Tag Archives | Morality

Orwell, Dali and “Degenerate Art”

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/9/90/DaliGreatMasturbator.jpg/320px-DaliGreatMasturbator.jpg

Via orwellwasright:

When the Nazis mounted the exhibition Degenerate Art in Munich in 1937, it could be said that modern art was ironically validated in the eyes of cultural history. After all, a black mark from fascism – which promoted “art” that exalted blood and toil, racial purity and obedience – implies that modern art at that time stood for everything the Nazis opposed. This is, of course, simplistic reasoning – “modern art” at the time stood for many things, sometimes attempting to deliberately eschew ideology altogether, often apolitical and frequently controversial.

But the Nazis weren’t the only ones to see modern art as something controversial, or worse, a threat to the very values that underpin society. George Orwell – who sat about as far away from the political ideology of the Nazis as one can get – also perceived a moral degradation in the output of one of the most notoriously subversive artists of the time, Salvador Dali.… Read the rest

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Psychedelic Sin: The Illusion of Morality in an Amoral Universe

Picture: Boticelli (PD)

In this world, we see varying levels of what we traditionally call good and evil. We have ways to measure them with our religious notions, but if we see the world through a materialists eyes, what is good or evil? Some may say that good and evil are behaviors that are infringements on the survival of the group, or plan in which the participant is a part of; practically saying, evil is an acting out of animalistic nature that hurts the herd and nothing more. This does not work in all cases though, for there are things people do to themselves that are harmful and therefore seen as bad. The religious crowd sees morality as having come from God: a set of guidelines fraught with consequence and reward if obeyed or rejected, but why are certain things deemed sin? There are things that only seem to hurt us, so how can those things fit with the materialist view?… Read the rest

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or “Moral Injury”?

Picture: USAF (PD)

Shepherd Bliss writes at Counterpunch:

“My God, what have we done?” combat soldiers sometimes gasp as they see those they or comrades just killed, especially when they include innocent children, women, and other civilians.

“We knew that we killed them/…the terrified mother/ clutching terrified child,” writes former Lieutenant Michael Parmeley in his poem “Meditation on Being a Baby Killer.” In l968, Lt. Parmeley led a combat platoon in the American War on Vietnam. He receives benefits for what is clinically described as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“My gunner…started to cry,” Parmeley writes. “There’s a myth of recovery,/ that you put it behind you/…but memories aren’t like that/…I know that we killed them.”

Parmeley and I have participated in the Veterans’ Writing Group for twenty years. We attend regular meetings, break silences, tell our stories in a healing context, and listen without judgment. His poem appears in our book “Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace,” (www.vowvop.org) edited by our writing teacher, award-winning author, and former University of California Berkeley professor Maxine Hong Kingston.

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The Pressing Conundrum Of Creating Moral Machines

Via the New Yorker, Gary Marcus on how we will soon need our machines to be ethical, but have no idea how to do this:

Google’s driver-less cars are already street-legal in California, Florida, and Nevada, and some day similar devices may not just be possible but mandatory. Eventually automated vehicles will be able to drive better, and more safely than you can; within two or three decades the difference between automated driving and human driving will be so great you may not be legally allowed to drive your own car.

That moment will signal the era in which it will no longer be optional for machines to have ethical systems. Your car is speeding along a bridge when an errant school bus carrying forty children crosses its path. Should your car swerve, risking the life of its owner (you), in order to save the children, or keep going?

Many approaches to machine ethics are fraught [with problems].

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Strange Sexual Taboos Around The World

Via Mind Hacks, a brief tour of cultural sex taboos:

The Cuna of Panama approve of sexual relations only at night in accordance with the laws of God. The Semang of Malaysia believe that sex during the day will cause thunderstorms and deadly lightning, leading to drowning of not only the offending couple but also of other innocent people. And the West African Bambara believe that a couple who engage in sex during the day will have an albino child.

Sometimes, sex is prohibited in certain places. The Mende of West Africa forbid sexual intercourse in the bush, while the Semang condemn sex with camp boundaries for fear that the supernatural will become angry. Among the Bambara, engaging in sexual relations out of doors will lead to the failure of crops.

