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Archive for the ‘moral philosophy’ Category

 

It is said religion is the opium for the masses. In Lotos-eaters Tennyson writes the effect of the lotos:

” Eating the Lotos day by day,

To watch the crisping ripples on the beach,

And tender curving lines of creamy spray;

To lend our hearts and spirits wholly

To the influence of mild-minded melancholy;

To muse and brood and live again in memory,…”

 

Poetic fancy of the poet however does not connect with reality as we know today. This is not how religion is practised.

The Scripture teaches us God is Love; good moslems similarly declare their Allah is compassionate. In that case what is the problem? Somewhere along the line prophets and their sayings are interpreted to mean entirely false. Whether God of the Jews or Allah of moslems religion has become synonymous with hate. In short religion has become the Achilles heel of mankind.

Through human understanding what can we know of love of God; or what is mercy? At least reason ought to teach us to try our best as human beings to demonstrate what love and compassion would mean. Would it not? In what way we can show holiness by some rituals? In India those who practice Jainism cover their mouth lest they swallow some little flies by mistake while yawning. However little do they see the millions of bacteria that float in the water they drink. It is impossible to match holiness of divine Being or be perfect in observing injunctions of prophets with regards to our cleanliness and diet. For the simple reason in a world of acid rain and tainted earth with various chemicals all our idea of cleanliness come with margin of error.

In Jonathan Swift’s immortal tale the central character Gulliver is brought to the land of Brobdingnag. It is written that he was repelled by the women of that land. They were monstrous in size compared to him. Their faces when magnified so much skin pores seemed to his scrutiny as moon craters! Matter of size brought about this change naturally. If we were to see as an eagle our eyes would require the size of an orange. To sum view of our world is limited by our human-ness. As a result our sense of beauty is affected; so must our understanding. How noble or mean is your God?

When Prophet Moses gave the Children of Israel the law, was it his understanding or that of God at fault?

Under the Law it was an eye for eye, a tooth for tooth. Shall we say under the Old Covenant the law represented a certain values but it was codified according to human understanding? It is of this St Paul writes to the Hebrews thus: ‘For the law made nothing perfect…(He.7:19) Instead It erected a screen between God and them. For instance during the Feast the Jews mistook the voice from heaven as thunder. (Jn.12:29) The Jewish nation lived by the law for a millennia or so and yet when God spoke, ‘I have both glorified it (name) and will glorify it again (vs.28)’ they understood it altogether in another sense.

Moses gave the law but with Jesus came the New Covenant. For Christians this New order supercedes the Old. Jesus brought grace and truth(Jn.1:17). When Jesus came to save the world he had a clear mandate. It went thus: turn the other cheek if one smites on your right cheek. He showed it in practice as well. Luke 9:51-56

Before he was to be crucified he wanted to visit Samaria. He sent an advance party to make arrangements and the people of Samaria refused them. When they told Jesus of their refusal John and James were furious and would have brought fire from heaven as Elias did. Jesus rebuked them saying, ‘they did not know what manner spirit they were of’. He did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them. Jesus quietly led them to another village.

When I hear fellows casually use ‘Jihad’ to justify their criminal actions and mask foolish notion of global domination I can only say, their understanding is far off the mark. If they are misled, how much more foolish are their imams who preach hatred and violence as though it were a religious duty?

benny

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The desert dweller was brought before the Great Panjandrum of Chaldea for blasphemy. The Holy One said, “The charge says, ‘You founded a new religion simply by living among the sand dunes. How can that be possible?’ ” The accused shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘ life in the extremes where death is around the corner, Great God made me dig deeper in my soul to seek him. ’

GP insisted: “ But your god dosesn’t fit with god we worship?”

‘I would not know that, your Holiness. Certainly the God that my depths showed is still clearly etched in my mind.’

The new religion slowly found its way into the cities of the plains and possessed half the riches of the world. It also had made men giddy with their wealth and worldly goods. Years later the founder now as Grand Lama of Levant had the duty to examine one who was guilty of excessive pleasure and drunkeness. What is more he denied all religions as false except Pleasure.

