Yesterday I finally got round to seeing the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich (the one with the sexy longitudinal grid coordinates). Although regarded as the number one naval museums I found it personally disappointing, about which more in a later article.
I arrived for a talk on the death of Nelson, which was excellent and the highlight of the visit, and the guide said something that caught my attention. When Nelson asked Hardy to kiss Nelson our guide seemed to be very keen that we should understand that this wasn’t a sexual kiss—which I think is a historically respectable sentiment (whichever way you look at it people who are departing are not in the mood for sex) but otherwise I don’t see the point in making such a fuss, but this was not what caught my attention. According to the narrator Hardy knelt and kissed Nelson on the cheek and then administered what she seemed to call the ‘kiss of death’ (though I can find no other instance of the phrase being used in this way)—this was the bit that struck me—Hardy kissed him on the forehead, a common practice that had the effect of settling sailors in death according to our guide.
Jean Kazez has an interesting article at Talking Philosophy, Are Kids Green?, where she discusses the ethical dilemma of having children (for an atheist). As Kazez makes clear, and this is an argument that the Chinese government has made, children are not environmentally friendly, so how do you ethically justify having children. The article is brutally honest, and Kazez rightly argues for the common sense position.
But that’s not how I read it. I think in discussions of morality there’s usually an unstated assumption that moral imperatives take priority. Either you do what you should, morally, or you hang your head in shame…you lose your right to self-respect. In the lingo of metaethics, this is the view that moral considerations are overriding.
But I think not. Morality is a very important part of what we aim for, but not all of what we aim for, and not first priority all of the time, over absolutely anything else. What can compete with morality? A variety of things, but one is the sense of having one life to live. I will do what’s critically important to me before I die, and I won’t hang my head for that.
On another meta-point, I agree with Kazez allowing common sense to take precedence here. If your philosophy is contradicting reality then this is interesting, but you must give the benefit of the doubt reality and assume the philosophy has gone wrong somewhere (at least until the reason for the paradox has become clear). I think there is a paradox here as ethics is a guide to actions and why shouldn’t ethics guide the decisions over how many children to have. The environmental logic is difficult to escape yet it is plainly barmy to conclude that it is ethically dubious for a couple to have a child. Kazez is clearly interested in grown-up real-world honest philosophy, which can’t but command respect.
Posted in Atheism, Buddhism, Climate, Death, FEATURE ARTICLES, Philosophy, Religion
Tagged Atheism, Buddhism, Climate, Death, Philosophy, population, reincarnation
In the Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Group last night we were talking about how meditation on Precious Human Rebirth and Death and Impermanence can help us live a meaningful life and not allow our lives to become entirely engrossed by trivia. Let me explain–this is a line of thought that is Buddhist in the specifics, but actually quite common to all religions. It also has an intriguing connection with Chris Hedges’ Book, War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning.