Premodern and Postmodern ‘Converse’

Pre: I find it really disturbing that homosexuals can legally marry.

Post: You can’t say that’s wrong.

Pre: What do you mean?

Post: Well, maybe it’s wrong for you and your beliefs, but it’s not wrong for everyone.

Pre: So you’re saying something can be wrong for one person and right for another?

Post: Exactly. It depends on the situation.

Pre: So when it comes to morals and values, how do you think we should live?

Post: I think every person must try to do his best in his heart, and not hurt other people. So long as he does what he believes is right, it’s good enough.

Pre: How do you know it’s good enough?

Post: Well, it’s obvious. If we try to be good people and find our way in the world in a way that works for each of us without harming others, that’s all anyone can ask.

Pre: I hear you, but you didn’t answer my question. You just said the same thing another way. How do you know that “doing our best”, or “finding a way that works for ourselves without harming others” is good enough? Good enough for who? Who decides what’s good enough?

Post: I suppose we all decide that within. If we’re true to our beliefs, and do what we think is right, who can say that it’s wrong?

Pre: Well, that’s what I’m asking. You’ve actually been talking about the value of some things.  You said that a particular way of life is “good enough”or “all anyone can ask” or “not wrong”. When you say things like that, aren’t you saying that such ways are right ways to live? Aren’t you making a statement that to live that way is the best way to live?

Post: Nono, not for everyone. It’s right for me. It works for me. I think it’s the best way to live my life, but I don’t force my beliefs onto anyone else.

Pre: Do you get upset with people who force their beliefs on others?

Post: Yes.

Pre: Why?

Post: Well, how would you like someone to do that to you?

Pre: I wouldn’t like it at all.

Post: So?

Pre: So you’re saying that such people should respect your belief system which doesn’t force itself on others.

Post: Right.

Pre: What if they don’t share that belief? What if they think it’s OK to force their beliefs on others?

Post: Well, it would be a sign of immaturity and narrow-mindedness.

Pre: But perhaps their personal belief is to be narrow-minded. Maybe narrow-mindedness is virtuous to them. Maybe that’s what it means to them to do their best in their hearts and find their way in the world.

Post: Well, then they need to leave me alone.

Pre: What if they don’t?  What if they won’t tolerate your tolerance? Shouldn’t you respect their moral views?

Post: If they can’t tolerate my tolerance, then I won’t tolerate their intolerance.

Pre: So, in fact, you’re actually very similar. You both have a sense of right and wrong. They just think they are right enough to insist upon it for all men everywhere. You think you are right enough that you won’t allow someone to interrupt your private moral world. They’re aggressive; you’re defensive. But you both believe there is a better or worse way to live.

Post: I suppose that’s true enough.

Pre: What I’m wondering is what you base your sense of right and wrong, better or worse on. Your Intolerant People  probably have some Holy Book that they base their sense of right and wrong off. Where do you get yours?

Post: I guess I haven’t thought that much about it. Maybe it’s the whole Golden Rule thing. Do unto others as you would have them do to you. Live and let live. Seek happiness without hurting other people.

Pre: Why do you think all people sense the Golden Rule to be true? Why do all people feel outrage when they are victims of injustice? Why do all people hate being robbed or harmed, and know it is wrong to do so?

Post: Well, because we don’t like being harmed. Who does?

Pre: True, but if we’re all just making up the rules in our own minds, why do we get offended if others don’t obey our personalised rules?

Post: What do you mean?

Pre: Well, for example, if we all just decide our own moral paths, maybe in my universe I decide that stealing is OK. When my universe bumps into your universe, I steal your stuff. You get angry. Let’s say you get your stuff back. You’re still angry with me that I stole.

Post: Sure.

Pre: But how can you get angry at me? I’m just obeying the rules of my universe. In your universe, it’s bad to steal. In my universe, it’s good to steal.

Post: But your universe hurts others.

Pre: Ah! So there’s a third rule, a bigger rule, which must govern us both – that we must not hurt each other.

Post: Yes.

Pre: If my rule, which says that stealing is cool, and your rule, which says that it is not, must both submit to some Bigger Rule that we must not harm each other, where does that Bigger Rule come from? Because if I don’t have the Bigger Rule in my universe, I don’t have to respect it. I can rob you and feel no remorse. You must be robbed and be cool with it, because you know the Bigger Rule is not part of my universe.

Post: Well…that’s just weird. I’ve never thought of it that way.

Pre: You think tolerance and open mindedness are good things. And in fact, you think they are good enough for everyone to practise, because you get angry if others don’t practise it. You think everyone should include tolerance and open mindedness in their private moral universes.

Post: I suppose so.

Pre: So where does this Rule come from, which governs more than one private moral universe?

Post: I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it.

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One Response to “Premodern and Postmodern ‘Converse’”

  1. Chris Ames Says:

    “I don’t know, and I REFUSE to think about it!!!”

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