Candy is Dandy, but Liquor is Quicker

I’ve said before that ethics is the only philosophy that matters. And I still think that’s true. It is. But that has nothing to do with the fact that studying ethics is so damn boring! There’s really not much to it. There are what? maybe a half dozen or so ethical theories out there that we deal with. There’s Utilitarianism, Egoism, Kantianism, Relativism, Virtue Ethics, and Divine Command theory. Sure, there are different versions — strong/weak, rule/act — but there’s pretty much nothing much to do after you’ve learned the various moral theories. Which makes it pretty easy when you think of it. Unlike all those ‘nobody’s ever really going to know for sure, so what we’re really trying to find is the most plausible answer’ business, ethics is pretty much on the ground. Real solutions for real people. No one really knows whether God exists or not, or if we live in a world of appearances or things-in-themselves (ugh!), but we all know the choice between whether we should cheat on our wife or tell the “dancer” that we really don’t want that table dance (but then, are lapdances really cheating?) or whether or not we should beat the shit out of that neighbor kid who won’t turn down his car stereo at three in the morning (or beat the tarnation out of the guy at the library with the most obnoxious ringtone ever). Look, if we see a drowning guy and we’re the only guy who can save him, and our options are to jump in and save him, or keep the $38 New Balance shoes that we just bought (for a good price) at Big 5 dry, we wouldn’t be surprised if everyone thought were a douche for not wanting to get our shoes wet. And ethics goes just about like this all the time: situation pops up, ethical dilemma, refer to handbook, apply applicable ethical theory, and volia! problem solved. Works even quicker on sitcoms. And that’s the way it’s worked for centuries. Centuries. Oh sure, every so often they’ll trot out something new like Rawl’s “veil of ignorance”, but really, any utilitarian can get you similar results without having to forget what race you are or how much money you have. It’s all fine and dandy how it works, but it’s just so damn boring!!!! Which brings me to a class I had some time ago. It was a class on intutionism. If you’re not familiar, like all of ethics, intuitionism asks ‘what is good?’. Here’s my attempt to nutshell something that is impossibly unnutshellable: G.E. Moore argued that the term ‘good’ meaning moral good, is undefinable. So, if we try to say that good (in the ethical sense) means something or is equal to a quality like ‘pleasure’, then our problem is, is that what is pleasuarble is not always good. Doing heroin is certainly pleasurable, but most people would agree that it is not ‘good’. Pleasure is a quality that is not common to all ‘good’ things. Moore likened the attempt to define good to an attempt to define the color yellow. To describe yellow, most of us would name yellow things such as bananas or taxicabs, or point to something yellow like a person with Hepatitis C. According to Moore, we can’t define what yellow is. We know ‘yellow’ intuitively. The same goes for what is ‘good’. I’m not bringing this up in order to discuss the merits of the theory, other than to say that this theory is just about the easiest thing to understand without having any ability whatsoever to explain how I do. And that doesn’t make for a very exciting theory. What I did learn that quarter, however, is exactly how to make an otherwise boring topic like ethics interesting… Alcohol. Yep. Get liquored up before class. I remember that, on one occasion, I had partaken a bit of the liqiud happiness before class (the one on intuitionism I mentioned before), and the class was marvelous! I can’t really remember what we discussed, or what I may have said (except for the fact that I thought that everything everyone said was funny), but I remember that, at least for that moment, intuitionism was the most interesting topic on the planet, and that everyone should be so lucky to have the opportunity to discuss something so fascinating. So, whenever I watch COPS, I think (now) that it’s not that these poor drunken bar brawlers are the stupid hicks that everyone thinks that they are. In fact, one could argue that they’re learned philosophers (and not just in the way that every drunk guy becomes an instant philosopher). It’s that they’ve figured out how to make moral conflicts, like bar brawling much more interesting! Morality is better (or at least funner) when you’re under the influence! No wonder so many thought experiments have to do with using drugs.


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