Moral obligations toward rocks

 
 
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g.wood
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28 July 2007 04:37
 
[quote author=“SeanK”][quote author=“perpetualdoubt”]I suppose it might have been more fitting if Sam had said something along the lines of, “We do not have moral obligations towards lint in our laundry.”

Umm… I take exception to this.  For my laundry lint represents the a mere portion of the whole of my clothing for which protects me from the environment and makes me look so dashingly dapper.  How could one belittle a portion of the whole when the whole is exclusively important in our society.  You are a bad, baaaaaad person.  Immoral to the core.

LOL

No, my brother, you are blinded to the Truth. Lint is the textile equivalent of excrement, as it is cast away from the body. Those who worship it are very, very bad people indeed. Go thee not astray! Embrace not the poo! Be not unclean, for a day of Sanitation and Laundry is neigh. All Glory to Lord Shirt and the Blessed Holy Trouser. Amen.

 
 
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unsmoked
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28 July 2007 13:41
 

This may not contribute to the substance of the discussion, but you may be interested to know that the Scottish word for lint is oos.  Before going out on a date, the Scot studies himself, or herself in the mirror to see if there is any oos clinging somewhere on their person.  Oos is not related to ooze, and is pronounced with a ‘sssss.’

Once, while staying in Japan, I got a call from a Hungarian expatriate who survived there by teaching English.  One of his pupils had asked him the meaning of ‘boos,’ and, unable to find it in the dictionary, and unwilling to admit that he didn’t know the answer, he was convinced that I, to whom English was a first language, could help him.

“Boos?”

“Yez.  They tell me like that.  Boos.  What means it?”

“You’re teaching Hungarian are you?”

“No, no.  Japanese not interested in Hungarian.  ENGLISH!  Boos!  What means it?  She a nice girl.  I want tell her.”

“Boos, you say?”

“Yea!  Yea!  Like that.  Boos!”

A light went on in my cerebellum.  “You don’t mean booze, do you?”

“Yea!  Yea!  Like that.  Boos!  What means it?”

“Booze is an alcoholic drink, like whiskey.”

“Whizkey?”

“Right.  Hard liquor.  But it could be any drink that make you drunk; I mean, can makes you drunk.”

“Zake?”

“Right.  Zake could be called boos.  I mean, sake could . . . say are you training those Toyota people . . . ?  I read about your class in the English newspaper.”

“Right, right.  Their big trip to U.S.  Visit Disneyland.  You know how they call Florida?  Foo-raw-ri-da!  Funny, yez?”

“Say, that IS funny.  Anyway, boos, I mean booze, is drink, like whiskey, got it?”

“Right!  Right!  Thanks to you.  Say, take it easy, will you?”

 
 
 
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g.wood
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29 July 2007 03:58
 
[quote author=“unsmoked”]Before going out on a date, the Scot studies himself, or herself in the mirror to see if there is any oos clinging somewhere on their person. 

Those Scots got it all goin’ on.

 
AmericanHumanist
 
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AmericanHumanist
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20 August 2007 06:09
 

I agree with Sam: We don’t have moral obligations toward rocks. It would be a misunderstanding, however, to suggest that, because of this, we can go around blowing up any old stone with abandon. Taking each of your examples in turn:

First thing I thought of was the Taliban leader who gave the order for the Buddhist statue to be blown up. He said, “They’re only rocks.” I’m no Buddhist, to me it was ancient art, not a religious symbol, much like Greek or Roman antiquities, and I think just about everyone saw it that way.

The Bamiyan Buddhas were made of rock, certainly, and it was a great crime to destroy them. That does not imply, however, that rocks can have rights. Think about it: Who was being slighted by the destruction of the statues? It certainly wasn’t the statues themselves. They weren’t sentient, and therefore couldn’t care one way or another about their own fate. So why was their demolition immoral? Because it disrespected the talent that made them possible and deprived future generations of the opportunity to enjoy them. It is quite possible, in other words, to deem the destruction of the Buddhas immoral by invoking only our obligations toward our fellow humans; there’s no need to suppose obligations toward the rocks themselves.

