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    Oct 2008
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    “Old Age ain’t for Sissies”—Betty Davis

    Technology has increased longevity thereby making death even more frightful, expensive, tortuous, and perhaps accumulatively more painful than before. Is this progress?

    “Never before in history has it been so hard to fulfill our final earthly task: dying. It used to be that people were "visited" by death. With nothing to fight it, we simply accepted it and grieved. Today, thanks to myriad medications and interventions that have been created to improve our health and prolong our lives, dying has become a difficult and often excruciatingly slow process.” ***** Bowron, Physician

    Bowron speaks of a woman who suffers from something that physicians call "the dwindles", which is essential a characteristic of old age in modern times. Three days a week she spends in dialysis so that she can spend the remaining four days of the week recovering; she is miserable seven days a week.

    Bowron speaks of another patient who is 91 who lies in his bed helpless with painful swollen arthritic joints after being felled with a stroke.

    There are no lifesaving medications in such cases; only life-prolonging pain can be offered.

    Bowron informs us that “everyone wants to grow old and die in his or her sleep, but the truth is that most of us will die in pieces. Most will be nibbled to death by piranhas, and the piranhas of senescence are wearing some very dull dentures. It can be a torturously slow process, with an undeniable end, and our instinct shouldn't be to prolong it. If you were to walk by a Tilt-A-Whirl loaded with elderly riders and notice that all of them were dizzy to the point of vomiting, wouldn't your instinct be to turn the ride off? Or at the very least slow it down? Mercy calls for it.”

    The good doctor is not speaking about euthanasia or even about the spiraling cost of health care; he is speaking about a sympathetic and rationalized dignity for those who have reached the end of a life worth living.

    “In the past, the facade of immortality was claimed by Egyptian kings, egomaniacal monarchs and run-of-the mill psychopaths. But democracy and modern medical advances have made the illusion accessible to everyone. We have to rid ourselves of this distinctly Western notion before our nation's obesity epidemic and the surge of aging baby boomers combine to form a tsunami of infirmity that may well topple our hospital system and wash it out to sea.” Bowron

    I think that the good doctor and I agree that there comes a time in life when “the only thing worse than dying is being kept alive”.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/
    wp-dyn/content/story/2009/01/09/ST2009010903215.html


    “A Theory of Justice” has, by page 53, developed the first statement of the two basic principles of justice.

    First: each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive scheme of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar scheme of liberties for others.

    Second: social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both (a) reasonably expected to be to everyone’s advantage, and (b) attached to positions and offices open to all.


    These two principles apply to the basic social structure governing rights and duties of all citizens as well as to the distribution of the economic advantages of the society to all citizens. The first principle establishes rights, just as does our constitution, and the second principle focuses upon the inequalities that are inherent in any such structure.

    The next 200 pages of the book are dedicated to the clarification of the ambiguous phrases “every one’s advantage” and “open to all” in the second principle.


    Rawls organizes his effort for describing justice as fairness around the search for 1) the constitution of moral knowledge, 2) how we use moral knowledge and 3) how is moral knowledge acquired. In the book Rawls draws an analogy between moral theory and linguistics.

    It is proposed that we have a moral faculty that allows us to unconsciously deliver judgments of good and evil based upon unconscious innate principles. We have what is compared with a universal grammar somewhat like that proposed by Chomsky.

    A moral grammar is a set of principles that allows us to make judgments intuitively without conscious reflection.

    The contemporary philosophical scene is so taken with language that such analogies might be expected. Rawls does suggest in his book that a theory of justice is akin to developing a universal grammar of language.

    Just as in our constitutional system the rights are primary and concerns regarding fair distribution of advantages and disadvantages are subject to a code of justice.

    ”All social values—liberty and opportunity, income and wealth, and the social bases of self-respect—are to be distributed equally unless an unequal distribution of any, or all, of these values is to everyone’s advantage.”

    I have much yet to study and understand in this book but I think it’s most important feature is the concentration upon the matter of the second principle. This book is obviously written by a liberal as one can see by recognizing its focus upon the matters in the second principle. Liberals are inclined to seek deontological (rational and ‘universal’) claims for morality as opposed to a form usually labeled as utilitarianism or consequentialism.

    Liberals take the stance that to agree on the fact means to agree on the morality of the situation. Any deviation is indefensible and reflects only selfish rationalization. Liberals find it almost impossible to respect the moral position of conservatives and conservatives find it impossible to judge that liberals are the intellectual equals of conservatives.

    The apparent reason for this disjunction is the fact that liberals and conservatives seem to have “their own kind of morality” according to the analysis in ”The Morality of Politics” by W. H. Walsh.

    “What we need to observe is that conservatives and liberals are working within different traditions of morality. The morality of the conservative is closed morality; it is the morality of a particular community. The morality of the liberal is an open morality; it is a morality which has nothing to do with any particular human groups, but applies to all men whatever their local affiliations.”

    Lakoff and Johnson in their book “Philosophy in the Flesh” tend to think that the morality of liberals are that of ‘the nurturing mother’ while conservatives tend to be a ‘strict father’.

    The web site http://oak.cats.ohiou.edu/~piccard/entropy/rawls.html provides an outline of John Rawls’ book “A Theory of Justice”.



    Fair-Mindedness ain’t for Sissies

    To be fair-minded one must be vigilant (consciousness plus intention) of the need to treat all viewpoints alike. This demands that we adhere to intellectual standards such as accuracy and sound reasoning, which are unaffected by self-interest.

    A contrast with fair-mindedness is intellectual self-centeredness.

    Fair-mindedness is a challenging task that demands a family of character traits: intellectual humility, courage, empathy, honesty, perseverance, and a confidence in the value of reason.

    Our culture places maximum value not on fair-mindedness but upon self-interest, and maximizing production, and consumption.


    Intellectual humility begins with the recognition that absolute certainty regarding any matter of fact is beyond human capacity. There exists no mind-independent reality that we have the capacity to know. We can know only that which is “colored” by our experiences and historical perspective.

    Our common sense views, coupled with philosophical tradition and religious dogma, all teach us that such is not the case, that we can find absolute certainty. This cultural tradition works aggressively against our goal of intellectual humility thus demanding that we must become more intellectually sophisticated in order to gain the level of intellectual humility required.

    Intellectual courage is a difficult assignment. We all tend to place great value on our own opinion, which is more often than not just something that we grabbed as it flew by. But this is even more of a problem when we are “wedded” to something that we have a strong commitment to, for what ever reason. Our political affiliation is one example.

    Intellectual courage is especially difficult, and even dangerous to our well being when we hold ideas that society considers them to be dangerous; even though we are confident that they are rationally grounded. Society often punishes severely all forms of nonconformity; the execution of Socrates by the citizens of Athens might serve as a good example.

    By developing this character trait of intellectual courage we will often be ostracized from a group or even a large community. Such an experience will give us incentive to recognize that most people live their lives in such a manner as to be secure in the middle of the approval of those about us.

    Intellectual courage ain’t for sissies!

    Intellectual empathy is a consciousness that one must engage the imagination in an effort to intellectually place your self into the shoes of another so as to comprehend that other person as well as possible. To accomplish this transaction we must try to learn as much as possible about the other person’s situation so as to reconstruct that person’s assumptions, premises, and ideas.

    Many of these ideas were gleaned from the book Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Professional and Personal Life by Richard Paul and Linda Elder
    Last edited by Soapboxmom; 04-05-2009 at 12:32 PM.

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