In case you don’t read the comments, let me repeat some interesting stuff here.

Canadian National said, “My opinion comes from a base of “whose morality, then, would we accept?”  It doesn’t sit right with me that one code of morality is *the code* of morality.” 
 
I would say that we could only hold that there is a real morality if it were an essentially shared morality. There is, for example, widespread agreement that incest is wrong, even though some cultures define “incest” such that marriage between first cousins would be incestuous, and some do not. I was once involved in a rollicking classroom discussion of this, I say, being sarcastic, between an outraged Japanese student and an increasingly offended Saudi one. There is, in fact, widespread agreement on these major clear cases, so I don’t think we have to say that this system or that is the right one. The fact of the widespread agreement seems to me to be evidence that there is a moral system which, as C.S. Lewis put it, is there for us to discover, like the multiplication tables, rather than that everybody starts from nothing and makes one up.
 
It is, as Canadian National also said, in the shades of gray that things get complicated. And interesting to talk about, I would say. Although perhaps not so interesting if someone is accusing you of breaking one of the major human taboos, when it doesn’t seem that way to you at all.
 
Chanthaboune proposed that how we respond to people with different understandings of the moral system is more about manners than about morals.
 
Sighkey offered a different perspective.

 

 

“Having spent a couple of decades or so studying psychology,” she said, “I do not accept the proposition that there is an objective reality. …If we only have access to the manufactured virtual reality created by our neurological processes then ‘morality’ is as much a subjective virtuality as is the rest of our ‘real’ world.”
 
And there go my margins again.
 
TypoPaddington, who has a site filled with beautiful photographs, suggested a distinction between “right and wrong” and “good and evil.” I found that especially interesting since this conversation actually began with a discussion over at Dexter’s on the question of how to keep students from being inhibited in their thinking by the fear of having the wrong answer. Canadian National said “But we learn (by society, perhaps) that being wrong is bad. Even in my courses, my students who are in their 20s, 30s, 40s are afraid to be wrong, so they don’t even try. How do we instill the idea that being wrong is okay?” The point here was about encouraging creativity. But to what extent do we treat errors as evil, thus stifling creativity, and evil as error (as in, perhaps, “He misspoke”), thus excusing intentional wrongdoing?
 
And, returning to Sighkey’s point about how our perceptions (and I would say our language) shape our understanding of the world, I wonder how the overlap of terminology in English between morality and accuracy affect those matters. I am noticing all the stuff on this topic in the book I am reading right now (Portuguese Irregular Verbs), because of this discussion, whereas normally I might be too distracted by all the linguistics jokes. It is so rare to encounter a novel full of linguistics jokes (as distinct from merely linguistic jokes) that I might not have appreciated the ethical points at all, were it not for having my perception sharpened by our conversation.
 
At one point, the hero thinks, while making a moral decision, that Sartre would have no problem with doing the thing he is contemplating, “as long as it made him feel authentic,” which is another ethical position left off the list.
 
I am not sure how either Sighkey’s or TypoPaddington’s views would relate to the question of how we can deal with other people when our moral systems are in conflict. I will have to think about that.
It is always good to have something deep to think about.

 

 

4 The conference yesterday went very well.

I want to recommend, in fact, that those of you who intend to go to conferences should make an effort to hang out with therapists whenever possible.

Whereas all the conferences of teachers offer coffee and doughnuts, this conference had on the hospitality table a selection of pastries from the local French bakery and a basket of assorted teas, including Lapsang Souchong.

I finished the Bijoux Blouse, but it is wet because I am blocking it, so I offer you no picture. I have put pictures of wet blocking things here before, I know, but they are not accurate, so I am not going to do that on a day when we are thinking about inaccuracy and evil. I would say that it turned out well, and I am looking forward to wearing it, but I could not help but notice that it involves several fashion faux pas, in that it is a boxy drop-shouldered sweater which is in color a very good match for my skin.

This round of discussion of good and evil was foreshadowed by a thought a few days ago that we need to distinguish between actual wrongdoing and mere differences in style, which we should probably ignore. So I will not hold these things against the Bijoux Blouse, but will wear it when I am not attempting to be chic. I bought the yarn and pattern last year when the closest I hoped to get to being chic was wearing clothes without holes in them.

My plan for this weekend is to be completely domestic. I plan to clean house, do the grocery shopping, cook, sew, stuff like that. The past three weekends have involved work (and illness) and next weekend is filled with parties, so this is the ideal weekend for unbounded domesticity.

I am still very interested in your thoughts on the questions posed yesterday, and your responses to the comments mentioned above.

Coming back to say that Ozarque is having a discussion on online civility over at her place which dips into points on perception, cross-cultural mores, and utility vs. morality.