Scott Hardie | November 27, 2004
I love this story: (link)

Did anyone have any interesting experiences on this big shopping day? I hope no one was trampled for $30 DVD players.

Lori Lancaster | November 27, 2004
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David Mitzman | November 27, 2004
My parents went to BestBuy around 5am to get a $200 emachine computer. They were sold out already before they got there. The store didn't even open till 6am, but the employees gave out tickets to the first people in line so there would be no rush to the back of the store where the computers and laptops were. I got what I wanted though. A 25 pack of blank DVD-R's for half off and 24 Season 1 for $13 instead of $40. :)

Scott Hardie | November 27, 2004
I can only imagine what John Gunter or his wife would have said to that boy, Lori. :-)

Dave Stoppenhagen | November 28, 2004
I don't have much tolerance for that kind of rudeness. I was flipped off the other day by a 6 year old while I was driving, I was half tempted to beat both him and the parent.

David Mitzman | November 29, 2004
There's something to be said about parents right now that their kids are acting the way they are. We had a family gathering over here yesterday, and my cousin and her husband came over with their two kids (one was 4 and the other was 8). The four year old was all over the place and they were playing with an old marble chess set my parents got from Mexico well before I was born. Anyway, they were knocking over the pieces and such and their father wasn't being stern enough to tell them to stop. I remember back in the day, if I was getting dangerously close to breaking something like that, I would get the "If you break that, I'm going to break you" from parents and other such authoritative figures (idle threats but still, it was threat enough to make me not touch something like that). Anyway, you can't even say shit like that now. Kids today need the discipline. If I had a 6 year old that was flipping off people, I'd wonder where I went wrong as a parent.

Scott Horowitz | November 29, 2004
Black Friday is hell. I try to avoid shopping on it as much as possible. It amazes me what people would do for bargains. If I'm going to buy something, I'm going to buy it., not wait for a freaking "shopping holiday" I fucking hate this season.

Lori Lancaster | November 29, 2004
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Jackie Mason | November 29, 2004
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David Mitzman | November 30, 2004
The problem is that these days, parents can't discipline their kids like they once were able to. Spank your children and someone might think you're abusing them. It's ridiculous. I'm not for beating children (although I've seen a few that deserve a good ass kicking just based on their public behavior), but a little kick in the ass never hurt.

Scott Horowitz | November 30, 2004
I think children should have implants in them, and when they misbehave, the parents push a button, and they get an electric shock.

Jackie Mason | November 30, 2004
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Kris Weberg | December 3, 2004
My parents spanked me once. The harder they hit, the more Iaughed, they say. Spanking wasn't used on me again. I always hated being grounded more than being spanked -- grounding was serious on me, it meant no toys, no TV, nothing but schoolbooks and blank walls. Ten minutes being paddled is laughable compared to three days or a week of that.

Based on personal experience, the best way to discipline a child is through guilt, not physical pain. Physical pain goes away pretty quickly, unless you're literally beating your child; guilt lasts a lifetime if properly administered. I think a parent who has to spank a child is missing the point. Plus, guilt can be used after your kid gets older, even after they've moved out of the house.

Really, effective spanking your kid is less about the pain and more about the humiliation and eventually the guilt -- and if you can only achieve that with hitting, you've been outwitted already. In that sense, I don't oppose spanking; I just don't think that the physical hurt is what makes it work as a disciplinary technique.

Kris Weberg | December 3, 2004
I would add that I think what parents today often fail at is inducing guilt. Most parents today really refuse to believe their children should ever feel bad, because that hurts their self-esteem. But if it weren't for hurt self-esteem, most people wouldn't have a moral code -- as an adult, most of us don't avoid doing wrongful things because someone might hit us, we do it because we've learned to feel guilty or ashamed: in short, to feel bad about doing the wrong thing.

Jackie Mason | December 3, 2004
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Scott Hardie | December 4, 2004
I am so fucking worried for the next generation of adults, many of whom I expect to behave like monsters. Throwing cups at basketball players and inciting brawls in the stands? Backing over pedestrians with your SUV and shouting at them to get out of the way? I expect today's bratty and recklessly irresponsible behavior to pale in comparison to tomorrow's. And how fucking messed up will that generation's kids be?

