Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Late night walks with animals, adventures in "dumpster diving", and a wonderful nighttime read.
Here I am doing the dog (and cat) walk after hours. It was intended to be a short walk. I was cold! Notice the hood people...it does get chilly here in Huntington Beach you know!
I was also a little tired. I had fallen asleep sitting up in my chair waiting for a phone call that never came. Time had ticked on by though, and still had a job to do for the animals of the house. I got my act together for the sake of the little dog Dyani, who NEEDS her daily dose of fresh air and sniffs and smells. I called the cat to join us (Cali loves to come along), and off we went for a short little walk.
I took the first "turn for home" option, as I intended this to be a short little adventure. I was already feeling a little spaced out and ready for bed. Heck...(I was thinking) the pets will be just fine with a short walk tonight...so we went a short ways, and rounded the turn back towards the house. By the way...it's trash/recyling night in our neighborhood so all the cans are out ready for the big trucks to scoot along and scoop up all the waste and recyclables.
I spotted something of interest next to one of the cans sitting curbside, I didn't exactly dumpster dive for this little gem, but I definitely took one good look at what I was seeing and immediately thought...YES...I want that. Well what I saw and wanted wasn't exactly a little gem, it was a 6ft tall, solid wood shelf unit with a heavy built, sturdy base. The solid wood and sturdiness of this piece sure did mean it was going to be HEAVY to carry home. But after assessing my options, like trying to drag it along the grass (no good) I figured out how would I leverage my body with this big old beast and make it another full block home. I decided to give it a go. Thank goodness only one car came along to see me and my antics. I tried a few different carrying positions, and at one point I ended up practically carrying this gigantic thing on my head. Don't forget I still have the dog on a leash, too. I literally worked up this remarkably intense heat in my body within two minutes of carting this thing home.....! After a few stops to reposition myself, and untangle the dog leash from my ankles, I actually made it home with the thing. And now...I have a new shelf unit that needs a little TLC but hey....reduce reuse recycle, right.
It will be put to good use.
It's a welcome addition to the scene.
After lugging that thing a little bit of a long way though, I came home a little charged up, no longer as tired as I was when I left the house, and so I decided to get on the web and read into a few topics that interest me.
I like what I found.
The article below was too good in it's entirety for me to end up butchering it by attempting to explain the content, so I just decided to copy and paste the whole darn thing into the post.
Hope you will find it to be as much of a good read as I have.
Ethics and Virtue
Developed by Manuel Velasquez, Claire Andre, Thomas Shanks, S.J., and Michael J. Meyer
For many of us, the fundamental question of ethics is, "What should I do?" or "How should I act?" Ethics is supposed to provide us with "moral principles" or universal rules that tell us what to do. Many people, for example, read passionate adherents of the moral principle of utilitarianism: "Everyone is obligated to do whatever will achieve the greatest good for the greatest number." Others are just as devoted to the basic principle of Immanuel Kant: "Everyone is obligated to act only in ways that respect the human dignity and moral rights of all persons."
Moral principles like these focus primarily on people's actions and doings. We "apply" them by asking what these principles require of us in particular circumstances, e.g., when considering whether to lie or to commit suicide. We also apply them when we ask what they require of us as professionals, e.g., lawyers, doctors, or business people, or what they require of our social policies and institutions. In the last decade, dozens of ethics centers and programs devoted to "business ethics", "legal ethics", "medical ethics", and "ethics in public policy" have sprung up. These centers are designed to examine the implications moral principles have for our lives.
But are moral principles all that ethics consists of? Critics have rightly claimed that this emphasis on moral principles smacks of a thoughtless and slavish worship of rules, as if the moral life was a matter of scrupulously checking our every action against a table of do's and don'ts. Fortunately, this obsession with principles and rules has been recently challenged by several ethicists who argue that the emphasis on principles ignores a fundamental component of ethics--virtue. These ethicists point our that by focusing on what people should do or how people should act, the "moral principles approach" neglects the more important issue--what people should be. In other words, the fundamental question of ethics is not "What should I do?" but "What kind of person should I be?"
According to "virtue ethics", there are certain ideals, such as excellence or dedication to the common good, toward which we should strive and which allow the full development of our humanity. These ideals are discovered through thoughtful reflection on what we as human beings have the potential to become.
"Virtues" are attitudes, dispositions, or character traits that enable us to be and to act in ways that develop this potential. They enable us to pursue the ideals we have adopted. Honesty, courage, compassion, generosity, fidelity, integrity, fairness, self-control, and prudence are all examples of virtues.
How does a person develop virtues? Virtues are developed through learning and through practice. As the ancient philosopher Aristotle suggested, a person can improve his or her character by practicing self-discipline, while a good character can be corrupted by repeated self-indulgence. Just as the ability to run a marathon develops through much training and practice, so too does our capacity to be fair, to be courageous, or to be compassionate.
Virtues are habits. That is, once they are acquired, they become characteristic of a person. For example, a person who has developed the virtue of generosity is often referred to as a generous person because he or she tends to be generous in all circumstances. Moreover, a person who has developed virtues will be naturally disposed to act in ways that are consistent with moral principles. The virtuous person is the ethical person.
At the heart of the virtue approach to ethics is the idea of "community". A person's character traits are not developed in isolation, but within and by the communities to which he or she belongs, including family, school, and other private and public associations. As people grow and mature, their personalities are deeply affected by the values that their communities prize, by the personality traits that their communities encourage, and by the role models that their communities put forth for imitation through traditional stories, fiction, movies, television, and so on. The virtue approach urges us to pay attention to the contours of our communities and the habits of character they encourage and instill.
The moral life, then, is not simply a matter of following moral rules and of learning to apply them to specific situations. The moral life is also a matter of trying to determine the kind of people we should be and of attending to the development of character within our communities and ourselves.