Humanism

Interesting question:

This topic contains 51 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  Davis 3 weeks, 6 days ago.

Viewing 15 posts - 16 through 30 (of 52 total)
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  • #37019

    _Robert_
    Participant

    The problem is, the suffering of the bereaved and what causes it is variable. It may seem like a simple issue to resolve when we consider that no one is likely offended that people don’t have picnics on their loved one’s grave sites, whereas at least some (many?) people are offended when people do have picnics on their loved one’s grave sites. But when we look at it in terms of what we normalize, I think problems do emerge. There is a narrative to grief, bereavement and paying respects embedded in various cultures, but what those things look like for individuals can actually be very different. I would contend the sort of normativity we see surrounding bereavement and paying respects does cause harm. Do we challenge that by having picnics on graves? Perhaps not. But when it’s being posed as an ethical hypothetical, I do think it is important to not pander to normative values too much.

    I attended the services for a someone who was 100% irreligious. Yet the family selected a priest to deliver a “come to jesus” eulogy. I wanted to walk out. I decided to pick another battle. I did stare that fuck-head priest down and shake my head slowly in disapproval. It was enough to get him to stutter once. It was a service for someone else.

    The place where a body disintegrates did mean something to my old European Grandmother and to most of her generation, if not to me. I respect that and would picnic at a park instead. However you are right that religion peddlers use death, bereavement and all of the associated formalities to promote their harmful nonsense. It is a vulnerable time and they certainly take advantage.

    #37022

    Davis
    Moderator

    I would agree with you Kristina. But this is a deontological moral law. So it is always relative to the person to frames the law (even if they will that others also follow that law). In that sense, if you do have a good reason to challenge it then the law wouldn’t follow. Since I cannot for the life of me think of a reason why having a picnic on someone’s grave would ideologically challenge anything, the law would apply to me. I agree that allowing for the harm of arbitrary customs creates problems, but in this case with the second part of the law being “when it can easily be avoided” it usually makes these issues negligible. If there was literally no other spot to picnic on or if I had a very compelling reason to do so then yeah I may reconsider.

    This sort of reminds me of when I was in Syria during Ramadan. We were lounging on chairs and my feet were showing. My friend suggested not showing the bottom of my feed to others. It was extremely easy to not do this (easily avoidable) so, despite it being an odd custom to me, I didn’t do it. However while I was on a 3 hour bus ride I wanted to drink some water. I knew it would bother people but I was thirsty as shit and not a Muslim. In this case for me…it wasn’t so “easily avoidable”. It was very hot. I asked the person sitting next to me if they’d mind if I had a sip of water. He told me it was okay and that he appreciated that I asked. I sort of formed this rule in my mind that if something was easily avoidable and it upset others (and I had no ideological reason to challenge it) then I would generally avoid it. I think its a fairly logical rule and it certainly makes international travel a lot more pleasant and makes for smoother interaction with people and friends in general.

    #37023

    Autumn
    Participant

    I would agree with you Kristina. But this is a deontological moral law. So it is always relative to the person to frames the law (even if they will that others also follow that law). In that sense, if you do have a good reason to challenge it then the law wouldn’t follow.

    I guess what I am getting as is I don’t think I could form a rule that specific in this scenario because of the underlying variability. If I were going to ascribe to a deontological system, I’d have to be careful about what rules are actually useful or else I’d run the risk of rules that are excessively arbitrary or are conflicting.

    The rule set you presented, I would question if it even applies in any specific instance of graveyard picnicking.

    #37024

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    But when it’s being posed as an ethical hypothetical, I do think it is important to not pander to normative values too much.

    But what if it’s a potential reality?  There would be no transgressive benefit in having a picnic on someone’s grave, it wouldn’t benefit anybody, except that the people having the picnic would have a nice cool seat.

    According to the theories of Michael Tomasello, it comes down to being part of, or perhaps visiting, a cultural group.  “We” enforce the group’s norms on each other and ourselves.  If the norms of the group say to pay certain respect to the dead – that is what we had better do, otherwise we will break their norms, and offend them.  So you could call that a kind of social utilitarianism.

    #37025

    Autumn
    Participant

    But when it’s being posed as an ethical hypothetical, I do think it is important to not pander to normative values too much.

    But what if it’s a potential reality? There would be no transgressive benefit in having a picnic on someone’s grave, it wouldn’t benefit anybody, except that the people having the picnic would have a nice cool seat.

    If it is a potential reality then it is variable and personal. the problem with that normative approach is it starts imposing on the personal, emotional aspects of humans, and I would contend in a way that’s not healthy.

    The idea that wanting to picnic on someone’s grave amounts to having a nice cool seat is presumptive. The idea that it is disrespectful to the dead is presumptive. And, while you didn’t seem to mention it, the idea that the family and loved ones of the dead are adversely affected is presumptive. These are all things that situationally may or may not be true, but realistically, I doubt any of us can verify how variable it is because we operate more out of normatively here than actual investigation into how people are impacted.