Sex taboos can also apply to certain activities. Often, sex prohibitions are associated with war or economic pursuit. The Ganda of Uganda forbid sexual intercourse the night before battle.

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The Moral Calculi of Sociopathy

Authored by Venkat of Ribbonfarm:

 This is the question of good and evil. For those of you who want the elevator-pitch version, the short position is this: my entire thesis is amoral; there are good and evil sociopaths; more sociopaths is a good thing; the clueless and losers are exactly as likely to engage in evil behaviors as sociopaths. Details follow. Keep in mind that this is a very rough sketch, and a sidebar to the main series that I really don’t want to pursue too far.

The Word “Sociopath”

A large number of commenters have objected to this term, and it has also led to some unnecessary confusion. Néant Humain, in a precise comment, pointed out that my use of the term does not square with the clinical use (actually, the term is no longer considered clinically precise at all, and has been replaced by phrases like “antisocial personality disorder”).

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What’s Wrong With Todd Akin and His Critics: Moral Coherence

Picture: US Congress (PD)

Do you accept or dismiss information depending upon your emotional reaction to it?  Brian D. Earp writes at Oxford’s Practical Ethics blog:

Should abortions be allowed in the case of rape? Republican Todd Akin—running for the U.S. Senate from the state of Missouri—thinks not. His reasoning is as follows:

From what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy resulting from rape is] really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment. But the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.

There appears to be no scientific basis for the claim that the trauma of forced intercourse can interrupt ovulation or in any other way prevent a pregnancy; indeed pregnancy is just as likely after rape as after consensual sex, according to the evidence I have seen.

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60,000 Ultra-Orthodox Jews Protest the Evils of the Internet

InternetThe sub-headline is priceless, “15,000 Hasidic women watched speeches at six sites thanks to live-streaming on the Internet.” Via the New York Daily News:

A mass rally for men only drew more than 40,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews to Citi Field Sunday to denounce the Internet and its pervasive impact on family life.

An overflow crowd of another 20,000 bearded men sporting long black coats and big black hats filled nearby Arthur Ashe Stadium for the unprecedented attack on modern technology.

Unable to enter the Queens stadiums because of the strict separation of the sexes enforced by the organizers, more than 15,000 Hasidic women watched the speeches at six sites across the tristate area — thanks to live-streaming on the Internet.

The rally was organized by a little-known rabbinical group called Ichud Hakehillos L’tohar Hamachane — the Union of Communities for the Purity of the Camp — to spread the word that online activities can lead to porn, child abuse and other acts of immorality…

Read More: Daily News

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The Trust Molecule

Paul J. Zak, author of The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity, asks "Could a single molecule—one chemical substance—lie at the very center of our moral lives?" in the Wall Street Journal:
Research that I have done over the past decade suggests that a chemical messenger called oxytocin accounts for why some people give freely of themselves and others are coldhearted louts, why some people cheat and steal and others you can trust with your life, why some husbands are more faithful than others, and why women tend to be nicer and more generous than men. In our blood and in the brain, oxytocin appears to be the chemical elixir that creates bonds of trust not just in our intimate relationships but also in our business dealings, in politics and in society at large. Known primarily as a female reproductive hormone, oxytocin controls contractions during labor...
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Are Creative People More Likely to Be Immoral?

InkblotTravis Riddle writes in Scientific American:

In the mid 1990’s, Apple Computers was a dying company.  Microsoft’s Windows operating system was overwhelmingly favored by consumers, and Apple’s attempts to win back market share by improving the Macintosh operating system were unsuccessful.  After several years of debilitating financial losses, the company chose to purchase a fledgling software company called NeXT.  Along with purchasing the rights to NeXT’s software, this move allowed Apple to regain the services of one of the company’s founders, the late Steve Jobs.  Under the guidance of Jobs, Apple returned to profitability and is now the largest technology company in the world, with the creativity of Steve Jobs receiving much of the credit.

However, despite the widespread positive image of Jobs as a creative genius, he also has a dark reputation for encouraging censorship,“ losing sight of honesty and integrity”, belittling employees, and engaging in other morally questionable actions.

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