Just a few comments I’d like to share before my post:
Boone, I enjoyed the class and your style of teaching very much. You have a great sense of humor, as do my fellow students, which lightened an otherwise deep subject. It is too bad we were not able to go into greater depth with Nietzsche. Based on the reading, he seems to be quite controversial, and I would have appreciated your thoughts, as well as the other students, on his style. As far as posting blogs/comments, I thought the exercise was very helpful. I tend to, as many people do, get stuck in one thought pattern. To read other people’s comments helped me to look at the theory in question and view it in a way I didn’t think of. I hope the very best for all of you!!!
Now on to my post…
According to Nietzsche there are two kinds of morality. The Master morality comes from the aristocratic view that whatever one is and likes is good and whatever one dislikes and is unlike one is bad. On the other hand, the Slave morality comes from a resentment of the power of the masters. Slaves see their weakness and poverty as good and the masters as evil because of everything they stand for. The master’s “good” is the slave’s “evil” and the master’s “bad” is the slave’s “good. Nietzsche felt that aristocratic nature is in part bred into us, and that some are born better off than others, and that society as a whole thrives with a strong aristocratic class. Nietzsche expressed that genius is not as rare as we think; however, what is rare is the art of being able to remove ourselves from others and discipline ourselves to the point that one can refine one’s genius. According to Nietzsche, whatever we see as “true” at a given moment is true. Every one of us has inner struggles, and all of us live with certain assumptions and beliefs. For instance, one may be steadfast in their religious beliefs, while another may hold true to their political views. The question of whether these beliefs are true or false is not the issue; what matters is that all beliefs and assumptions represent our identity, and this is where the power lies (from within). The greatest power that we can have is power over ourselves, and we gain power over ourselves by submitting them to our will. Strong-willed, free-spirited people are always ready to face their fundamental beliefs and question their identity, which takes great courage. There are many aspects of what Nietzsche believed that I find fascinating. For instance, I do believe that power, courage, etc. is within all of us, and within our reach. However, you do not need to be noble to achieve power. Also, It is unclear as to when power becomes abuse of power, or if Nietzsche even thinks there is such a thing as abuse of power. For me, Hitler is an example of someone who was brilliant but severely abused his power. Also, the power that I hold in my mind may be viewed as powerless in your mind. Although, what I do get from Nietzsche is that it does not matter what other people think only what you think. If Nietzsche were true to his convictions, than perhaps he is mistaken on his view on slaves. Perhaps the noble viewed the slaves as powerless, but the slave’s viewed themselves as powerful. Or is it that when Nietzsche speaks of slaves, he speaking of those who are imprisoned in their own beliefs.
There is no good that comes from murder!
Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean discusses the concept that the mean lies between opposites in human conduct and that if an individual were to follow the mean between extremes they would be leading an ethical way of life. For instance, if the mean were truthfulness, the excess would be boastfulness and the deficiency would be understatement. The virtuous act is one that is usually middle way between two extremes. However, there is not a mean to be sought in all cases, and murder is one of them. What makes murder wrong for Aristotle? Murder is wrong because virtues, according to Aristotle, are those traits admired by good people and they help us to live rational and social lives. Murder is an action that is wrong because there is no goodness in it, so a person who commits murder will never be good and will always be bad. If an individual doubts that murder is wrong, it is because they don’t know the true meaning of murder. The word murder implies badness just from the name. Some intermediates have no excesses or deficiencies because what they imply is already extreme. Aristotle’s view is that individuals are always searching to reach the highest degree of excellence, and murder, because of it’s implication, does not fit into the description of excellence.
With respect to a child who is party to the contract in a limited way (or anyone lacking full adult maturity), someone must be held accountable for them. The parents or guardian who are responsible for the care of the minor have a duty to society and the law to ensure that the minor follows “rules” of society, and if not followed retribution takes place. For example, if a minor throws a ball and breaks his neighbor’s window it is the parent/guardian who must pay for the window. However, it is also the parent/guardian who is responsible for teaching the child the lessons of breaking a neighbor’s window, and the consequences that follow. It is through these childhood lessons that one hopes the minor becomes an adult who integrates well into society. We do not treat infants the same way as minors, and the same holds true for minors as adults. It is a process, baby steps if you will, to reach competent maturity. Once we have reached competent maturity, we are expected to abide by society rules. A three-year old who smothers his baby sister to death is not viewed by society in the same manner as a 24-year old man who smothers his sister to death over not paying a telephone bill. Both cases are terrible, but the minor is not held accountable in the same way as the adult. Morally it is wrong to kill, but the standards of morality are treated differently for the minor than the adult. So if minors are party to the contract in a limited way than their moral judgement is also limited.
