Wednesday, June 07, 2006
How ought we to act?
independent thinking can be scattered and chaotic without the twin disciplines of logic and compassion. without basing inferences on premises known to be true people can engage in very dangerous and foolhardy activities. the problem is how to know what the truth is. whatever we believe is real, whatever we are convinced is fact becomes for us the truth, but whether or not we believe in something, the real truth, which is often quite independent of people grasping it, nevertheless exists.
the truth of any situation and whether an action is right or wrong must depend on the circumstances one finds himself in. very often what is wrong in one situation is right in another and vice versa. if one can apply kant's categorical imperative to his particular situation at that particular time chances are very good he will arrive at the rational and correct decision. the imperative states 'always act by that maxim through which you can at the same time will to become a universal law'. if all were to act as you in this situation how would the world be? is this something you would have all people do? would it be the best action for anyone to engage in who finds himself in this particular situation? if you can answer these questions and feel assured that anyone in your situation could act this way and it would be the best for all those concerned then not only should you do the action but indeed you have an obligation to do the action.
it all comes down to this. do not do those things to others which they do not like just as you do not like to have those things done unto you which you do not like. our duties to all sentient beings are mainly negative ie refraining from performing a particular act which would cause harm, however, when we are in a position to lend aid to a being who is suffering we most assuredly ought to.