Monday, April 9, 2012

What's Right

A man who wants to act virtuously in every way necessarily comes to grief among so many who are not virtuous.

Nicccolo Machiavelli
Hello Arlene
Virtue is a tough one. Don't start putting on airs, patting yourself on the back or wearing a hat that's too small for your head. Philosophers have been puzzling over this issue for centuries and leading a lot of horses to water, but most of the time, in most of the pages I've read, it is easier to coax the horses to drink than it is to tell them what the water is made of.

Let's see. Virtue is doing good. Right? Virtue is doing the best you can under the circumstances. OK? Virtue is making the right choice when faced with an ethical dilemma. Well. Is it virtuous to lie to someone in order to spare their feelings? Is it virtuous to steal in order to feed your starving family? Is torture a virtue if it is in order to obtain information that might save lives? I read somewhere that in ancient Rome there was a time when a slave's testimony could only be accepted as truth if it was obtained under torture. Is the soldier who blows the brains out of an enemy soldier being virtuous.

Here's an interesting ethical dilemma and test of virtue. A famous journalist from one country is given the privilege of reporting on the war for the International News, from behind the enemies lines. He finds out about a surprise attack the enemy is planning to make on the other army, the army of his homeland. What does he do?

Does he continue to objectively report what he sees and what happens in his capacity as trusted international journalist? Or does he warn his countrymen thereby losing his reputation, his credentials, his privilege and possibly his life? Where are his loyalties, to his profession or to his country? It's certain his respectability will be in jeopardy whichever choice he makes. But which choice is the virtuous one?

Most of us are never put into such an ethical vice, at least not on that level of severity. But it does bring up the subject of ethical choices and how they are made. Since no two human beings are alike I think it is safe to say that such choices reflect a person's individuality, point of view and life experiences. Thus one man's choice would not be another's. And in that case wouldn't it be just to say that one man's choice is going to be considered without virtue by another man, meaning that the virtuous man is living at the same water hole as the not virtuous man and yet both horses are drinking from the same stream., both justified in their choices.

Have I obfuscated the subject enough? What is or is not virtue is a complicated problem and that's why philosophers have been spending centuries on the topic. And I only spent six paragraphs.

DB - Vagabond Journeys
Never Give Up

1 comment:

Jon said...

Virtue is obviously what the eye of the beholder perceives it to be.