Tag Archives: academia

My Ethical Reckoning and Edification

In my study of ethics, I have had some difficulty understanding the application of theories in light of the arguments from competing camps. I am finding it more reasonable to define my own value system, then compare this with the virtues of others. Only then can I truly appreciate the applicability of the ethical theories presented to me.

The most problematic theory is the divine command theory. In Thiroux and Krasemann (2009), divine command theory is told to be a nonconsequentialist theory derived from a set of edicts put forth by some absolute ruler of the universe (p. 54). First, I oppose their categorization. As most religions have some villainous being to rule over an underworld filled with those who violate these edicts, it seems to me that the threat of eternal damnation is certainly a valid consequence for believers of these religions. In contrast to negative consequences for bad acts, the same religions tell of eternal bliss for following its rules, positive consequences for good acts. More to the point, as Thiroux and Krasemann (2009) so aptly point out, there is no rational foundation for the existence of such a being (p. 57). I agree with this view, as it is illogical to base morality in such a weak argument.

Kant’s duty ethics appear to have more validity. Kant recognizes that we have a duty to act morally (Thiroux & Krasemann, 2009, p. 59). Unfortunately, Kant does not go further to explain how this duty has manifested. Thiroux and Krasemann attempt to explain Kant’s theory as nonconsequentialist based on absolute moral rules relying on poor logic such as the example provided, “all triangles are three-sided” (p. 57). It does not take a mathematician to understand that all triangles are three-sided purely by definition and not by reason or logic. Therefore, any absolute moral rule must be absolute by definition, and it must have a reason in order to be reasoned as such. It is these reasons, such as the continuum or failure of society, that would make this theory a consequentialist theory, and all of the duties of this theory are based solely on the vitality of society. Ergo, it would only be moral to work for society, and it would be immoral to work against it. This would be valid if there was truth in that any particular society should flourish over another. Nazi Germany comes immediately to mind.

With his prima facie duties, Ross, on the other hand, admits to consequences having bearing on choices, but he cautions that their import should be minimized when considering right and wrong (Thiroux & Krasemann, 2009, p. 62). Like Kant, Ross gives no thought to the origins of his duties, though those that he did enumerate seem to provide for the good of the individual and for society. I can certainly appreciate better the motifs of Kant and Ross over the weak foundations of divine command theory.

To more fully understand my ethics, I had to look past my mundane habits and take a truly in-depth look at the origins of my beliefs, then I had to question the motivation for each. For one, I ultimately believe that killing another human being is wrong, but do I find it unethical, and if so, to what degree. Is the taking of a human life ever ethical? Further, in order to understand my own ethics, I feel that I must analyze the basic motivations of our instincts and how we have evolved from primitive organisms into the social creatures that we are. It is this social bonding, after all, that creates this sense of morality that I am questioning.

It is understood that at some point in our development as a species, we appreciated that we were more effective as a group than as individuals competing against each other. In order to live together, we must have realized the need to develop rules and boundaries as they relate to our interactions within this social group. I believe that these rules were based on our primal needs and were focused on the benefits of banding together. For example, I mentioned killing in the last paragraph. As an early social group, we would benefit from safety in numbers over individually facing predation. If this is a benefit of social grouping, then why would this type of open competition be favored within the group? It would not. Another example would be the primal need for food versus the act of stealing. The social group would condemn stealing another’s food, thus stealing, itself, becomes taboo. This, I believe, is the reason that we have morality, and we have gotten so far from this basic understanding of morality that our own personal ethics have become confused and complicated. All of the basic moral understandings that are common in many cultures can be traced back to the first pre-societies: dishonesty, gluttony, murder, sloth, theft, and later, apathy, despondency, greed, lust, pride, and vanity.

To me, it is permissible to take a human life. It is permissible to take the life of an innocent person. One example that epitomizes this position is in the face of a torturous death. The ability to, on request, peacefully end the life of someone facing death by torture is virtuous to me. Another example would be my belief in the usefulness of euthanasia. Are these examples of murder? I think not; murder involves malice, and there is no malice in these examples. With this thought, one can still hold that all murder is unethical while killing an innocent person.