My second thought was mountaintop mining. You’ve seen this travesty, I’m guessing. Rocks!

Actually, I haven’t seen this travesty, but I surmise it involves major ecological damage and devastation of the mountaintops. Assuming that my surmise is accurate, it’s basically the same situation as the Buddhas. We need to be quite clear about what is being offended by ecological damage. It’s not the earth itself; it’s our own aesthetic sense (as well as, in this case, whatever organisms may be disadvantaged by the loss of their habitats).

Third, I thought of old Chief Dan George saying that the difference between the white man and the (Native American) Indian was that the white man thinks everything is dead, but to himself, everything is alive. He specifically mentions rocks! He’s speaking about environmental stewardship. As I see it, there are enormous moral implications in our relationship with rocks.

Surely it’s relevant to point out that this nugget of Indian spirituality is just plain wrong: Rocks are not alive, and there’s no good reason to think they have any experience whatsoever. In other words, there is nothing you can possibly do to help or harm a rock. It’s just not a morally significant entity. To reiterate and sum up: Any obligations we have to be good stewards of the environment are derived from our obligations toward our fellow sentient beings, the humans and animals that would suffer gratuitously from major ecological changes. It is nonsense to speak of moral obligations toward the non-sentient aspects of an ecosystem for their own sake.

After all, Earth is one big rock, essentially.

Indeed it is, but that’s not why it’s valuable. It’s valuable because of the billions of creatures that depend on it for their well-being. At the risk of sounding like a broken record: our moral obligations are to those creatures, not the planet itself.

At any moment, there are presumably many large and impressive rocks somewhere in this universe being destroyed by an exploding star or some such phenomenon. We do not mourn their deaths, and I presume no one here is tempted to. This fact alone should be enough to put to rest the idea of moral obligations toward rocks.

 
 
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unsmoked
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20 August 2007 10:31
 

For several years I lived in a small town in the Sierra Foothills.  Almost daily I walked along a country road that was shaded with pines and oaks.
The trees become familiar, and I passed them like old acquaintences.  At one point, under an oak, there was a huge boulder, mostly moss covered, bigger than a car, with crevices holding small flowering plants, pine husks and acorn cups left by squirrels.  It had a shelf where it was comfortable to sit and take a break in the shade of the oak.

On one of those walks I saw that a road grader had passed along before me, and to my astonishment when I came to the site of my rock, found that it was gone.  It had been pushed over the bank.  It had left a trail of broken trees on its way to the creek below.  This was an act of vandalism by a bored grader operator who had no feel for the pleasant aspect of the old road.

I once read a book about a ship that became locked in the ice, forcing the crew to winter over with the Eskimos.  From their camp the whites had to stumble down to the water’s edge over the rocks, so they cleared a path.  This path was a very visible alteration to a landscape.  If I remember the story correctly, the seals stopped coming to that area after that - very bad for the Eskimos who had lived there for thousands of years without altering the beach.

Rocks that are part of the landscape become familiar to us, like a mountain, like a friend.  Living closer to nature, our ancestors had a feeling for them that very few people today have ever shared.  Still, most Americans would be outraged if anyone damaged Halfdome.

 
 
 
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g.wood
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20 August 2007 10:40
 

[quote author=“AmericanHumanist”]It’s valuable because of the billions of creatures that depend on it for their well-being. At the risk of sounding like a broken record: our moral obligations are to those creatures, not the planet itself.

Wrong, wrong, wrong! Ever hear the terms “ecosystem,” “symbiosis?”  Get it?

At any moment, there are presumably many large and impressive rocks somewhere in this universe being destroyed by an exploding star or some such phenomenon.

Right. That’s how this planet came to be…according to the latest ideas of the brightest.

We do not mourn their deaths, and I presume no one here is tempted to. This fact alone should be enough to put to rest the idea of moral obligations toward rocks.

