Talk:Ethics

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Occult (moved from Talk:Mulan)

While most of WilsonB's edits have been reverted, I have taken a look at the article based on one of his criticisms and he seems to have been warranted in his objection to this (though not his rudeness). This is a Disney film about ancient China - it makes no more sense to call this "occultic" than it does to decry The Beauty and the Beast for having a talking clock or candelabra. JacobB 23:50, 31 December 2009 (EST)

Wilson was bad-tempered, and I don't believe for a minute that he was ever a conservative, but his point is well-taken.
  • The Ancestors are deceased members of the Fu family that, in a ghost like form, still have very real connections with the living world. In fact, Mulan's father prays to them. Christian Spotlight on the Movies
It may be a bit heavy-handed to associate ancestor worship with the occult, but a bigger question is whether the Chinese "veneration" of ancestors goes this far. --Ed Poor Talk 09:34, 20 January 2010 (EST)
At the risk of sounding postmodernist (God forbid), it would be a mistake to talk about the occult, which is a Western concept, with an unrelated Eastern culture. The occult's entire history, indeed its very definition, involves a westerner operating outside of western religious practice. Even when borrowing from eastern religions which occultists freely mix with other pre-Christian European practices, it's always westerners we're talking about. Perhaps one might say that a self-professed Wiccan worshipping his ancestors would be occult, but a Japanese buddhist doing the same would not. JDWpianist 09:47, 20 January 2010 (EST)
You don't sound as much postmodernist as Orientalist, in the sense that you seem to be saying that we outsiders cannot understand (or comment on) anything about non-Western cultures. For us conservatives who are Christians, the whole thing about the occult is whether any given supernatural or "spiritual practice" is good, indifferent, or bad.
Materialists, who comprise a significant fraction of Western liberals, categorize everything supernatural as nonsense. For them, the only question is whether such superstitions can have good or bad psychological or social effects. For the rest of us - i.e., religious believers - the supernatural is crucially important. We are concerned with questions such as as the existence and nature of God, what His will is for us, the effectiveness of prayer, issues of faith and works, etc.
For those who believe that moral absolutes exist, all people everywhere are bound by one universal standard. If you don't know it's wrong to do something, and you do it anyway, does this make it less harmful to do the thing? --Ed Poor Talk 10:21, 20 January 2010 (EST)
Nahh, count me out of the Orientalist crowd as well. I'm saying that there's an essential difference in motivation between someone who grows up in a Christian culture and ends up worshipping spirits, and one who grows up in a non-Christian culture and does the same. One is indulging in something "secret" or "clandestine" (don't forget the etymology of the word "occult"), and the other is following a tradition.
From a Christian perspective (and trust me, east Asian Christians are as adamant about this as anyone else), they're both sinful, but the means of proselytizing to them would obviously be very different. JDWpianist 10:38, 20 January 2010 (EST)
Certainly, there is a difference in motivation, and that must always be taken into account when discussing ethics. A simple example is killing a person: there's a huge difference between self-defense; an accident; negligent homicide; and murder (not to mention legally sanctioned acts of war). But regarding the issue of child molestation ...
  • The question is, if sleeping with a nine year old child was not deemed bad and therefore was not considered immoral, was it ok? Not everything that a society accepts as moral is right. Having sex with a minor may not have been immoral for Arabs 1400 years ago, but it is now, as it was then, unethical. Moralities are defined by circumstances, but ethics transcend time and space.
We've opened a can of worms, so let's be good biologists and classify them instead of throwing them under the plow. --Ed Poor Talk 10:44, 20 January 2010 (EST)
Wow, this discussion has just taken a different trajectory entirely. I've taken the liberty of moving the whole discussion here (as well as to keep such adult discussions away from the talk page of a children's movie).
But, to answer your question, it's my understanding that morality is the general principle of right vs. wrong, and ethics is defined as morality in a particular situation (eg. what is appropriate between teachers and students, doctors and patients, etc.). You seem to define them oppositely. In your example, you're making your job easy by citing an extreme situation. I hesitate to go too deep into this worm-bucket, but there a couple of general principles which seem necessary in judging the ethical dimensions of this:
  • How are the categories of "child" and "adult" defined by the culture in question? To pick a less extreme example, Romeo and Juliet were not at the "Age of Consent" as we judge it now, but in their society they were considered adults. Therefore, it would not be constructive to judge this situation by today's standards. But we would definitely frown on a marriage of a 13 and 15-year-old today, because our definition of adulthood has changed due to changes in our lifestyle. For all we know, a 15-year-old male was very mature in those days.
  • The other danger in analyzing this situation is the differing nature of "consent" in different cultures and times. In ancient cultures, a girl was the property of her father until she became the property of her husband. This is abhorrent to us today, but we're also on the other side of the Magna Carta, the American Revolution, and the women's rights movements.
  • The logical problem when judging these situations from a Christian perspective is that even Christians have changed their sense of ethics in the last two thousand years. Slavery has been determined wrong in the last 150 years, and Christians believe so with everybody else. There are many bright ethical lines that Christians believe in today which either are not mentioned, or are even condoned in the Bible. It's a cop out to on one hand say, "this un-Christian culture is doing something wrong according to my Christian world-view" and on the other say "well, maybe the Bible says that, but we do differently today." On the other hand, we can use examples for the past constructively to explain why we believe the way we do.
Back to the original topic: the "occult" is a western concept, and therefore by definition excludes non-western cultures. That was my point. JDWpianist 09:12, 21 January 2010 (EST)
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