Defiance–Doing What’s Right Is Always Hard

Truth Is Derivative-The “Ought” Is There In The Theory’s First Principles
Nightmare concluded

“You’re beginning to sound like you’re back in the classroom,” I
responded, “If I remember correctly, the problem back then was getting
from the `is’ to the `ought.’ The `is’ can always be made to sound
like it should be an `ought,’ but the problem has always been `how do
we really know?’ Help me! When does the `is’ become the `ought?'”

“That’s a problem,” said Dr. Gill, “a problem that’s gone unsolved for
far too long. Many attempts have been make to get from the `is’ to the
`ought,’ but every attempt has ended in failure. The reason is that it
can’t be done. The relationship moves in the other direction. You
can’t go from the `is’ to the `ought,’ but you can go from the
`ought’ to the `is.’ Implications always follow from valid conceptual
schemes (operationally defined concepts structured according to
established rules). These implications, when extended, produce
necessary and self-consistent results. In other words, first you set
up the rules that you are going to use. Then, by experiment, or by
reasoning, you explore the logical implications of those rules. Truth
is derivative. In the use of the scientific method, it is not unusual
for the `ought,’ the implications of a theory, to turn into the `is,’
the scientifically confirmed results of the theory. In ethical theory
it should be the same way. The `ought’ is there, in the theory’s first
principles. Turning the `ought’ into the `is,’ however, will always
take work.

“When the self-contradictory is used to keep a person honest,
self-consistent behavior follows naturally, like water running
downstream. Mark my words; the day is coming when arbitrary ethical
decisions will be no more. Just like in mathematics where it is
impossible to both be consistent and not follow the rules of
consistency, so too, future ethical decisions will both inform and
lead. Make no mistake about it; the men who braved the unchartered
territory in mathematics on their way to discovering the tools
underlying the scientific revolution—differentials, sets, groups, and
topological spaces, were all courageous individuals. When you are
moved to do otherwise, `doing what’s right’ is always hard. However,
it becomes a whole lot easier when reason, conviction, and consistency
are there to back you up. Upon his return from performing the
experiment that confirmed Einstein’s General Relativity predictions,
Sir Author Eddington greeted Albert Einstein and was surprised to find
him unmoved by the news of the successful experiment. When he asked,
`Why so unconcerned?’ Einstein replied, `Measurements sometimes lie,
numbers do not.’ A sensitive human being winces at the `global norms’
presented on the nightly news, but I believe putting an end to ethical
disputes will one day be greeted with Einstein-like self-assurance. On
that day `wrong thinking’ will turn into `right action.’ On that day
there will be jubilation in the streets. And, on that day, you will no
longer feel compelled to run away from my lectures.”

As a thunder boom shook me awake, I found myself in a cold sweat. I
picked up my sleeping bag and went out on the porch. It wasn’t
raining, and I was scared to fall back to sleep. I felt a lot better
out in the fresh air and after watching the bats fly above my head for
a while, I finally dozed off, but shortly after I woke up with rain in
my face. I went back inside and somehow salvaged a couple hours of
sleep. At first light, I was out of there!


About bwinwnbwi

About me: Marvin Gaye’s song, "What’s Going On" was playing on the jukebox when I went up to the counter and bought another cup of coffee. When I got back, the painting on the wall next to where I was sitting jumped out at me, the same way it had done many times before. On it was written a diatribe on creativity. It was the quote at the bottom, though, that brought me back to this seat time after time. The quote had to do with infinity; it went something like this: Think of yourself as being in that place where infinity comes together in a point; where the infinite past and the infinite future meet, where you are at right now. The quote was attributed to Hermann Hesse, but I didn’t remember reading it in any of the books that I had read by him, so I went out and bought Hesse’s last novel, Magister Ludi. I haven’t found the quote yet, but I haven't tired of looking for it either.
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5 Responses to Defiance–Doing What’s Right Is Always Hard

  1. Thanks for visiting my blog! Your ethical/metaphysical commentaries are deeply probing and very thought-provoking. –J.A.R.

  2. ElizOF says:

    What was the reason for your reluctance…? Or did I miss something in that conversation? 😉

    • bwinwnbwi says:

      Why I left Gill’s lecture (and this is a true story) was because Gill acted as if he had all the answers, but he wouldn’t tell the class. His refusal to be up front with those answers was compounded by his sensitive comments (comments that suggested he really did have those answers), and these comments spoke directly to the pain, insincerity, insanity, corruption, selfishness, etc. that are more a part of society then are their opposites. What I was struggling with–a painful need to find answers to “why,” a painful need to find answers to my own failings, was the reason for my reluctance. In the end, I did not agree with everything Dr. Gill taught, but without those teachings I would never have fulfilled my quest–to discover answers that aren’t for everyone perhaps, but for me they are extremely satisfying. Thanks for the question. Take care!

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