Friday, December 28, 2007

On Vices and Virtues: Every instinct can be pursued in a way that results in either virtue or vice

David's book
The Good Eye Doctor, David Khorram, writes a fascinating blog from an intriguing island. He is running a series of posts on presentations at the recent Marianas International Baha'i Winter School. -gw

So, then, what differentiates humans from animals? As a species, it would have to be the power of intellect. Humans have a higher intelligence that is an overlay onto the instincts. It's a sort of reasoning power, but also an evaluative power. It is this capacity for intellect, which is an expression of consciousness and an expression of the human soul, that allows for decision-making, free-will, and the emergence of values such as "right" and "wrong." Animals, lack this capacity of evaluating "right" and "wrong", "good" and "bad", "vice" and "virtue." And as such in their world, they are none of these. They simply exist and function at the level of instinct.

However, instinct is the source of morals, because every instinct, from the human perspective can be pursued in a way that results in either vice or virtue.

We went through an exercise of taking each instinct and coming up with the vices and virtues of expressing that instinct.

For example, the vices of "self-preservation" on an individual and a social level could include war, anger, lying, murder, exploitation, accumulation of excessive wealth, espionage, negative campaigning, backbiting, etc. While on the other side, virtuous or positive expressions of "self-preservation" could include such things as cooperation, resourcefulness, individual initiative, family, justice, hard work, good governance, and planning.

Vices related to pursuit of food could include overeating, exploitation of the environment, cruelty to animals, the proliferation of cooking shows (that one was my idea), withholding food as a means of coercion, and the like. Virtues could be health and energy, hospitality, means of sharing culture, bonding, pleasure, detachment and self-discipline, and expressions of generosity and charity.

Vices related to the drive for reproduction/sex are such things as promiscuity, prostitution, human trafficking, overpopulation, population manipulation through government policies (think "one child" policy), pornography, lust. Virtues might include love, intimacy, children, pleasure, faithfulness and fidelity.

Vices related to the territorial instinct would include nationalism, racial and ethnic discrimination, trade barriers, xenophobia. Virtues include sane patriotism, environmentalism, pride in ones culture and homeland, a sense of home and of sharing one's home.

"Bushido and the Traditional Japanese Moral Education"
The second speaker yesterday at the Mariana Islands International Baha'i Winter School was Nozomu Sonda from Japan, who spoke on "Bushido and Traditional Japanese Moral Education."
"People's Theatre"
The first speaker of the day was Sahmil Fattakhov, a Russian film-maker and journalist with background in conflict resolution....
"Injustice, Meaning and Purpose"
Barbara Jamison led a seminar studying two letters from the Universal House of Justice.
{Re-posted with permission}

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