-headed government. The Feds weren't stopping it.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    [url="lilbuddha:"]lilbuddha:[/url] Government staying out of people’s business (aka small government) is what allowed lynching in the South.

    Rossweisse: No, that was wrong-headed government. The Feds weren't stopping it.

    I thought that in the US context the presence of "Feds" is precisely what is meant by "Big Government." Lilbuddha is bang on target.
  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, Hell Host
    I apologize for being unclear. In the context of the Japanese-Americans, the "Feds" who failed to stop the plan were the Supreme Court and the Congress.

  • lilbuddhalilbuddha Shipmate
    edited February 5
    That those who have oversight can fail, doesn’t disprove that oversight is generally better;ref. civil rights legislation. And certainly doesn’t carry forward the idea that lack of oversight would do better.
  • DafydDafyd Shipmate
    That government is essentially there to serve the interests of the ruling classes seems to me at least as true as that courtesy titles are there to enforce power dynamics.
    Everything government does to serve the community as a whole, where not in the self-interest of the ruling classes, has been wrested from the ruling classes by the rest of the community after hard-won struggle.
    (I am just old enough to remember the early years of Thatcher, when it wasn't clear just how much the right was going to co-opt the language of resistance to government to try and roll back the struggle. It's a bit of an illusion. Except for the utter fringes of libertarianism the right is largely in favour of expanding law enforcement. Libertarian thought may be summed up as opposing in the name of freedom all functions of government except those that threaten freedom.)
  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, Hell Host
    I am not a Libertarian. I do embrace some libertarian concepts (like consenting adults, etc.) in certain contexts.
  • lilbuddhalilbuddha Shipmate
    edited February 6
    Dafyd wrote: »
    That government is essentially there to serve the interests of the ruling classes seems to me at least as true as that courtesy titles are there to enforce power dynamics.
    Both are more nuanced than that.
    Everything government does to serve the community as a whole, where not in the self-interest of the ruling classes, has been wrested from the ruling classes by the rest of the community after hard-won struggle.
    Yes, and then enshrined in government. And then enforced by government. I am in no way saying government is perfect or completely wonderful. Just that without enough of it, those hard-won rights evaporate more quickly.
    (I am just old enough to remember the early years of Thatcher, when it wasn't clear just how much the right was going to co-opt the language of resistance to government to try and roll back the struggle.
    There will always be a power struggle. There is no resting in this.
    Libertarian thought may be summed up as opposing in the name of freedom all functions of government except those that threaten freedom.)
    Rubbish. This is what they say. The reality is that many, if not most, libertarians oppose functions of government except those that threaten their own freedom. Libertarians were never on the forefront of Civil Rights.
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