The social contract in connection to morality is described as a set of rules governing behavior that rational people will accept on the condition that others accept them as well. In order for a cooperative social order to exist rules that would benefit that order need to be established, and through those in power, enforced. The social contract is not a contract that is written or even verbal between two or more people, but one abided by through our actions. It is through our actions not our words that make it the social contract (I won’t hit you and you won’t hit me). We look to who ever is in authority to ensure that rules are not broken, and if they are than justice is properly served. We give up our rights in order for the government (body) to do what is right, but this does not mean that the individuals who make up that government are exempt from society rules. We would otherwise live in a rather corrupt society and it would defeat the whole purpose of the social contract. For instance, if President George Bush wanted to punch Harry Nobody in the face he could, but that does not mean, just because he is the president, that he is exempt from the consequences of what happens next.
Hobbes’s conception of the “state of nature” is that each individual is, by nature, good or evil. Hobbes thought that if there were no government, laws, courts etc., and we are free to do whatever we want, all bedlam would break loose. Not necessarily because people are bad, but because there are four basic facts about the condition of human life (equality of need, scarcity, the essential equality of human power, and limited altruism) that would create such bedlam. Hobbes’s idea is that the “State of Nature” will eventually become the “State of War” where everyone is against everyone. People would always be at war with each other (a war of all against all). One of the reasons for this idea is that there is severe competition over scarce resources caused by the nature of man. It was not until people discovered that through reason they could prevent their demise by acting toward one another in a mutually helpful way. In order for peace and a cooperative social order, rules that will benefit social living need be established. People must accept these rules on the condition that others accept them as well, and it is through this mutual agreement that people give up their innate freedom from restriction and control in order to establish harmony.
If I had to choose between Mill’s theory & Kant’s theory, I’d have to go with Mill. I believe Kant’s theory is rigid. Kant’s theory seems very much like the “Golden Rule”, (which many of us try and practice), and applies in many of his moral issues (theft, suicide, lying, etc.) However, because it is absolute & unconditional at all times it seems to set us up to be immoral at some point in our lives. How great would this world be if all of us practiced Kant’s theory, for instance, “never lie”(big lie, white lie, fat lie, etc.). But, this is unrealistic. To Kant a lie is a lie is a lie. However, how many of us have told little white lies? Does this make us immoral and irrational? I don’t think so. The problem with Kant’s theory is that all lies are of the same degree. For instance, lying on the Bar Exam is equivalent to calling in work & saying you are stuck in traffic when you really woke up late (not that I have done this). I’d be interested to know if Kant ever told a lie. When you use words like absolute or unconditional there is bound to be some immoral activity going on.
On the other hand, Mill’s theory seems too lenient. There seems to be quite a gray area. The fact that the ONLY thing that matters is the amount of overall happiness or unhappiness and everything else is irrelevant seems wrong at times. Also, the fact that we are required to treat everyone with equal concern just doesn’t happen. We don’t treat our neighbors or strangers the same way we treat loved ones. Also, the best outcome is all that matter. Rachels gives an example of a Peeping Tom where the only consequence of his action is an increase in his own happiness (no one detected him and he was a very happy boy, or Tom), so according to Mill, Peeping Tom is the ultimate Utilitarian. I, for obvious reasons, see something wrong with this picture. I still think Mill has a better shot at people practicing his theory than Kan’t (something dark about telling the murderer where poor Grandma is).
What is the connection to rationality and self-interest or self-love? Kant’s Universal Imperative of duty is “act as if the maxim of your action were to become by your will a universal law of nature”. Kant assumes that one is irrational if they do not accept the principles of the Categorical Imperative or the Universal Imperative. Rationality is based on the fact that we are capable of making decisions, setting goals, and creating paths to proper conduct. Self-interest or self-love is applying the rational part of our being to expand or enrich our life with the types of decisions we make the goals we set, and the way in which we choose to conduct ourselves. Kant’s example of a talented man neglecting his natural talents and instead “prefers to give himself up to pleasure” assumes that everyone that has special talents should cultivate them as a duty to oneself. He does not take into account or further define what talent means, or what it should or should not be used for. As discussed in class, a talent for blowing the world’s greatest bubble for one may seem quite idiotic or useless to another; therefore it could not be willed as a universal law. There needs to be some relevancy as to what constitutes talent and the ways in which it is utilized.