Thursday, July 19, 2012

There is nothing either good or bad ...

There is nothing either good or bad, thinking makes it so. 
(Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act II, Scene II)

My former student, Jeff, wrote that he disagreed with William, saying that harming another is bad, especially when there is murder (my words). At the same time, another former student, from my days teaching in Dallas, wrote about virtuous capitalism. He imagines a bunch of business men who forego profits to give more to their employees and public than need be. Of course, the net result might actually not be so good for some. The shareholders might need to tell their kids that they can't go to college, and their competitors might go out of business because they can't compete with a company that gives away bread. Is this really virtue? (For a much more articulate expression of the social responsibility of business see:

I like to think about what morality would be like if there are no humans on Earth. Most people would agree that there would be no good and bad. There is only be ecosystems. One animal eats another, who then eats another and so on. They are usually wired to protect their own and to survive by taking advantage of those smaller or weaker than themselves.

Enter humans onto Earth who make judgments galore. And then they make judgments on others making judgments. Hitler decides that "X" could make his country better. Then someone else decides that Hitler is evil. A cycle is started that produces strife and war. Even two people who love each other have a tough time at getting along.

Buddha wrote (though not with Shakespeare's conciseness),
Do not form views in the world through either knowledge, virtuous conduct, or religious observances; likewise, avoid thinking of oneself as being either superior, inferior, or equal to others. The wise let go of the “self” and being free of attachments they depend not on knowledge. Nor do they dispute opinions or settle into any view. For those who have no wishes for either extremes of becoming or non-becoming, here or in another existence, there is no settling into the views held by others. Nor do they form the least notion in regard to views seen, heard, or thought out. How could one influence those wise ones who do not grasp at any views. —from the Sutta nipata

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