As our social system evolved, so have our needs. We are no longer few in number with common basic needs, but we are many, within many societies, and with many different needs. Though, we are still human. From our origins, as I have described, we have created our rules, a common morality that should hold true in any society, except the most exotic. Within our newly formed societies, we have prescribed rules which have evolved with our societies and have grown as societies have grown and split into other societies. Cultures within societies will augment the rules, as will the various sub-cultures. Each and every amalgam, still, has evolved from a more singular set of basic rules.

These rules must be relative to the needs of the members in order to be effective, creating a more relativist morality.

The rules of life have changed. As an American, I no longer value food, water, and shelter as much as I value my freedom and liberty. How can that be? At some point in the past, food, water, and shelter were abundant, yet people were probably prohibited or limited. Our ancestors fought hard to regain their freedom, and this appreciation of liberty has been passed down in such a way that I value it more than life, itself. This, too, is an evolution of morality. This is the point that my ethics cease to remain basic and evolve with the functionality of my society, where necessity triumphs over morality.

My understanding of morality is more or less bound to social contract theory in that, as a society, we have a better quality of life. Each decision that we make ought to reflect our willingness to participate wholly within society, lest be made pariahs. Within society and personal and business relationships, we engage in interactions that involve decision-making. It is these decisions that we consider when discussing ethics and morality. Within societies, there is competition. Competition within a society is a part of nature, part of evolution, and a healthy device to ensure survival. There are also rules within this competition. Unfortunately, our society has reversed many of these rules. As we have become more ‘civilized’, we have sought to provide a common mechanism to adjudicate morality, and in turn, project our personal ethics upon others. This is an aberration of justice, yet it is accepted as part of the process. The bane of society is regulating morality in such a way that is inconsistent with truth and integrity. We have certainly fallen far from our moral high-grounds in search of a harmonious existence.

It appears that I am getting an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’. This is correct. I feel that in order to fully understand how we ought to act, I need to know why we act as we do. There must be valid reasons. It is the same reasons that we must listen to intuition. Many early philosophers have regarded our ability to reason as the one trait that separates us from all other life on Earth. This reasoning is responsible for intuition, for gut-feeling, and it should not be ignored. If we feel that something is wrong, it is most likely wrong. We do not need to understand why it is wrong for it to be wrong, but we should accept that it is probably wrong and seek out the answer why. For someone to claim that they are a consequentialist, then examine the consequences of an act to determine if it is right or wrong is ludicrous to me. It is this cart before the horse thinking that has confused me in the classroom study of ethics. We must have faith in our ability to reason and that we have probably been faced with a similar scenario at some point in the past. Intuition will tell us so.

I cannot say that I align with any one of the three theories presented. At the same time, I can both appreciate some of the positions of each and can align with some of the arguments while I find portions of each incompatible with my views and beliefs. Every decision that we make has two alternatives to choose from, action and inaction. Though decisions can seem to be complex, they are various combinations of criteria in steps of action-inaction decision modeling. For each step, we determine the value of each decision and the higher valued path is the one chosen. Unfortunately, not many people have refined critical thinking skills to allow them to consider important possibilities that might otherwise be overlooked. The resultant anemic decision-tree usually offers little in the way of true value. For this reason, it is important to challenge one’s self frequently in the practice of making difficult decisions.

In summary, morality is based on both the individuals’ needs within a society and the continuity of the society, and there are consequences that need to be considered for each decision, some great and some insignificant. Also, a person does not have to subscribe to any particular theory in order to be moral. Any one person can feel that it is their duty to perform an act while believing in the hedonistic value of performing another act, still, while considering their benefit of performing another act. There can be no hard-line rule that encompasses how we ought to act in all possible circumstances. It is my view that we should pay more attention to descriptive theories than prescriptive theories. We are smart enough to have evolved, and we should take comfort in that.


