Wednesday, 29 April 2009

The Line is Gone

Is it morally forbidden to have a bad habit?

Actually, don't answer that, it's just meant as a hook to lure you into reading this post. What's actually got my attention is this idea of "morally forbidden". Society, and especially Western society, has strongly developed notions of individual rights and freedoms. All actions tend to be slotted into an ethical category - morally forbidden, morally permissible, or morally required. It seems to be a fairly intuitive classification system. Most people use it; the bulk of the disagreement is over what is slotted where and in what situations, if any, might that categorization change?

But I'm beginning to think that this categorization is bogus. That's not to say that I think good and evil are bogus, but just that this classification system doesn't really align itself to the essence of good and evil.

Suppose my sister asks to borrow some money. And let's suppose that we all agree I am not morally required to give her that money, so I don't. Accordingly, I have not done anything wrong by withholding the money from her.

Now let's suppose that I'm walking to work. As I'm plodding down the sidewalk, I see someone drop her briefcase. It snaps open and a stack of important looking papers scatter all over the path. Suppose that we again all agree that I am not morally required to stop and help this person pick up the papers.

And let us imagine that my employer is mistreating me. Even if I discover that my employer has a new baby and a dying parent, which probably accounts for his frazzled and short-fused behaviour, it would not be morally forbidden for me to file a complaint and leave for a new job.

But let's *pretend* that this is my lifestyle. I am cold, unfeeling, and entirely self-centered. Even though I technically never do anything morally forbidden, and never fail to do anything that is morally required, I am a complete and utter *ugly name*.

Legal law reflects this breakdown - there is nothing illegal about being a jerk. But there must be something morally wrong about being a jerk. So why are we so preoccupied with deciding whether we must or must not do something? As far as I can understand, everything makes a lot more sense if we consider what would be best instead of what would be the bare minimum.

If we swap "think about" with "do" in Philippians 4:8, then I think we have a much better tool for making moral decisions.

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - DO these things."

Granted, it does throw "whatever is right" in there, which might seem to bring us right back around to our original confused state of drawing lines between categories, but I don't think it does. There are clearly some things that are good, and there are clearly some things that are bad, but I don't know that I believe there is a hard, defined break between required and forbidden. That's just something we've invented to make it easier for us to get away with being self-centered. It seems rather ironic that making the lines fuzzy actually results in greater expectations.

And I, as a proclaimed follower of Christ, should disregard the three categories and consider things only in light of how morally excellent it is. Enough with agonizing over what I have to do and what I can get away with. So anyways, that's my theory. I think I'll call it the Theory of Best Choice. Or maybe "WWJD"?

“'My doctor says that I have a malformed public duty gland and a natural deficiency in moral fibre,' he muttered to himself, 'and that I am therefore excused from saving Universes.'” Douglas Adams

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Ronon vs. Teal'c

Just thought I'd say that if Teal'c and Ronon ever finished a sparring match, Teal'c would be the victor.

Ronon is formidable, but Teal'c has the brains. I mean, Ronon stands a chance, but he'd have to end the match quickly - use his elements of surprise and unpredictability to take Teal'c out within the first few hits, before Teal'c adjusts to his fighting style. But if Teal'c proves able to deal with this first brutal flury, then Ronon's rashness will eventually work against him. Teal'c's more calculated and polished technique, along with greater range of experience, will contribute to him being able to predict, counter, and eventually beat Ronon senseless.

And, as we have seen on television, Ronon is not able to overthrow Teal'c within the first minute or two, so we can be relatively certain that Teal'c trumps Ronon.

“A fight is not won by one punch or kick. Either learn to endure or hire a bodyguard.” Bruce Lee

Tuesday, 21 April 2009


Here's hoping I hit the nail on the head this morning with my linguistics exam. Ling isn't a piece of cake, but methinks I cut the mustard - knock on wood. I'm still puttering away on a take-home exam, due Thursday. I can't say that it's in the bag, because it's anyone's call what this prof really wants. It's something of a toss-up - you'd think that a communications professor would practice what she preaches a little more so that she's not just speaking Greek to us. Though I suppose that's mostly water under the bridge - next to linguistics, communication was a prime course, and I don't expect to pull a 180 and flounder now.

But come hell or high water, it looks like I won't be burning any bridges (or, as the Chinese say, breaking the woks and sinking the boats) with the uni this year, though it would be extremely gratifying. Not that I want to spend my whole post airing dirty laundry, but I can't help having some bones to pick with the place after this past year. I'm not sure why so many people turn a blind eye to its schemes - and I'm not spouting about only the anti-abortion display. I'm just a drop in the bucket, but if everyone makes it clear we have an axe to grind, then maybe we'll find that even a giant leopard can change its spots. The current bad publicity the uni is getting is just a slap on the wrist, and nothing is going to change if we're all bark and no bite.