‘How can you call it a religion?’

The Sybarite said, “ I am surrounded by so much of pleasure and I am loath to ignore it since God has given me a body.”

The Grand Lama winced inwardly. He let him go unpunished. The Grand Council of clerics said, “ How merciful is our Grand Lama! ”

The Venerable Lama knew the truth. His experience with the world made him sell his Truth just as the pleasure seeker could not resist the truth the world held out. Truth that he held up as dogma morphed into something altogether different!

Laws of nature dictate how matter would behave under different conditions. Material nature of body takes its cues from its context as easily as soul of one takes its cues from its unseen world.

Duality of body and the soul hold Truth. How one reconciles both defines his character.

Never shall the body and soul settle the matter by itself since life force is what each individual supplies. It has to look to the world without. Given changed circumstances this force makes the unstable relationship define itself. Body given its appetites can only get the upper hand at the expense of the other. Then a man easily given to his weaknesses shows in time certain coarseness in character. From truth to false is but a step away; a man may not be aware of such slight deviations and when given time his character developes into something else. Where we once considered thrift and moderation as a virtue in the consumer society is frowned upon as old fashioned. You and I contributed to it didn’t we?

Such exchange works both ways.

ii

If one cancer cell is let it can affect the entire body. Similarly a little yeast leavens the entire dough. For instance one without any solid proof declares from the pulpit so and so committed blasphemy we see the whole assembly thrown into an uproar. We saw it happen when Jesus was brought before Pilate. The rabble was out to crucify him not because they had clear proof but by hearsay. They were ready to do the hatchet job for their elders. One man’s lie triggered an avalanche.

There are two basic elements to an avalanche: a steep, snow-covered slope and a trigger that causes a weak layer within the snow pack to collapse. Rabble is like the weak layer. The shape of the ice crystals of snowflakes within a snow pack is also a critical factor. How well the crystals bond together determines how strong a snow layer is and therefore how stable the snow pack is. When Truth is not bonded properly an avalanche is set off.

It is essential every individual hold his truth as inalienable. When it is joined with others it is conditional only for the betterment of all and not for this and that person. We have seen religions falling into error: where it is mob rule Truth is dragged through mud. Religion of peace is made out in effect as religion of hate.

benny

 

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Why should man be afraid of an idea? He is given to abstract thinking and Truth is an idea and he conceived it. But try sell it to another. Man who hears Truth from you shall have his own wordbook of experience to make it clear unto him. He who has lived through dog-eat-dog and survived by all his wiles at his disposal has a meaning to it. If you tell him ‘Love they neighbour as thyself’ watch out if he does spit on your face. Truth means many things to all men.

Even so truth is such common thread on which every great or small animate or inanimate matter, simple or compound is strung upon. Laws of nature gives its validity and it has you involved. You may give it names, deny it, wave it as a standard and still how you live it is a matter only you can do. It is your responsibility.

Let us see how truth makes its way among wise men. I shall cite the names of two wise men whose credentials need no further proof than their names. It was rather the bad luck that Gottfried Wilhem Liebniz lived in the time of Voltaire. In 1710 the German polymath in a work concluded the earth was best of all possible worlds. As a philosopher he was grappling with the problem of evil. Was he a woolly-headed thinker to discount what was happening about him and escape into a virtual reality? No he had sterling credentials as a mathematician to be clear cut in his thinking. In explaining away his ideas on Theodicy he stated that God was good in his power and wisdom. In short He proceeded using God as the Cause. Voltaire on the other hand also had thought on this and for him the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 was a shock. In this natural calamity some 60,000 to 100,000 perished, evil and innocents alike. Unlike Liebniz he reviewed his concept of God from the Effect.

I respect life that is in me to understand this intimate article of Truth. What is it? In coming to grips with my world and live it inasmuch possible I need have a good grasp of it. It is too precious to leave with Liebniz or Voltaire however great they are in world’s estimation.