Thiroux, J. P., & Krasemann, K. W. (2009). Ethics: Theory and practice (Tenth ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Absolutism Versus Relativism

“Explain the need for finding a medium between absolutism and relativism for today’s global society, and then explaining the possibility of finding such a medium and achieving it.”

Asking me a question about absolutism relating to relativism is akin to asking an atheist to relate Catholicism to Judaism. First, I do not believe that there is any higher moral code than man’s. Second, I believe that morality is merely the mean, within a society, of the ethical beliefs of the whole of the membership. Each person, then, forms their own personal moral code by examining the interactions within their society. I feel that this is more of a political notion than an ethical one. This leads me down the path of nihilism where the only moral code is a personal willingness to accept (or, accept to change) societal values, these values having no transcendence beyond our own lives.

Absolutism, as Thiroux and Krasemann (2009) explain it, is a belief that there are moral truths which transcend human life (p. 89). Relativism describes a belief system that is particular to a certain society, and though each belief may transcend the society, it is not necessarily so (p. 90). It appears that absolutism is flat in geometrical terms while relativity is three dimensional, and just as you can place a circle within a sphere but not the inverse, I believe that absolutism can exist within the confines of a greater relativism. It does not seem, however, that relativism can exist within an absolutist system of morals.

Coexisting moral codes can certainly conflict if two competing beliefs are thought to be absolute. However, I believe that many of the competing moral codes do not have to be unwavering. The members of the various societies of this world can certainly choose to interact or not interact with members of other societies in such ways that would allow their beliefs to compete. This is seen within the debates of religion versus science. Though the can coexist, they are not comparable in terms of values and, therefore, should not be compared. Unfortunately, when one chooses to live within a society, one chooses to abide by the governance of its moral code or should make attempts to change it.


Thiroux, J. P., & Krasemann, K. W. (2009). Ethics: Theory and practice (Tenth ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

“Preventive Medicine”

Passing judgment without the ability to review the context troubles me. Judging an act without seeing the evidence makes no basis for academic discussion regarding the motives or outcome. This exercise will have us judge the actions of a fictional surgeon, whose situations are probably based on facts, during the Korean conflict. Being that this surgeon is a character in a widely available syndicated television show, it surprises me that the particular episode is not available for review. I have taken the time to track down the episode and review it before making comment.

The text (Thiroux & Krasemann, 2009) does state that utilitarians believe that “everyone should perform that act or follow that moral rule that will bring about the greatest good (or happiness) for everyone concerned” (p. 42); however, this description fails to identify the scope and practice of such notions. Whom does this act or rule concern? When does this act or rule gain application? At what point does the actor have enough evidence to make the judgement?

With regards to the M*A*S*H episode[1] (Metcalfe, Reeder, & Mordente, 1979), who is to say that the actions of Col. Lacey did not ultimately save more lives through the heroism of those that he led? Was Lt. Col. Lacey on the verge of improving the tactics of the U. S. Army? Did the unnecessary surgery of Lt. Col. Lacey cost even more lives, then? Lt. Col. Lacey addresses his injured troops, “Your performance over the last few days has given me the confidence to submit a plan to ICOR, a plan for our BN to spearhead a counter-offensive up hill 403, and this time, men, we are going to take it.” This seems to suggest that Lt. Col. Lacey has developed and refined a tactical plan that he feels will prove successful.

In the next sequence, Capt. Pierce questions Col. Lacey’s motives but fails to allow him to answer, putting words in his mouth, and ascribing his own thoughts to Col. Lacey’s motives. After overhearing the Colonel speaking with his General, Capt. Pierce formulates his plan of removing, at least temporarily, Lt. Col. Lacey from his command, and after the successful harvest of a healthy appendix, more injured troops arrive at the 4077. Capt. Honeycut sums up his partner’s actions very simply, “You treated a symptom; the disease goes merrily on.”