That being said, there's a silver lining even here, so I'll have to keep my chin up. Though the administration stinks, I have to let some of the profs and employees off the hook. They aren't the ones calling the shots, and obviously passed Teaching 101 with flying colours. The rest of them are either greenhorns, though, or just aren't quite up to snuff.

So for now, I'm going to put my nose to the grindstone and bulldoze my way through this mountain of work, and then utterly destroy these upcoming multiple choice exams - here's to crossing my fingers that they aren't all worded like mumbo jumbo.

Break a leg to everyone who's in the same boat and has to measure up to exams in the coming week or two - hit the books and don't run out of steam yet. We'll see you on the other side!

“At the beginning there was the Word - at the end just the Cliche.” Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Globular Synthesis

It's late. I've been up studying Linguistics for the final on Tuesday. And there, included within my notes is a discussion on the difference between analytic and synthetic sentences. I've been transported back to philosophy class, full of white ravens and married bachelors, and ethics class, pondering the island of Iceland and female kings.

Now, the question plaguing me and not letting me go to bed is this: Is the statement "the ball is shaped like a globe" analytic or synthetic?

My first instinct is to say it's analytic, but then the football jumps to mind and throws everything into doubt.

Either a football isn't a ball after all, or the statement is synthetic. I can't decide which. I vote for a third category of declarative sentences: analytic, synthetic, and ambiguous.

“The person of analytic or critical intellect finds something ridiculous in everything. The person of synthetic or constructive intellect, in almost nothing.” Goethe

It's going to be a long night.

ETA: I have it! There are two different definitions of "ball" - 1. an object of spherical shape, and 2. a kicked, thrown, or whacked piece of sports gear, excepting notables such as frisbees, pucks, birdies, ringette rings, javelins, darts, and boomerangs.

Now all we have to do is decide which "ball" is being used in the sentence, and that will decide whether the statement is analytic or not!

Monday, 13 April 2009

The Lowdown

I am, admittedly, not terribly adept at the art of making conversation. I tend to answer rhetorical questions, ask for clarification on things that are apparently intuitive, correct people's grammar, make odd and almost unrelated observations that only I think are interesting, and so on. Let's not forget the killer: I ask "how did you manage to do that?" rather than "how do you feel about that?"

And so that is why I come to all of you today with this question. How am I supposed to reply when someone asks me, by way of greeting, "What's up"? This seems to be a growing fad, and I am unsure of how to deal with it.

Oh, yeah - another pet faux pas of mine is giving people a touch more information than they actually want. So when someone waves and shouts "What's up?", my tendency is to stand blinking momentarily before rattling off a finals-are-about-to-start-the-weather's-nice-and-my-presentation-on-genetics-rocked-but-I'm-kinda-annoyed-with-people-who-blare-music-through-their-ipod-headphones-waaaay-too-loudly.

But then I wonder if the typical answer to "How are you" (ie. the polite "fine") is a better choice. Currently, I'm leaning towards just ignoring the question/greeting and replying "Hi! How are you?" Yet if I asked someone what was up, and they continually ignored the question, I would started to get a little ticked. Whatever happened to sincerity?

Sighhh.... if only everyone thought like me. Actually, scratch that. That would just be scary.

“I can speak French but I cannot understand it.” Mark Twain

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Happy Day

Today is a happy day. The weather is beautiful, and school went right.

I've been noticing how things smell, recently. It seems unlikely that things are emitting more scent than they usually do, but I've only just started noticing it. I'd say it has something to do with spring, but I haven't noticed it this keenly in the two decades gone by (tells you something about my observancy skills).

And the world smells beautiful! Perhaps the guys-with-cologne-thing is just a fad (I hope not), but that's not all that makes me hum happily. Half the time I'm not even sure what I'm smelling, just that it's fresh and pleasant. Skin lotions, roasting food, that general "spring" smell, even gas around idling vehicles. And they seem to be mostly smells that remind me fondly of places I've been and people I've met.

...And then I walk into my bedroom. I should really clean that place so it smells half decent inside of there, too.

And speaking of noses, I don't know what "interminous" means, but this sounds a lot like what people say about me:

There's a man with a Nose,
And wherever he goes
The people run from him and shout:
"No cotton have we
For our ears if so be
He blow that interminous snout!"

Devil's Dictionary (Ambrose Bierce)

P.S. My group totally rocked our genetic engineering presentation!