Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Morality in the 21st Century

The latest guest on Philosophy Bites is American moral philosopher Susan Neiman. In this short podcast she discusses morality in the 21st century.

Neiman suggests that fundamentalism may well be a reaction to this period's unbridled consumerism, that in effect those yearning for a return to the fundamentals reject that the end-all and be-all of life is to amass as many consumer goods as possible. How then can one search for a meaningful life other than what advanced global capitalism permits? Neiman suggests a re-examination of the Enlightment period and the values it has to offer. The other choices would be to settle for a nostalgia in pre-modernity or the cyncisim of the postmodern where nothing is of value, which implies nothing is worth doing. Neiman says the the most crucial element of the Enlightment project is the idea of progress, that is, it allows one to be self-critical, to build from those critiques and move forward.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Spirit of the Law and the Ghouls of Arroyo

There are two ways of looking at a country’s legal system. One is that it embodies a set of rules that regulate actions of those bound by the law – legal personalities who inhabit the country in question. It is ‘unlawful’ or ‘illegal’ to steal from your neighbor. The capacity to say that it is wrong to commit such an act shapes the behavior of those who commit themselves, as citizens, to the legal community (i.e. country). To add teeth to the law, there are also all sorts of punishments levied upon those who transgress what is lawful or legal. You pay a fine, you do community service, your liberty is taken away. Seen this way, laws are a set of rules designed to regulate or harmonize a community. They assure order and a measure of peace so that citizens might go about their daily lives with as little hassle as possible.

But what makes stealing unlawful? Or killing? Or rape? These are not ‘unlawful’ just because. The rules by which we abide are moral judgments. It is morally wrong to steal, kill and rape. Why? Because those who have drafted these laws and the community which protects and/or abide by them have put value on one being able to keep one’s possessions and one not being killed or raped by any random person. These values, in turn, are also underlined by a chain of other values – the sanctity of private property, the sanctity of life, the sanctity of dignity. And so on.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Reading Che

This is one of the books I'm reading at the moment. Unlike most biographies, Jorge Catañeda's Compañero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara is an engaging account of a near-mythical figure in revolutionary times.

Che clearly wishes to help others (usually patients) and concurrently sketches a broader vision of 'the order of things.' He is appalled by the poverty and desperation stemming from inequality and helplessness of the poor, but has reached a level of sophistication where he establishes a causal link between the deplorable destiny of 'the proletariat around the world' and an 'absurd sense of caste' - that is, the economic, social and political status quo.

Yet the remedy he proposes is still quite limited. It is a typically middle-class lamentation, within the most simplistic common-sense approach. Governments must stop spending on their own exaltation (like Peron), and pay more attention to the poor. Little is said of why governments act as they do, or what can be done beyond the ritual incantation that they should stop acting as they habitually do. Che's appeal is moral, not really political, arising from an individual, ethical stance against the way things are. With time, his political acumen would become more focused and complex, as befits a leader. But it would never entirely lose that original innocence, springing from the young medical student's encounter with pain and suffering, and strangely but also lastingly, from a certain distance, a deliberately assumed marginal position.

Thanks to B for pilfering this from his school's lost and found. Hehe.

Health Secretary Pummeled by Men in Funny Hats Over Condoms

"To remain rooted in 15th century practices when we are dealing with the wonders of the 21st century gives God a bad name and suggests He can’t adapt to the power and wonders of the intellect He granted man." - Joe America, regular FV commenter.

CBCP legal counsel Atty. Jo Imbong goes head to head with Sec. Cabral.

Then Ricky Carandang asks Atty. Imbong, clearly there is a problem with the spread of HIV/AIDS, what does the church propose as a solution?

Imbong: ......... (coded: don't have sex)

Oh, and happiness, now the CBCP wants to ban condom ads. One wonders why they are not so rabid in fighting corruption.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Drowning in Manny

Horror of horrors, Manny Villar seems to have taken possession of my body. He haunts me everywhere I go and whatever I do. Since I no longer watch television nor listen to the radio, he stalks me on Youtube and Facebook. On the same day I saw a caravan of Villar's supporters handing out flyers in the UP Diliman campus, a friend texted he heard the Villar ad on the MRT. Manny is anywhere and everywhere, omnipresent - like God.

Manny Villar, utang na loob, lubayan mo ako.

As I watched men in orange caps accost UP students, I wondered how much he's been spending to win his prize. All this election spending is not a bit like our consumer-led economic growth, all hot air with no ultimate substance. Posters and flyers are printed, ads are produced and aired, thousands are hired to serve the Villar election machine. Tremendous economic energy expended...for nothing. But no, the presidency is well worth Villar's investment. If GMA is any indication, the chief executive's SAL has a tendency to skyrocket upon assuming office. The presidency has proven lucrative. What businessman can resist?