After watching the episode and paying special attention to the premise, it seems, at least to me, that this episode deals more with the psychology of Capt. Pierce than with his ethics. It is the psychology of the situation that forces Pierce to act on the situation, in hopes that what he does has an overall positive effect. It does not. Separating ethics from psychology is a mistake, in my opinion. Our psychology changes our perspective and, therefore, should be considered when ethical questions arise.

Utilitarian? The motives of Capt. Pierce were of a self-interested nature. He wanted to feel that he did something instead of standing idle. In my opinion, Capt. Pierce did not have the requisite knowledge to make the utilitarian judgment. I would have done as Col. Potter did in this episode. He notified the upper command of his concerns so that they may be evaluated by people in the position to make a substantive evaluation of a battalion commander.


Metcalfe, B. [Producer], Reeder, T. [Writer], & Mordente, T. [Director]. (1979, February 19). “Preventive Medicine” [Television episode]. M*A*S*H. Los Angeles, CA: 20th Century Fox.

Thiroux, J. P., & Krasemann, K. W. (2009). Ethics: Theory and practice (10th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.


1. “Preventive Medicine” was the 22nd episode of the seventh season of M*A*S*H.

Society’s New Morality?!

The question this week revolves around a notion that society is becoming more ethical. Given weak evidence of this (Strom, 2003) which documents a single person who, for some unstated reason, is giving away his fortune and would like to give away his sole kidney, I can only think of the recent banking and insurance industries foray into subprime lending, the response to that by cities and towns by artificially inflating home values for increases in tax revenue, and people attempting to remove Haitian children from their country under the pretense of humanitarian aid, whether legitimate or not (Hojnacki & Shick, 2008; Tergesen, 2007; Cooney, 2010).

I guess we need to define the terms and the boundaries of the terms. Which society are we talking about? In India, children living in brothels are denied an education because their parents are considered criminals, thereby denying the rights of the children (Briski & Kauffman, 2004). Is this more ethical?

Since when? Which eras are we comparing? In the 1930’s and 40’s, Hitler’s Nazi regime perpetrated one of the most heinous genocides in history, except for China and Tibet in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, where Mao Ze-Dong killed off between 50 and 80 million people. Some more recent and notable genocides (as cited in Scaruffi, 2009):

1,700,000 dead, by Pol Pot in Cambodia, 1975-1979;
1,600,000 dead, by Kim Il Sung in North Korea, 1948-1994;
1,500,000 dead, by Menghistu in Ethiopia, 1975-1978;
1,000,000 dead, by Yakubu Gowon in Biafra, 1967-1970;
900,000 dead, by Leonid Brezhnev in Afghanistan, 1979-1982;
800,000 dead, by Jean Kambanda in Rwanda, 1994;
600,000 dead, by Saddam Hussein in Iran 1980-1990 and Kurdistan 1987-1988.

I believe that if there is a so-called ethical call-to-arms, it is merely a return to balance in the newscasting and reporting which is perceived as something it is not. Though, I would like a return to values, so to speak, but whose values should we value?


Briski, Z., & Kauffman, R. [Writers/directors]. (2004). Born into brothels: Calcutta’s red-light kids [Motion picture]. Los Angeles, CA: ThinkFilm.

Cooney, P. [Ed.]. (2010, January 30). Americans arrested taking children out of Haiti. Thomson Reuters. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE60T23I20100130

Hojnacki, J. E., & Shick, R. A. (2008, December). The subprime mortgage lending collapse – Should we have seen it coming? Journal of Business & Economics Research, 6(12), 25-36.

Scaruffi, P. (2009). 1900-2000: A century of genocides. Retrieved from http://www.scaruffi.com/politics/dictat.html

Strom, S. (2003, August 17). An organ donor’s generosity raises the question of how much is too much. The New York Times (New York ed.), pp. 117.

Tergesen, A. (2007, November 5). How to Reduce Your Property Taxes. BusinessWeek. Retrieved from http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_45/b4057079.htm

Ancient Suffragette City-State

I am a little disconcerted after reading Solomon and Higgins’ (2010, Chapter 10) discussion of sexual inequality throughout the ages. Though they are quick to point out many patriarchal societies and how they negatively effect the carriage of any woman’s philosophy through time, they fail to recognize societies that recognize the female and hold her in as high esteem as her male counterpart. Citing Aristotle, they are quick to point out the male-centric society of ancient Greece, but fail to educate us on the Spartan woman.