Perhaps some theologians by consensus have drawn up dogma and the Pope sets his seal as gospel truth. My truth is too precious for others to determine. As a Christian when I stand before God, I cannot use any other for my failure to live by truth.

Truth is such when a clutch of men sit together and give us an idea as truth we need understand that there is a great gap in the Idea and the thing they sell to us. Earlier the Church of Rome sold the faithfuls as to Papal Infallibility(2.). Now the idea has been let by the wayside. Truth as an idea and as dogma is as different as a mule and a thoroughbred.

How did the Papal idea of Truth turned out in practice? It became a ruse to assert his spiritual authority. Truth as we know is as noble as a noble steed excellent in speed and in form. But what comes out after many sittings and compromises is an animal mangy and as headstrong as a mule. So much for papal infallibility as truth. His Holiness himself must account before his Maker. So Truth is my problem and only way I can cure it is to live it as best as possible. (to be concluded)

2.

In 1075 Pope Gregory VII in his Dictatus Papae (The Pope’s Memorandum) put it more bluntly. He set out 27 propositions about the powers of the office of Bishop of Rome. These included the statement that the papacy “never will err to all eternity according to the testimony of Holy Scripture”.

The word infallibility, however, was not used. It was believed that only God was infallible and it was acknowledged that various popes down the ages had brought disgrace on the office by their behaviour and judgements. Having been dethroned as ruler of the Papal States by the movement for Italian Reunification that finally triumphed in 1870, Pope Pius IX called the First Vatican Council where he was determined to buttress his own spiritual authority. Though many cardinals believed it dangerous to try to define quite how and when the Pope might speak infallibly, a compromise agreement was finally reached.

It stated that Pope “when he speaks ex cathedra, that is when exercising the office of pastor and teacher of all Christians” is “possessed of infallibility” when “he defines… a doctrine concerning faith and morals to be held by the whole Church, through the divine assistance promised to him by St Peter“.

Once the Pope has spoken, the First Vatican Council agreed, his definitions “are irreformable of themselves”.

Voting on this form of words took place during a thunderstorm. A majority gave their assent but God, some said, was angry.

Routine papal teaching is not therefore infallible and it was not until 1950 that a pope exercised his “infallible magisterium” to declare that the Virgin Mary had been assumed body and soul into heaven. The belief is however unsupported in scripture. (ack:bbc.co.uk/religions)

benny

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Only consistent thing about our world is that it changes. What are the fads we all sported and now are discarded for something of the moment? Pokemon Go! seems to have taken the world by storm as Elvis Presley hair cut and drainpipes were the thing in my youth. Fads in their very sillines carry some profound truth. The world changes and along with it man also changes.

If everything were to keep changing, how do we keep our balance? There is no up or down in space but still we take a bearing on celestial objects these are also not keeping still. Yet in our context these give us a bearing as ancient mariners relied on pole star during their voyages(1). We are on a planet that is revolving on the sun that itself is revolving through the Milky Way. But on the earth what is certain is the gravity that works. What does it tell us? If you throw a ball up, it shall sure come down. Such is the truth for which we kill and defend with tooth and nail.

We say God is Truth. But how well we understand or follow it?

God with his mighty arm delivered the Israelites from Egypt. He called Moses and Aaron his brother and elders before him. With such up and close encounter with God we may assume that he has had greater understanding of Truth than others. Yet within a space of 40 days Aaron was guilty of making a golden calf for the tumultuous crowd who wanted a god to lead them. When man is not fully engaged his heart and soul, the first casuality is truth. Aaron simply wanted to give the people what they wanted. He heard God but he heard it through the grapevine of populism, I suspect.

When I see the mob howling, ‘blasphemy’ on some perceived slight to the Quran, I know the feeling. The man lost his horse and he could not go anywhere because the whole household was arguing over the ways the noble steed could have bolted. After rewriting the Prophet, in scholarly ways of course, the theologians (they have several schools all well funded too,) have made him look a liar and his ideas dragged through mud and have made the world a slaughterhouse. O Truth! How Compassionate! How Beneficent! How Merciful!

Notes:1.

1.By the dawn of the sixteenth century, the ancient art of navigation had begun to develop rapidly in response to oceanic explorers who needed to find their positions without landmarks, to determine the locations of their discoveries, and to establish routes between the new-found lands and home. Although the relationship of certain heavenly bodies to time of day and terrestrial directions had been known since ancient times, the first two decades of the sixteenth century saw the rigorous application of astronomy and mathematics to navigation. The new learning met the New World. Before longitude was invented  sixteenth-century navigators relied on dead reckoning. Beginning at a known or assumed position, the navigator measured, as best he could, the heading and speed of the ship, the speeds of the ocean currents and the leeward (downwind) drift of the ship, and the time spent on each heading. From this information he could compute the course he had made and the distance he had covered. Dead reckoning, through educated guesswork, is often very accurate.(ack: nps.gov)

benny

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In the previous post we discussed about no-man’s land where old rivalries and unfinished business of history are filed away. For anyone who studies history it shall become apparent no war has ever finished with a clean cut. A battle would require some ten thousand little skirmishes which may not catch the headlines. In the ignominious defeat of France in June.1940 lay the devil-seeds of the unsettled business of 1793-94 coming to fruition. The nation that set out to bury the Bourbon dynasty will grovel themselves before imperialist ambitions of Napoleons. Having lost the moral compass what do such genuflections mean? Some glory! some shameless antics!

Napoleon had lost the battle of Waterloo even before it was waged. Napoleon Bonaparte who assumed the title of the emperor of France showed by a series of victories he was worthy to be included among the immortals such as Alexander and Julius Caesar. His brilliant victories created such a condition he could not have sat idle with such a powerful army battle hardened and disciplined under his command. Thus he was caught in the crest of a wave that took him to his Russian campaign. Disaster was the result. What went wrong? Napoleon was weighed in the balance of humanity and was found wanting. Like the king in the book of Daniel.

Morality of man is not without reason compared to a compass. It covers the entire spectrum of man’s conduct through time and place. When Napoleon’s humanity,- and it can only be judged in his interaction with others, there was a serious problem. His ambition did not see people as people but as means to aggrandize himself. (Same mentality can be seen in the manner the French Army threw Captain Dreyfus to ignominy in order to protect its avaunted ‘gloire.’) This moral fault is worse than blindness. Your soul is affected. Physical blindness robs you of vision but leaves the harmony of celestial spheres in tact. It paints in fact colors that the world with its lurid colors can never match. Moral blindness is terrible. It makes you miss your place in the moral compass. You look at it and whatever you see there is anything other than your own humanity. It is almost a hell you have created even before you gave up your ghost, to use the expression in the Bible.

Each of us is like man with one foot in the sticky mess of morass of our own making. On a moral plane our culpability is that of being part of humanity. ‘No man is an island’ as Donne said it famously. This is collateral damages we need accept on a moral plane. In terms of Christian theology we need see it also refers to our fallen state.

benny

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As discussed in the previous post each of us is a cause or effect. Law of reciprocity places each as one or other at any particular place and time. If we were to take recent events in Syria the sectarian  divide between Shi’ia and Sunni faction created a dilemma. Assad is a Shi’ite and he has been trying to put down the rebels. Assad is a cause while the ensuing bombardment has its effect in creating some 11 million refugees. Is there a simple relationship between cause and effect? Russia has joined in the fray while the Saudi Arabia and other Sunni factions are whipping up equally an opposition. In each cause and effect relationship consequences as a result of so many other events are in flux which run into an area of ‘no man’s land.’ . (The cold war which the US and USSR waged in post WWII was at first about Germany; how did it spread around Vietnam Afghanistan and Cuba? it shall connect with the Middle East and now in Syria as well. There is no more Soviet empire but Putin’s gambit is to put his own stamp over the International politics.) Thus this no-man’s land is a swamp where all the unfinished business of old and new colonial rivalries shall run into. This is one area where man’s individual certainties tend to blur.

Even if Assad’s regime can survive the conflict for how long?  This long drawn out conflict has drained the population as well as weakened the administrative machinery. Cause and Effect in short is not as simple as Indian arm-wrestling. I started with the crash of MH-17 and that of the Sinai air-crash. Is falling of the Russian aircraft as  a result of the other no one can say. Natural law of nature has a tendency to bring what is up down since gravity is part of the equation. On a moral plane we need see such disasters as the means to contain man’s freedom to get away without being responsible to others. Man breaks moral laws in his individual choices but always such actions come at a price.

Let us consider a possible scenario: Suppose a multinational company in collusion with South American power-brokers set up a company to log timber. The company can destroy the rainforest and beggar the future of so many indigenous tribes with impunity. The company generate so much profit for the company and line the deep pockets of a few corrupt politicians. Where does moral imperative step in? If a flash flood should overrun later on what would that mean? Does it not mean a kind of retribution?

benny

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Reciprocity in social psychology refers to responding to a positive action with another positive action, rewarding kind actions. When you smile at a stranger at a neutral ground say on the street you find him smiling back which is a reciprocal action. It is how man is made aware of his own place and of himself in relation to other. You prove yourself friendly and you are rewarded instantly by the selfsame token of friendliness. There is a cause a slot which you fill, only to be found by another falling into a slot which is that of effect. In short cause and effect are one to one relationship into which our social nature fits us. We initiate certain actions as a cause for others to respond accordingly.
Suppose on the eve of Crystal night (on 9–10 November 1938), if a Jew were to meet a German the response of the Jew would not have been as simple as mentioned above. The German who smiled may have been an ordinary citizen but the pogrom carried out SA paramilitary troops would have made such effusion in return as next to impossible. Events occurring elsewhere made their one to one exchange one that of suspicious.  Shall we say that cause did not connect with effect in a straight forward fashion? The events from outside come in between us to make our responses complex. What emotional cues that guide me need not necessarily be understood by another. We shall see how from the contradictory nature of human personality. A clown who makes every one in stitches is often the saddest man who need break into laugh lest he break up. Charlie Chaplin comes to my mind.
ii 
Since we humans as social animals have no other place than the earth to escape into, all events and their consequences are assumed as our collective responsibility to which we have no way of apportioning blame or praise.  Whether we foul up our beds or douse them with perfume we all need lie together for better or worse.  Law of reciprocity makes such cause and effect relationship hold together for our understanding. 
It is said, one man’s gains is at another man’s loss. Obama could have become the President in 2008  only at the cost of Romney losing his bid. Thereafter his taking up with the Sheraton group would mean that his position as a director was at the cost of someone else losing his shot on the Board of directors. Such is the cause and effect relationship that a man’s position is a view of himself into an infinite mirror broken into infinite pieces. In Obama- Romney relationship one is a cause while the other is the effect. Romney likewise is a cause while some other fills the slot of effect. In short no man can be both cause and effect in any relationship. Law of reciprocity distributes each into cause as well as effect in so many order of social relationship.
Having said about redistribution of man in terms of cause and effect after its own order let me indicate the cause and effect is not direct but falls under a corrosive cloud where anyone justifying as innocent is not true.  The rise of Hitler owes to such a cloud (as a result of reparations of the Allies as well as their sense of guilt at the harsh penalties they as  the victor exacted on the defeated. How Chamberlain’s government played into the hands of Hitler at the Munich Pact is a case in point. Into it we need allow anti-semiticsm of the ordinary Europeans at that time). By the law of Reciprocity the entire German nation was thrust into the effect of Nazism. Once cause and effect played of the result was the Soviet Army marching into Berlin. Think of the human cost? If you need explain moral compass of man,  make sense of the cloud into which both cause and effect are drawn.
benny

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