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Hey buddy, can you spare some morality?

 
 
Reply Thu 19 Aug, 2004 11:50 pm
Suppose a generous individual, Mr. Rich, happens upon a beggar, Mr. Rags, who asks Rich to give him a dollar so that he can buy himself some food. Rich is confident that Rags will not use the money to buy food, but rather to buy alcohol. Perhaps it's Rags's slurred speech, his shuffling gait, or the bottle of Richard's Wild Irish Rose in his hand, but Rich is convinced that Rags is a hopeless alcoholic and that any money given to him will immediately be used to buy more alcohol. Nevertheless, Rich is a generous individual and so gives a dollar to Rags.

Was that a moral act? In other words, was it right for Rich to give a dollar to Rags, despite the almost certain knowledge that Rags was lying about the reason why he needed the money and that he would use the money to buy booze? Or was it immoral for Rich to give money to someone who would use it, in effect, to harm himself?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 2 • Views: 7,436 • Replies: 128
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roger
 
  1  
Reply Thu 19 Aug, 2004 11:58 pm
It's kind of like the United Way, you know? You can specify your charity, and they will honor your request. However, once your designated charity reaches it's allocated percentage, undesignated funds go elsewhere. So, Mr. Rags might well spend your dollar on foot, but you can bet the next will go exactly where it was going in spite of any promises made.

Yeah, I do realize I avoided the moral question.
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john-nyc
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Aug, 2004 09:47 am
Joe,

You seem to be implying that it is immoral for Rich to aid Rags in getting drunk. Is that so?

If so, whats the problem? Its Rich's money and Rag's life.
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FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Aug, 2004 09:56 am
I will jump in and say that was moral. If he uses it to buy food, that is obviously moral. But even if he uses it to buy alcohol it is moral. My feeling (right this minute anyway) is that at this point the man is already damaged, and Mr. Rich can't fix him, so he is merely easing his pain temporarily. And easing the pain of another human being is morally right.
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rufio
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Aug, 2004 10:18 am
What Mr. Rich does and whether or not it is moral doesn't have anything to do with what Mr. Rags does, IMO. If Mr. Rich was wrong about Mr. Rags buying booze, or if Mr. Rags had an epiphany of some sort later on and decided to use the money to buy food instead, would it still be moral or immoral based on those actions? Anyway, it's probably not for him to say which would be more beneficial to Mr. Rags at the moment. No matter what Mr. Rags buys with the money, Mr. Rich gave him an opportunity to buy something he wanted, and that's moral in its way. What Mr. Rags does with that opportunity is up to him.
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Sofia
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Aug, 2004 11:02 am
Mr Rich isn't responsible for Mr Rag's actions.
Mr Rich does not know with certitude how Mr Rags will use that money, but even if he did...

Mr Rich's action was moral.
Mr Rags bears complete responsibility for the action he chooses.

Or, what rufio said.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Aug, 2004 11:49 am
john/nyc wrote:
Joe,

You seem to be implying that it is immoral for Rich to aid Rags in getting drunk. Is that so?

If so, whats the problem? Its Rich's money and Rag's life.

I'm not implying anything, I'm merely setting forth a hypothetical.

But let me expand upon it somewhat. I live in a big city, and I see beggars every day, many of whom I am convinced are asking for money which they intend to use to buy alcohol and drugs.

In certain neighborhoods, merchants post signs advising people not to give money to beggars. Ostensibly, the merchants don't want people unwittingly feeding the bad habits of the beggars; in truth, the merchants simply don't want beggars hanging around, driving away potential customers.

Yet there is certainly an argument to be made that Rich's action is immoral (as opposed to being merely bad for local businesses) to the extent that his action contributes to Rags's condition. After all, Rags is not simply getting a drink, he's an alcoholic beggar. I think we can safely say that, all things being equal, it is better not to be an alcoholic beggar than to be one. And if Rich's donation permits Rags to remain in his degraded condition, is that donation truly moral?