According to the historian Richard Monk (2006), “Sparta had an entirely different view of gender. Essentially, it ignored it” (para. 5). He continues to describe the Hellenistic age, post-Peloponnesian War, where the women of Sparta were on equal footing with men. This was also true, in fact, of Athens at the same time, though it is neglected by most historical scholars (Scott, 2009, p. 34). The fourth century (B.C.E.) was certainly a turning point for women’s rights in Greece (Scott, 2009, p. 39).

Two other key societies worth mentioning are the Norse and the Iriqouis (Vivante, 1999, p. xv; Ward, n.d., para. 9).

My thoughts on the importance of women in sociopolitical philosophy are the same as my thoughts for men. I do not distinguish between them. Any person with a stake in a society should be able to choose whether to have their voice heard or not. Sometimes, a message not spoken has the weight, if not more, than one that is. Speaking of women, specifically, I feel that they should be afforded the opportunity to enjoy the same rights, roles, and responsibilities of any person within their society. Unfortunately, societies throughout history seemed to not share my view.

Many early female philosophers have been lost to time and suppression by the patriarchal societies that failed to notice their worth. One stands out: Hypatia. Unfortunately, where she found freedom to express her views in public, she also found a horrible death in public.

“Fables should be taught as fables, myths as myths, and miracles as  poetic fancies.  To teach superstitions as truths is a most terrible  thing.  The child mind accepts and believes them, and only through  great pain and perhaps tragedy can he be in after years relieved of them.  In fact men will fight for a superstition quite as quickly as for a living truth often more so, since a superstition is so intangible you cannot get at it to refute it, but truth is a point of view, and so is changeable.” – Hypatia


Monk, R. (2006, April 19). Greek civilization – What about the women? Retrieved February 25, 2010, from http://ezinearticles.com/?Greek-­Civilization-­%96-­What-­About-­The-­Women?&id=181596

Scott, M. (2009, November). The rise of women in ancient Greece. History Today, 59(11), 34-40. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete.

Solomon, R.C., & Higgins, K.M. (2010). The big questions: A short introduction to philosophy (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cenrage Learning.

Vivante, B. (Ed.). (1999). Women’s roles in ancient civilizations: A reference guide. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Ward, C. (n.d.). Sigríð stórráða Tóstadóttir: Queen Sigríð the Proud. The Viking Answer Lady. Retrieved from http://www.vikinganswerlady.com/SigridStorrada.shtml

The Social Contracts of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau

Social contract theory indicates that we acquiesce to the demands of a society in order to benefit from membership within that society (Chafee, 2009; Solomon & Higgins, 2010). Some of these demands allow the formation of a power structure to guide the formation and growth of the society, while other demands cause the individual to relent to the values stipulated by the society. These values make up the morality of the society. Social contract theory was influenced, particularly, by Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau (Solomon & Higgins, 2010, p. 291). Their theories are telling of the individual’s motivation for creating and belonging to a society, but I will explore how these theories relate to some of the constructs of society, namely morality and the roles and responsibilities of citizens within a society.

Before discussing societal constructs, it might be best to consider the ultimate nature of society and the power it holds over its citizens. The arguments appear to be two-sided: a) social contract, and b) entitled sovereignty (Chafee, 2009, p. 567). I argue that society is truly a social contract and any authority within society stems directly from this contract. Considering that the alternative is a rule by force, fear, and intimidation, one can only conclude that such a society is passively agreed with until a revolution is possible, which undermines the overreaching authority and replaces it.

This conflict arises between the populace (society) and government (a construct of society). Where there is no society, there can be no government, but in every society, there is a government (even an anarchist society has a form of governance, natural law). Hence, government is a by-product of society, which, by definition, is solely reliant on the social agreements of individuals indicating an equality within the creation of the contract, but not necessarily the execution of the contract. This is ideal in that it not only explains why uprisings and revolts occur when governments fail to work for the people, but it also explains why they should occur in these cases.