    Is more harm caused by the act itself, or is more harm caused because our built up sense of propriety leaves us vulnerable to feeling injured by impropriety itself? The latter is disconcerting because we are introducing potential for harm for little to no appreciable reason. In the case of graveyard picnics, it seems very easy to push that aside because it is avoidable and because it is uncommon.

    But let’s use a different example. The customary division between men and women. This is quite variable across cultures. Separate bathrooms, separate change rooms, separate baths/ saunas/ steam rooms, separate clothing options. They also vary across time of course. Here in Canada, it was once common to have separate bars/ pubs or separate entrances and sides to them. Rules on the segregation varied.

    But what purpose to these separations actually serve? While people have answers, what they often don’t have is a lot of actual evidence. What if the biggest violation in altering or removing these separations was to our sense of propriety? In a culture where there was little cause to challenge these norms, that question wasn’t that important. Yeah, there are men’s rooms and women’s rooms and that’s fine. Who cares?

    But over the years, the need to challenge these norms has increased considerably. And this question of whether defending the status quo is a matter of actual need/ value or merely preserving propriety becomes very important, yet extremely difficult to disentangle. And the conflict that arises can be quite significant. In some cases we even end up with cases where people are being assaulted for mere perceived violations of the separation.

    I know I am meandering, but what I am getting at is relying on norms to govern behaviour has some questionable utility. I am sure there are cases where it is valuable, but I can also point to cases where it is causing harm. I would suggest that erring on the side of caution would be to rely on such norms as sparingly as possible, or at the very least to invest more in keeping perspective on what norms prevent actual harms or promote actual good versus those things that are preserved largely because we like how easy it is to navigate familiar customs.

    #37026

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    relying on norms to govern behaviour has some questionable utility. I am sure there are cases where it is valuable, but I can also point to cases where it is causing harm. I would suggest that erring on the side of caution would be to rely on such norms as sparingly as possible, or at the very least to invest more in keeping perspective on what norms prevent actual harms or promote actual good versus those things that are preserved largely because we like how easy it is to navigate familiar customs.

    I think you’re quite right.  Different norms (benefit/harm; respecting the dead; etc.) can clash or have different goals or structures.

    The fact that something doesn’t have an “appreciable” reason for it, doesn’t invalidate its observed reality among human beings, but it points to a more obscure evolutionary psychological reason for it that’s harder to directly describe.  Respect and caring for the dead after all can be a form of respect and caring for the living.  We respect the dead because we respect the living.

    In the Cornish countryside they have iron-age stone tombs just sat there in the landscape.  You can sit on them or go inside.  They don’t have bodies inside them (I don’t think).  They are spooky.

    #37027

    Davis
    Moderator

    I think the possibility of hurting or upsetting other people is significant enough to make an easily avoidable pointless activity one I wouldn’t do. If there are 1,000,000 equally good places to picnic and I instead choose 1 location where my activity could potentially hurt/upset a person, with no added value to doing it there…I think it’s a fair application of the rule. I would argue the overwhelming majority of people would be upset hearing that a stranger ate sandwhiches and drank wine with their kids and dogs on a blanket on top of their mother’s grave. Of course it is up to the individual who formed the rule to work out what is “easily avoidable”, “potentially hurtful” and “pointless”. But if you are being as honest and authentic as possible there is value…at the least identifying a case where you violate your rule or not. Even if you feel you have a good reason it gives you a chance to work out why you are doing so and if you would modify your rule or admit to a case where you are comfortable breaking your own rule. I think there is a lot of value in this (and forming rules this way). A lot more value, and a lot less arbitrary factors than with utilitarian or virtue ethics (specifically due to the subjectively formed rules by the individual).

    #37028

    Davis
    Moderator

    Different norms (benefit/harm; respecting the dead; etc.) can clash or have different goals or structures.

    This is certainly the case but I don’t think this would invalidate the rule. I mean, if suddenly a large number of people started getting upset if I used the words “marble, pickle and mirror” in the same sentence…I wouldn’t go out of my way to say a sentence with those three words. I mean…if my right to say such a ridiculous phrase was being challenged (say someone threatening violence or having a special right because aliens informed them it is a set of three holy words) I might have an ideological reason to say the phrase. But if it was simply a custom that upset people…I simply wouldn’t do it. I think there are a near infinite number of possible sentences I could say, and in the most insanely unlikely case I had to express something with those three words, I could painlessly and easily just say a sentence with two of them and a second sentence with the third word (voila…one sentence with the three words avoided). If suddenly I found the need to say this phrase frequently and it wasn’t so easily avoidable or very cumbersome then I would consider challenging it. This all may sound slightly ridiculous…but I think having a picnic on a grave is equally ridiculous when there are near countless alternatives and I gain nothing by doing it. I think that even if the custom (or action that could hurt/upset people) is truly bizarre or unreasonable, if I can see no point or value to doing the thing that could hurt them, if it is easily avoidable, and there is no ideological advantage to challenging it…I simply don’t see why I would do it. