Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rule Book

Renunciation is incompatible with man's nature, to remove all liberty from his will is to remove all morality from his acts.

Jean-Jaques Rousseau
The author and humorist Isaac Bashevis Singer was once asked if he believed in free will. He answered "We have to believe in free will. We have no choice."

When I was a youngster I got a hold of some published play scripts. There are two publishers who print working scripts of plays that have been produced on Broadway. In those scripts I found diagrams of the sets and often photographs of them, a list of the props and costumes and all the movements of the actors around the stage accompanying the dialogue. It said things like "Enter L X DC" (Enter from stage left and cross to down center). Or "(Pointing his finger at her.)"

In my youthful innocence I thought how nifty. If one built the scenery to look like that and followed all those direction one could easily do the play. Then later I came to realize that what was in the published script was the stage managers copy. It showed how the director staged the play and some idea of how the actors performed their physical actions. But in order to produce the play one had to start from just the dialogue and the authors original text and invent a brand new production. One could not simply hop scotch through someone else's production. Years later I had the privilege of working for a great director, Charlie Hensley, who came into rehearsal on the first day with a button which read "There are no rules."

The philosophical study of Ethics is about what we ought to do under any circumstance. It is a complex study. To attempt to design or discover a book of rules for living is a disastrous activity. For one thing no rule is going to apply to every circumstance, adaptations must be made. But even more importantly a book of rules for ethical behavior will, in fact, deprive us of our morality. Once we abandon or repudiated our right to freedom of choice we have also renounced our right to lead moral lives.

The freedom to make choices is our only guarantee of morality. To make a wrong choice and suffer as a result may not teach us what the right choice is but it will certainly teach us what the wrong one is. But bungling along, stubbing our toes and bumping our heads, checking out someone else's rule book, getting the advice of wiser wayfarers and, above all, reasoning things through, thinking for ourselves, may not bring a completely benign and happy life, but it will lead us to a better one. The choices we make determine the choices we get to make.

In the end the only certainty of a knowledge of right and wrong is one you have earned for yourself.

DB - The Vagabond

Weekend Puzzle

Here we go.





(Sit down to do this one.)


Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Agreed, we get the basis for morals from others, but in the end, we have to look in the mirror and be content with ourselves and our choices.

pacifica62 said...

This is a very thought provoking entry db. I am all for freedom of choice.

Arlene (AJ) said...

Your timing with this blog couldn't have been more perfect DB. I've always believed in the freedom of choice, my opinion doesn't have to agree with yours, your entitled to your belief, just be respectful enough to hear my thoughts as I'm willing to hear yours. Or I thought this way, until I mentioned to my brother yesterday that I was rooting for the Giants to beat the Phillies in the play-offs since they haven't been to the world series in over 50years....and he hung up on me since I wasn't rooting for his choice....oh well, that's life, I'll survive.