That's not to say that I agree with you completely, Kris. I was rarely made to feel guilty as a child and now I'm all but impervious to the feeling; instead I was taught to weigh my actions and other people's actions carefully, to forge my own moral judgments with analysis and consideration, even at a young age. I think I'm doing wrong, instead of feeling that I'm doing something wrong. I've been called a moral relativist because I don't use a Bible or some other dependable standard, but is my method really less consistent than feeling your way through moral decisions, especially minor ones about which you have no strong pull in either direction? That causes arbitrary judgment, and I know a lot of lawmakers who should be more careful with it. Anyway, though I hope someday to teach my kids this analytical skill, I know it's not for most people; you have be somewhat cold-hearted in the first place for it to work. :-\

Kris Weberg | December 4, 2004
I'd argue that what you're describing isn't "wrong" in the sense that most people mean the term -- "wrong" has an inherent emotional charge for many people in all contexts, from academic evaluation to moral decision-making -- but is some sense of "non-beneficial." If you're really working completely from evaluation of consequences without emotion, then an action that harms others and benefits you can only be "wrong" in some more global and probabilistic sense, as in the manner of the Kantian moral imperative. Ah, but there's the rub -- Kant has been refigured many times since then. Heck the guy was pre-structuralist, and the humanities are now arguably in a stage after the poststructural.

But I agree with Emmanuel Levinas that, however systematic a moral epistemology may seem, to be actual morality it requires what he describes as an "ethical pre-understanding" that essentiall (in the philosophical sense) founds the conditions of being. In a simplified, mostly wrong (that word!) sense, for Levians our morality and humanity derive from the intersubjectivity of recognition of the Other that is necessarily emotional as well as rational in quality because it involves the entire subject.

The result is something you might call an informed empathy, or more properly, an empathetic rationality. It may not strictly appear as conventional guilt or shame, but a Levinasian analysis of those two feelings would find them rooted in this pre-ontological condition and define guilt and shame as an awareness of this condition of an intersubjective foundation (constitution) of the self, coupled with a corresponding realization that to act to harm the Other is to diminish the very bases of everyone's status as a human subject, and thereby to harm yourself. This realization is not strictly ration nor emotional -- reason, emotion, and the epistemology thereof, as I say, follow from the "understanding" generated by and immanent in intersubjectivity.

The above is, again, a gross oversimplification of a deeply layered ethical philosophy that, like I say, claims to ground the study of being and knowledge. But in short, for Levinas there isn't any truly emotional OR truly rational morality. You and I may disagree, but the terms of the debate are pretty intimidating, to say the least.

Scott Hardie | December 4, 2004
Forgive my ignorance and dissonance: Why is intersubjectivity necessarily emotional in quality? If it's because I cannot make a moral judgment without considering the victim with some kind of empathy, I wonder then how one arrives at the (seemingly to me) unrelated conclusion that society cannot function if attackers are allowed to harm victims and impair their productivity. But I think you're saying that I cannot arrive at a moral stance against a form of assault on "a person" because to authorize it at all would mean to authorize it against myself. I see the reasoning, but to me that gets into matters of the subconscious, because the effect on myself is rarely part of my reasoning. Do I oppose bans on gay marriage because I would not want someone to outlaw my heterosexual marriage? I'm not above using that argument on other people if necessary :-), but it is not a part of my reasoning on the subject: I oppose gay marriage because the arbitrary authorizing of an action for some and not for others is unjust and illogical. I refuse to accept that my selfish subconscious motivations can be held responsible for my reasoning even to the extent that they do influence it, because they are by definition not a part of my conscious self and thus not a part of "me." In all forums, and especially in a forum like this where we consist only of our conscious contributions to the discussion, we can only judge and evaluate what "we" contribute, not what our subconscious motivations contribute.

For what it's worth, I have not studied philosophy or psychology since finishing college years ago, and I do not derive these conclusions from established theories. I think there's something to be said for ignoring "theory" because it confuses the matter with a large amount of inherent unjustiability; debating with ideas instead of facts is like trying to rob a bank by pointing your finger and thumb at the teller. But all that aside, you're drawing from a wealth of knowledge and consideration that these philosophers and psychologists have already made for you, and you're immensely better-equipped to conclude what you conclude than I am to conclude what I conclude. So, don't go taking me too seriously.

Kris Weberg | December 4, 2004
Oh, I just enjoy a good ethical dialogue -- it's part of why I once considered Reform Judaism very seriously, in that one model of Judaism (at least according to Jewish people that I conversed with) was that of a lengthy ethical conversation, not merely a set of commandments and beliefs. After all, the Talmud is essentially learned commentary on Scripture that has assumed the status of Scripture itself. I digress into this because Levinas was Jewish and openly describes his philosophy as an extension of the ethical debate that he sees as framing Judaism -- albeit into a realm in which one does not argue from the Torah, but rather with it as one of a number of ethical philosophies that also include atheistic and rationalist ethics as well.

