Member posted 08-21-1999 09:00 PM
“I do like the idea of considering things from the other person's perspective, but how about including 'innocence' in the examples?”
Remember, the OP asked the question “How much does one owe a complete stranger?” I think it’s safe to assume that Athena wanted to know what our decisions would be without knowing the moral character of the clerk, spouse, or complete stranger. Besides which, “innocence” is a highly subjective term. In the second example, would a man that ignores his wife be innocent? If he’s “let himself go” and is no longer attractive? What if he often insults her? If he cheats on her? If he beats her? These are all excuses that people use to justify hurting the spouse, and they’re exactly that: excuses. I’m not saying that it’s okay to beat your spouse, but just because someone has hurt someone else doesn’t give you the right to hurt them in “retaliation” (it’s in quotes because to be true retaliation, it would have to be the person that was hurt that’s hurting the person). Does morality only apply to people you like? Any time you’re trying to rationalize hurting someone else, it’s really easy to find something that they’ve done wrong that makes them “deserve” what you’re doing to them.
But even ignoring the problems involved in determining “innocence”. If someone is “innocent”, are you obligated to put every single one of their concerns before your own? Aren’t there some situations where self-interest, even at the expense of an “innocent” party, is acceptable? If not, then is there any difference between not giving a panhandler money (assuming he’s "innocent”) and stealing from a bank? If the bank got the money through “dishonest” practices, would stealing that money actually be *better* than not giving to the panhandler? (Ignore the FDIC).
It seems to me that everyone has their own ideas of what is good and back, which I will refer to as a PMC (Personal Moral Code). In my experience, at least 99% of the people who say “do unto other as you would have them do unto you” don’t actually believe that they should do anything that anyone else wants them to. My interpretation of this statement is that what they mean is “You would want others to be good to you, so you should be good to them.” Of course, when people say “be good”, what they mean is “follow my PMC”. So the Golden Rule isn’t, in itself, actually a moral code; it simply refers a more complete, and probably more arbitrary PMC. And since the Golden Rule is defined in terms of one's PMC, saying that one's PMC is based upon the Golden Rule is circular.
Even though the PMC is, well, personal, most people agree with the Golden Rule, so they think they have same moral code as someone else that also agrees with the Golden Rule, when they don’t, unless by some coincidence they share the same PMC. So everyone expects everyone else to follow their PMC, and think that everyone else has agreed to do so. And when everyone else doesn’t, they get annoyed and think other people aren’t “playing fair”.
Also, I make a distinction between different levels of “should”. Three main divisions are:
Taking it a bit too far
If a friend lets me borrow his car, bringing it back to him is required. If my friend wants to borrow my car, that’s a reasonable request. If a total stranger asks to borrow my car, that’s taking it too far. So into which category do you think the three situations of the OP fit?
Member posted 08-21-1999 09:12 PM
“And messing around with a married person is just something that I wouldn't do. I know I wouldn't because I have felt that way (interested) toward married men. I guess the difference is I wouldn't act on that feeling no matter how compelling it was.”
I interpreted your original post as saying that you would never have to decide whether or not to “mess around” with a married man because you’d never be in a position in which you’d feel that “messing around” is an option. I guess we have different ideas of what it means to be “involved”. To me, it doesn’t necessitate any sexual activity, although it can include sexual activity.
" ‘Ideas on Earth were badges of friendship or enmity. Their content did not matter.’ " -Kurt Vonnegut, * Breakfast of Champions *