Look at it this way: if a suicidally despondent friend came up to you and asked to borrow your .45 caliber pistol -- and one bullet -- for a short while, would your act of lending him the weapon be beyond moral reproach, even if you had a strong suspicion that your friend would use the weapon to kill himself? Would you have no responsibility once you handed the weapon over to your friend, on the argument that "it's your gun and his life?"
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JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Aug, 2004 12:36 pm
I agree with FreeDuck, Rufio and Sofia. In giving the money I will, or intend to, reduce the man's pain at least temporarily. His alcoholism will not be "cured" by a few more hours of pain (being sober until he gets the money for his drink). I would not give my friend my gun for purely selfish reasons: I don't want to be an accessory to his suicide. I think that's illegal. But if I were "certain" that he will eventually kill himself, for very rational reasons, say a highly incurable and very painful disease, I would give serious consideration to helping him, in a manner that is relatively safe for me. I would not see "morality" (in the sense of Thou Shalt not Kill) as relevant; I would see it as an ethical matter (helping a friend, even at some risk to myself). It IS his life and my dilemma.
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dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Aug, 2004 12:40 pm
one of the problems with "personal responsibility" is dis-regarding simple good taste. I was prepared to engage this topic with wild fervor until reading "Wild Irish Rose." When one makes a case for socially difficult issues such as the one above or perhaps, as in Albert Camus case "suicide," one must be prepared to also deal with good taste. One could hardly make a case in support of Camus had he suggested suicide by means of drowning in a vat of chocolate (semi-sweet Hersey's) nor can one make a case of morality, or lack thereof, in the aiding one's ingesting of "Wild Irish Rose" . To say that the "begger" was asking for enough funds to purchase a litre of fine sourmash whisky such as Maker's Mark or George Dickel would, indeed make this a thread of moral vs immoral significant. Now, if you got a spare quarter for a fifth of Thunderbird, we could be talking turkey here.
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JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Aug, 2004 01:22 pm
Taste, yes. If my friend wanted to borrow a Walther 25 cal., that would much more palatable than if he requested a bazooka. I dread (and morally should dread) messiness.
Sorry, Joe.
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Letty
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Aug, 2004 01:36 pm
morality marking.
0 Replies
 
Letty
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Aug, 2004 02:58 pm
The leper raised not the gold from the dust:
"Better to me the poor man's crust,
Better the blessing of the poor,
Though I turn me empty from his door;
That is no true alms which the hand can hold;
He gives nothing but worthless gold
Who gives from a sense of duty;
But he who gives a slender mite,
And gives to that which is out of sight,
That thread of the all-sustaining Beauty
Which runs through all and doth all unite,--
The hand cannot clasp the whole of his alms,
The heart outstretches its eager palms,
For a god goes with it and makes it store
To the soul that was starving in darkness before."

James Russell Lowell.

and that's my philosophy of giving.
0 Replies
 
john-nyc
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Aug, 2004 05:50 pm
joefromchicago wrote:
john/nyc wrote:
Joe,

You seem to be implying that it is immoral for Rich to aid Rags in getting drunk. Is that so?

If so, whats the problem? Its Rich's money and Rag's life.


I'm not implying anything, I'm merely setting forth a hypothetical.

....if Rich's donation permits Rags to remain in his degraded condition, is that donation truly moral?

Look at it this way: if a suicidally despondent friend came up to you and asked to borrow your .45 caliber pistol -- and one bullet -- for a short while, would your act of lending him the weapon be beyond moral reproach, even if you had a strong suspicion that your friend would use the weapon to kill himself? Would you have no responsibility once you handed the weapon over to your friend, on the argument that "it's your gun and his life?"


Yes

In the first case one has to state that wasting your life by drinking is immoral. It may not be smart but it is certainly not immoral.

In the second case you'd have to state that taking ones own life is immoral. Once again, not too swift but not immoral.

Provided the harm, in each case, accrues only to the perpetrator.

The idea of deceiving Rich, by saying the money is for food, might put Rags on morally shaky ground. Is fraud immoral?
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JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Aug, 2004 06:02 pm
I have spent years in southern Mexico, among the poorest of its population. The people there, including the ones who are my sincere friends, are almost always trying to get what they can from me. I consider it smart of them. They've got children to feed, and they've experienced centuries of exploitation. I do not see any immorality in their actions. Indeed, I consider it my moral responsilibity to suffer as much loss as I can afford. I'd rather they take it from me than my giving charity to them.
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Gala
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Aug, 2004 06:05 pm
i'm not clear about how giving money to someone in need is about morality? isn't that simply a good deed?
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Sofia
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Aug, 2004 06:06 pm
Doesn't "good" denote morality?
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Gala
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Aug, 2004 06:23 pm
not necessarily. good might mean kind and benevolent, and a deed is an action.

i think in this case giving money to someone in need is a good deed, not a moral act, especially when you know that money could buy that person their next hit of crack.

it seems to me if mr. rich witholds a donation because he fears he will spend on something other than food-- then that is an ethical and moral decision.
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JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Aug, 2004 06:35 pm
To me it denotes delicious flavor.
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Aug, 2004 08:15 pm
I'm with FreeDuck on this one.
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flyerstl
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Aug, 2004 03:56 pm
rags, riches, morality
IT was immoral. THe reason is...you don't give help blindly. You will never know if the help will get to its intended target, or if the intended target will ever use the help for what they specified. The moral thing to do would be to help in the way that Mr. Rags requested. If he requested food, then the moral thing to do would be to accompany mr rags to a food store and buy the food for him. That way, the outcome is predictable.
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