We do not mourn celestial events because they are a result of natural law. Figure out the difference between this and what I was talking about.

 
AmericanHumanist
 
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AmericanHumanist
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27 August 2007 07:13
 

[quote author=“g.wood”]Wrong, wrong, wrong! Ever hear the terms “ecosystem,” “symbiosis?” Get it?

I don’t really get it, since you haven’t explained how these terms refute my argument. Maybe you should replace some of your sarcasm with actual argument. It would certainly make it easier to understand you.

If you mean that we shouldn’t destroy the earth because organisms have symbioses with it, well that simply doesn’t contradict anything I’ve argued. I have a moral obligation to not destroy your house; but the obligation is to you, not to your house.

We do not mourn celestial events because they are a result of natural law. Figure out the difference between this and what I was talking about.

If a lightning bolt strikes a young child and zaps her to death, this is also a natural event. We still call this a bad thing, because human children are morally significant beings. Insensate rocks aren’t.

 
 
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g.wood
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27 August 2007 11:04
 

[quote author=“AmericanHumanist”]I don’t really get it, since you haven’t explained how these terms refute my argument. Maybe you should replace some of your sarcasm with actual argument. It would certainly make it easier to understand you.

I’m not going to get into a precisely worded point-for-point. If you don’t get my drift now, you won’t.

I have a moral obligation to not destroy your house; but the obligation is to you, not to your house.

Forget my house. There’s a house around here called The Log House at Craftsman Farms. Suffice to say that it’s a historic house. Some people thought enough of it to save it from development. They felt a moral obligation. They were right.

If a lightning bolt strikes a young child and zaps her to death, this is also a natural event. We still call this a bad thing, because human children are morally significant beings. Insensate rocks aren’t.

If a religious fanatic dynamites an ancient piece of art, it’s OK as long as a little girl doesn’t hit by a flying rock.

 
 
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Traces Elk
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27 August 2007 12:10
 

[quote author=“g.wood”]They were right.

The customer is always right.

No. Strike that. The customer always thinks he’s right, and the merchant should always endeavor to preserve the illusion.

[quote author=“g.wood”]If a religious fanatic dynamites an ancient piece of art, it’s OK as long as a little girl doesn’t hit by a flying rock.

Q.E.D.

 
 
 
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g.wood
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27 August 2007 23:29
 

[quote author=“Salt Creek”]
No. Strike that. The customer always thinks he’s right, and the merchant should always endeavor to preserve the illusion.

I’m always in doubt about significant purchases. Should I have bought the Marshall? The Line 6 is starting to look good now… Am I settling for an SG? Don’t I really want the Les Paul?

 
 
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Traces Elk
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28 August 2007 02:47
 

[quote author=“g.wood”][quote author=“Salt Creek”]
No. Strike that. The customer always thinks he’s right, and the merchant should always endeavor to preserve the illusion.

I’m always in doubt about significant purchases. Should I have bought the Marshall? The Line 6 is starting to look good now… Am I settling for an SG? Don’t I really want the Les Paul?

Ah, that sounds more like it. Insensate Rock music. Bassless accusations.

 
 
 
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g.wood
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28 August 2007 10:24
 

[quote author=“Salt Creek”][quote author=“g.wood”][quote author=“Salt Creek”]
No. Strike that. The customer always thinks he’s right, and the merchant should always endeavor to preserve the illusion.

I’m always in doubt about significant purchases. Should I have bought the Marshall? The Line 6 is starting to look good now… Am I settling for an SG? Don’t I really want the Les Paul?

Ah, that sounds more like it. Insensate Rock music. Bassless accusations.

Pretty clever.  8)

 
 
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unsmoked
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28 August 2007 11:26
 

But, does rock music have a soul?

 
 
 
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g.wood
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28 August 2007 14:29
 

[quote author=“unsmoked”]But, does rock music have a soul?

No, that’s soul music.

 
 
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unsmoked
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28 August 2007 16:49
 

Do we have a moral obligation to soul music, but not to rock music?