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To anyone who believes in morality

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3 years ago#1
Do you believe that there exists a distinction between obligatory acts and just 'good' ones? For instance, assume for the sake of argument that giving money to the homeless is always morally good, without exception. If you can afford to give change to a beggar, but choose not to, is that morally neutral (meaning you simply chose not to do a good act), or is that morally bad (in that your omission is a fault in and of itself, rather than just the absence of virtue). Basically, it's the question from Star Trek (whether or not somethings can be morally praiseworthy without being morally obligatory). I ask because I was thinking about my Christian upbringing. I remember that at some point in my childhood or early adolescence, I came to the belief that whenever you failed to do something good, you were being just as bad as if you had done active harm. It wasn't based on a close reading of theology or anything; I'm not 100% sure when or why I started thinking like that.

You can choose another example beside beggars if you want. Actually, I ask that you do; I'm curious as to whether you draw the distinction differently for different circumstances. (For instance, you might say it's neutral not to give change to a beggar, but that it's bad to let someone drown if you could have saved him).

Along the same lines, to what extent do you think we should distinguish between omission and commission? It feels to me that pushing someone into traffic and failing to save someone from incoming traffic are very different. On the other hand, pushing a button which will result in someone's death, and refusing to push a button that will result in someone's life being saved, seem roughly equivalent to me. I would argue that the scenarios offered are actually not that different beyond my emotional response to them.

Not doing this to argue with someone or tell them they're wrong, just curious. Any answers will be appreciated.
I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast ... for it repenteth me that I have made them. - Genesis 7
3 years ago#2
You should make sure you ask whether the money you give is for.
If for drugs or alcohol and you still give it is a sin.
Divine Mercy - God Loves you as a sinner.
Christ Said: Before the Day of Justice, I am sending the Day of Mercy. (Diary 1588) Day of Mercy was declared in 2000
3 years ago#3
I tend to think that all else being equal, it is immoral to refrain from taking a moral action, and that commission weighs more than omission. The trick of it is that all else is never equal.

Taking a look at your example, I'll do you one better. Since we've decided that it is morally good without exception to give money to beggars, if you find yourself with spare change, is it immoral not to seek out a beggar to give it to? How long do you have to look for one before it's at least morally neutral to quit and keep the money?

Then there's motivations and responsibility as well, is it more moral to give money to a beggar who was put in that state by having his money stolen than one who blew all his money on hookers and blackjack?

I think that's why the traffic situation evaluates differently than the button. Saving someone from oncoming traffic involves significant costs in the form of danger to you to resolve a situation that the person you are saving bears at least some responsibility for, where the button involves a trivial amount of effort to save someone from a situation that they have little responsibility for.
The problem, then, is that if subjective worlds are experienced too differently, there occurs a breakdown in communication. -- Philip K. Dick
3 years ago#4
I'd say so.

I'd say the minimum morality is to not do harm to others. Good acts that go above and beyond are ones where you go out of your way to make someone's day better.

In other words, not performing negative actions is mandatory, but I dont think people should be required to go above and beyond and do good (although it is nice).

I make this distinction because I believe in people being free to pursue their own happiness. Your own pursuits should not negatively affect others' pursuits, but at the same time, I don't believe anyone should be a slave to another. A major problem I find with some forms of morality, such as Kantian ethics, for example, is that you're not supposed to be self interested at all, but serve one another while always denying self. If everyone behaved this way, no one would be happy, because we'd all be ignoring our own interests for others. So it's my view that you're free to do what you want, just don't harm others. If you go above and beyond, that's swell, and I think it should be encouraged, just not required.

I should also note this is a general rule, there can be exceptions made on utilitarian grounds or when the public's interests override an individuals. For example, I'm for social programs, and support higher taxes on the rich. While I believe that people are entitled to money they make, I feel like the needs of millions of people and other priorities at times overrides that to some degree (not to mention is 40% or so really gonna kill them?).
Desktop: Phenom II X4 965 | 4 GB DDR3 | GTX 580 | 1 TB HD | W7 | 650W Antec | 1600x900
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3 years ago#5
For another example, God lets beggars go hungry and children starve all the time, but there's a massive list of extenuating circumstances that boil down to "The greater good". This is how I see it, at least.

God let Job's entire family die, but it was all worth it in the end, because of A) the powerful lessons that benefit the world today, and B)the increased blessings that Job got afterward.

So I'd fail the police psyche test when it asks the question: "Is it sometimes necessary to sacrifice a few the save many?"

But it all comes down to the greater good. Will giving change to the homeless cause a greater "good" than buying a stick of gum?

Still, God values a willing heart more than a compulsory one. See: The widow who dropped in her two coins.
"Let's make this quick, I'm double-parked." - Two-face
3 years ago#6
^^That there is territory to be careful of. If you begin thinking that the end justifies the means with a cavalier attitude, you got no ends, just bad means. I will agree sometimes we need to sacrifice for the greater good, but we must also be careful with that attitude.
Desktop: Phenom II X4 965 | 4 GB DDR3 | GTX 580 | 1 TB HD | W7 | 650W Antec | 1600x900
Laptop: A6 3400m | 4 GB DDR3 | HD 6520g | 500 GB HD | W7 | 1366x768
3 years ago#7
And that's why I'm not a policeman.
"Let's make this quick, I'm double-parked." - Two-face
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