Tyranny is the unilateral enforcement of values placed upon a society. Morality is the cumulative set of values of a society, and it adapts to the constant change in these societal values. Justice, the governmental means of regulating morality, must have the participation of the society, lest tyranny takes hold. It is the responsibility of the individuals within a society to participate in every process of government to ensure that morality is even and that justice prevails. This participation need not be direct. Voting, military service, holding public office, or simply criticizing governmental policy are all ways in which individuals can participate. Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau would agree that enforcing the social contract is the responsibility of every individual within a society, not only to ensure the status quo, but to ensure positive growth and continuity.

As a libertarian, I can appreciate the social contract theories of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau. In my view, do what you will so long as you do not infringe on the rights of others. Though many aspects of this philosophy can be argued against, it remains as good as any starting point to maintain freedom and equality within a society while still demanding responsibility for the outcome.


Chafee, J. (2009). The philosopher’s way: Thinking critically about profound ideas (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Solomon, R. C., & Higgins, K. M. (2010). The big questions: A short introduction to philosophy (8th ed.). Belmont, C.A.: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

The Nature of Truth

Truth transcends knowledge, and knowledge transcends belief. Too many people invert these values to claim that their beliefs are true. In order to understand truth, it makes sense to first explore knowledge and belief and how, as humans, we use these constructs.

In the search for truth and knowledge, we as humans develop a belief structure based on observation over time. As this belief system develops, we start to draw correlations and presume conclusions based on the perceived degree of believability for each new belief, a system of fuzzy logic (Hajek, 2009), and how each relates to another. It is only when beliefs correlate well with other beliefs regarding the same subject do we get to claim knowledge.

I define knowledge as the agreement of beliefs within the study of interrelated subjects. Science is the process used to attain knowledge (“Science”, 2010). However, science can be wrong. This has been proven throughout history, time and time again. Science can only prove “provisional truths[, or] answers that are the best explanation for things at the present time” (Jackson, 2006, 1). It is these provisional truths that I regard as knowledge.

Truth, in the ultimate terms, cannot be false to any degree. It is easy to create truth from knowledge by applying conditions confining it. Ergo, the belief that dogs are dangerous is not true, nor is it knowledge, though there is truth in the statement that some dogs can be dangerous. Likewise, any other broad and sweeping generalization could create a false, but widely held belief. It is much more difficult to attain a universal, or absolute, truth, such as the God of Christianity is the architect and creator of the universe and all life within it, or that life is just a natural process and has no dependent relationship with any singular intelligent being.

Some absolute truths, however, can be attained. One such truth is that mortal existence ceases upon death. Death, in fact, is the definition of the end of mortal existence. This definition has been formed by observation, the creation of beliefs, and acceptance of these beliefs as knowledge. Though, if our beliefs and knowledge about death were different, as they once were, it would not negate the truth.

Another absolute truth is that life is revolutionary, or cyclical. Otherwise, what is the point of attaining knowledge and understanding truth if it cannot be used to our benefit?


Hajek, P. (2009). Fuzzy Logic. In Edward N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy [Spring ed.]. Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2009/entries/logic-fuzzy/

Jackson, J. (2006). Science has been wrong before. UK-Skeptics. Retrieved from http://www.skeptics.org.uk/article.php?dir=articles&article=science_has_been_wrong_ before.php

Science. (2010). Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/science

The Problem of Evil

There is a boding question about the “evils” of the world, and many people need to justify the necessity of evil through faith. I define faith as deduction, induction, or hope. With this definition, it only makes sense to me that so many people in the world, and throughout history, have faith in a supreme being and a just and rewarding afterlife. Solomon and Higgins (2010) present the discussion of evil in contrast to the goodness and how it relates to God. Chafee (2009), like Solomon and Higgins (2010), examines only the religious concepts of evil, but he does state one important truth, “the existence of evil in the world poses a serious threat to religion in general, and the concept of an all-loving, all-powerful God in particular” (p. 391). The argument that if evil exists then there can be no omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient God acknowledges the existence of evil and denies the existence of God. To me, the word evil seems to have too many religious connotations for academic consideration, as for those that do not believe in God, this contrast between good and bad loses meaning and application. For this same reason, it is difficult for me, I admit, to discuss evil in the context of God and religion. To do so would mean that I have suspended my faith and beliefs.

