Unclassified Scenery

Philosophy Shelf

National Library Bookshelf
Bookshelf at the National Library

The National Library of Finland is an excellent place to get some work done. No internet, dead quiet, and lots of smart books. Each time I visit, I spend some time working through a few random books from the philosophy, law, and ethics sections. I picked up this habit because I’ve been wondering if we are any more or less of an ethical society today than a few generations ago. Does today’s newfangled technology influence qualities such as honesty, responsibility, and empathy? Not sure if books like A Crisis of Spirit: Our Desperate Search for Integrity or Moral Theory & Practice Philosophy will shed any light or just confuse me even more.

I’m also curious about how an author manages to fill an entire book with theoretical writing about right and wrong and free will and moral imperative — how do you organize such a discussion? And how do you use this information once you put the book down? Here are two excerpts to get things rolling:

Right and Wrong. “The classic courtroom test for insanity reflects the enormity of the right-wrong question: can the defendant tell right from wrong? Not being able to tell right from wrong is the most serious perversion of human nature; if it were true of even a sizable minority of Americans, the cause for integrity would be doomed. But there’s a crucial distinction between people who can’t tell right from wrong and those who choose to ignore the difference . . . we’re reminded of the fact that there are two stages to ethical behavior: knowing what is right and doing it. Should we tell the waitress she undercharged us? Use the computer system at work to access travel information for our next vacation? Betray a friend? Have an affair? These are, for the most part, the same kinds of temptations that have lured human beings since Eve spied the apple. When a country’s moral leadership withers, as ours has since the 1980s, those temptations become all the more powerful. But that doesn’t mean we don’t recognize temptations for they are.”

— Anita Spencer. A Crisis of Spirit: Our Desperate Search for Integrity, 1996

Reason and the Internal Social Contract. “It is wrong logically, because the rationality of disposing oneself to do X in every case is not equivalent to the rationality of irrevocably binding oneself to do X in each individual case. I do not deny that if it is rational to dispose oneself to do X in every case then it is generally rational to do X in each individual case. But that is all it is, generally rational.”

— Jeffrey Reiman. Justice and Modern Moral Philosophy, 1990

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And now, let’s head south to tackle ethical questions in a different manner…

[audio:Things Are Going To Work Out Right.mp3|artists=The Web|titles=Things Are Going to Work Out Right]
The Web – Things Are Going To Work Out Right
from Belize City Boil Up. Cult Cargo | Buy it on vinyl, CD, or mp3
Beautifully packaged compilation of late sixties and early seventies soul, funk, disco, and reggae from Belize. This track from The Web includes all of these genres, starting off with some slow burning soul before launching into sweaty dancefloor chaos. 

[audio:Honesty is the Best Policy.mp3|artists=Gospel Chandelier|titles=Honesty is the Best Policy]
Gospel Chandeliers – Honesty is the Best Policy
from Grand Bahama Goombay. Cult Cargo | Buy it on vinyl, CD, or mp3
From another indispensable Cult Cargo release, here’s a sparkling bit of Caribbean gospel.