But you mistake Levinas when you argue for selfishness -- in Levinas, selfishness is wrong as well, because who and what we are as selves only exists as an effect of our existence with others, our intersubjectivity. If you were the only human on earth, he'd argue that you effectively wouldn't be human at all. The encounter with the Other is where humanity exists, in a sort of "in between" of subjects that we mistake for selfhood and so on. It's the implicit ethical condition of living with other people that knowledge and the ontological condition of "self" spring from. You both know and feel a kinship with the other in understanding that they are a being like yourself, and, in turn, gaining a full understanding of what kind of being you are by this outside reference. This understanding is before emotion and intellect, at the very least before they can be formed as seperate elements of the self -- precisely because the self that they belong to forms in the encounter with the Other, in intersubjectivity.

In this sense, reason and emotion are both a kind of ideological or subjective (and thereby limited) perspective from which to describe intersubjectivity -- to this extent, Levinas may be said to invoke Heidegger in describing the way that ordinary, everyday language conceals more than it means about the world. They just aren't particularly good words, because they imply a seperate existence that Levinas argues isn't original, however, practially "real" it may be. What you term "subconscious" or I would call "unconscious" motivations are not some extra space excluded from discussion -- if, as you seem to concede above, they influence some people's thinking in some way, they must be considered. How can you know that your feelings don't in some way affect your conscious, rational decisions? You can only feel that you have no feelings. (If your argument is that your subconscious has no influence on your thinking whatsoever, I'd say that amounts to claiming some second, alter subjectivity that exists with, is linked to, but still inexplicably seperate from the conscious self. That supposition would be very hard to treat ontologically, in that it internalizes the subject-object or self-other schism even as it tries to solve in exteriority.)

*Cough. Sip of water.*

To take an entirely different tack, well outside Levinas, I'll ask a question -- what is "justice," or the "unjust," to you? That is, what makes one action unjust -- the denial of rights to a class of people based on sexual orientation, let's say, or gender -- but another action not just -- the denial of rights to a class of people based on medically-determined criteria of intellect, for example, or deviation from a psychological normativity. And, even assuming that a distinction can be made, why is such a distinction important in some cases?

You're arguing that society wouldn't work without certain rules, but, reasonably, it works so long as the majority of people follow those rules. So long as enough people uphold rational standards of behavior, society functions properly; in return, the broadly proper functioning of society can be seen as a kind of second-order knowledge or trailing sign that most people are conducting themselves rationally. Therefore, if you act unethically and are not penalized, but most people stil behave ethically and your actions do not widely influence them to do otherwise, there is no rational barrier to your acting unethically. If this is the case, why are you committed to ethical behavior at all times? That is to say, if there is no effect on you, what governs your own conduct, rather than the conduct of others?

Reason as a basis for ethical conduct cannot always account for what would be ethical in dealing with other people, of course. Kant, ith his nonconsequentialist universals, famously argued that you could not lie to prevent a murderer from finding a friend you had hidden. Rationally, it isn't your choice to murder the friend, but it is your choice whether to lie or not. This is the Kantian position of the impartial judge, the perspective he (and I gather, you) argue that all ethical determinations must be made from. Of course, this has the effect of pretending that the judge is impartial when, in fact, it's a human who is, however indirectly, affected by the world in which the action to be judged takes place. This is why Kant ends up at something very like God -- to judge matters of human ethics, one would have to be a nonparticipant in humanity, or at least able to imagne such a space and a kind of subject that existed in it. Again, you have to cease being human and split yourself into an impartial, nonhuman subject/Self and a human object/Other to judge other human actions and even your own from the proper distance.

Levinas, in essence, points out that this perspective is at best a kind of bad consciousness or willful ignorance, and therefore logically untrue and irrational; and at worst....well, at worst it allows the "judge" to dehumanize the other by claiming that he or she has no prejudices or irrationality to take into account, and treating his or her judgements as absolute fact or pure reason. I needn't get into the depressing consequences of that, as history has been there before me.

Basically, the "rational, selfless, and arbitrary" standard of morality, if examined, turns out to be partially irrational, selfish, and conditional; or it turns into something other than morality.

Scott Hardie | December 16, 2004
Sorry, Kris. I've been holding off my TC activity until I had time to give your comment proper consideration and response, but I'm forging ahead without it because it's taking too long. I hope to get back to it.

Kris Weberg | December 19, 2004
'S'okay. I had to fly home on short notice due to a family emergency, so I haven't been around for about a week now.

Scott Hardie | December 19, 2004
I hope everything is ok.

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