To discuss evil, I must remove the religious connotations and define it in acceptable terms. The word evil embodies all that is harmful, but what is harmful for one might be curative for another. For there to be good in the world, there must be equal bad to contrast, essentially giving the good its value in comparison to the bad. One might argue that good gives value to bad, also. This is commonly referred to as “the Contrast View” and is in direct disagreement with Martin Buber’s (1981) view of evil as inattention to moral ways. Things that have no morals (e.g. nature) can be perceived as evil, thereby providing an argument to Buber, though I believe that Buber’s views are that of some of the humanistic causes of evil.

Evil, or the bad in the world, is simply a lack of good, just as black is a lack of white, and cold, a lack of heat. Consider, though, that an unfortunate event can be viewed as evil to one person and can prove fortunate to another. Therefore, I consider evil to only be a perception of an individual grading fortune and misfortune on a scale of good and bad.


Buber, M. (1981). Good and evil. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall.

Chafee, J. (2009). The philosopher’s way: Thinking critically about profound ideas (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Solomon, R. C., & Higgins, K. M. (2010). The big questions: A short introduction to philosophy (8th ed.). Belmont, C.A.: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Perception is Reality

For Peyton Farquhar, belief acquiesed to knowledge the moment that he felt his neck break, the last of his mortal feelings (Bierce, 1909/1966, Chapter 3). While reading “An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge”, I was taken in by the author’s use of the omniscient narrator’s descriptions of Farquhar’s perceptions. And, as I have stated before, perception is reality. In order to contrast what is real and what is not, we must acknowledge that there are separate realities for each perceiver, and each perception must be that of consequence. The old rhetoric asks, “If a tree falls in the wood and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?” My reply is, “How do you know that the tree fell?” This, however, does not answer the question, but it starts us on a journey to find the meaning of reality and which reality we are defining.

In the question about the tree in the wood, there is a consequence of the falling action, which is a transfer of energy to the vegetation and ground which it strikes. There is also the vibration of the air around the tree agitated by the sudden separation. The question here is if it made a sound. Very simply, these vibrations are perceived as sound by using the ear as an antenna, the ear drum as a modulator, and the brain as a filter and recorder. If there is neither any living thing in audible proximity to the fall, nor an analog recording device capable of reproducing the sound as testimony, then I argue that the tree did not make a sound. Further, one could argue that only the brain makes the sound by interpretting the vibrations; therefore, falling trees do not make any sound and any recording is only a recording of vibrations of air. Is this just semantics? Because this argument depends largely on how “sound” is defined, I believe it is. The same is true for color.

By my statement that perception is reality, I mean that our reality is defined by our perceptions, though it does not mean that what is real to me must be real to anyone else. One could also say that life is defined through experiences, but again, it is truly the individual perception of these experiences that matter, nothing else. “A philosophy is the expression of a man’s intimate character, and all definitions of the universe are but the deliberately adopted reactions of human characters upon it” (James, 1909, p. 20).

In Bierce (1909/1966), Peyton Farquhar perceived an ordeal where he was spared a hanging because of chance. Consider my theory, both metaphysically and astrophysically, that the Universe is infinite and, thereby, everything that can happen does happen. The term “Universe” here is a misnomer. I am actually describing a Multiverse with an infinite number of Universes, each a separate and distinct realm based on a choice, decision, and consequence. Picture an infinite number of Universes that are, initially, exactly the same, then there comes a choice to be made: option A or option B. Half of the Universes take on the consequences of option A while the remaining half take on option B, then there is another choice to be made, and the Multiverse splits infinitely in half based on the infinite choices that are made. This theory would promote realms where the choices not made in our Universe may or may not be consequent. Did Peyton Farquhar get a glimpse of an alternate reality in which the supply sergeant failed to care for the rope appropriately? Though it might be possible, it does not matter. Peyton Farquhar perceived his death immediately after, subsequently defining his reality, and for a split second, giving him knowledge. Though, if he continued the experience of escaping his death even after his death is witnessed by the executioner and his peers, one could argue that reality had split and though Peyton was dead, perhaps he lived on in another reality. This, I believe, is the basis of the religious context of Heaven and Hell. You can believe in Heaven, Hell, or nothing in particular; until you experience it, you have no knowledge of it.

If we can never glimpse the alternate realities, then we cannot perceive them; therefore, they are not real.


Bierce, A. (1966). An occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. The collected works of Ambrose Bierce (Vol. 2, pp. 27-45). Retrieved from Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13334/13334-h/13334-h.htm (Original work published 1909)

James, W. (1909). A pluralistic universe. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books

Comma-dy, Tragedy: Small Writing Improvements in Academia

Writers of academic research need to adhere to a standard of language to improve the readability of their content and ensure the readers’ understanding of the author’s intent. The importance cannot be understated. As some constructs may be useful in the writing of a novel or screenplay, the same constructs can be detracting in the professional and academic domains.

Through primary and secondary school, I have always been a creative writer, and I have always been confident in my creative writing skills. My academic writing skills, I found, are not as effective. Recently, I had to take a college-level course concentrating on scholarly writing. Two things bothered me: the 16 years it has been since high school and the 13 years that I have been relegated to writing medical reports with no hint of grammar in sight. Though I have written some technical documents during this time, academic writing has never been a focus. I will describe my challenges in style and grammar as it pertains to scholarly writing.

Grammatic Fanatic

Comma Chameleon

Readers of my previous works may find the comma to be quite an elusive device. I have always tried to use clauses that relate in both meaning and flow, and this had allowed me to make stylistic considerations in the use of the comma. Even now, after having this shortcoming identified, I find difficulty in full and proper use of the comma.

Aaron (2007) describes strict comma usage with clauses such as dates and time, insignificant or nonessential phrases, and lists of three or more items, but she admits that stylistic considerations can be made for readability, especially in the case of brief but equally important phrases. It is apparent that I have taken this as license to defer appropriate comma usage, but I now have the tools and motivation to pay close attention to the punctuation in my future writing. I do need to ensure that I do not overcompensate for this shortcoming by including unwarranted punctuation.

Colloquialism Speaks Volumes

Converse to my lack of comma usage, I have realized that I rely heavily on colloquial speech, perhaps, as a means of presenting a contemporary, pertinent, and assured demeanor. Though the use of colloquial speech can add flair to an otherwise lifeless discourse, continual use should be avoided. Standard American English is the accepted standard language used in academic writing, following standard conventions and vocabulary and allowing “distance between writer and reader” with an “authoritative and neutral” voice (Aaron, 2007, p. 73). The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2010) addresses this by wholly restricting “expressions… which diffuse meaning” (p. 68).

More importantly, I have recognized the need to avoid anthropomorphisms and the use of the passive voice, specifically. Though these constructs are prolific in colloquial speech, their use can impact the readability of the work and can negatively influence the readers’ perceptions of the author.


Applying the writing skills that I have learned previously, I feel that I now have a fairly good understanding of the concepts in academic, scholarly writing. As I progress in my academic career, I will have frequent opportunities to improve my writing and explore more useful stylistic methods. I want to have a near-perfect use of the grammar before expanding my writings to more poignant subjects. Upon matriculation into a graduate program, my writing ability will prove pivotal to my success in academia. My writing skill must be of the same quality as my peers; therefore, my skills must improve as I proceed in my studies.


Aaron, J. E. (2007). The little, brown compact handbook (6th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson Education, Inc.

American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.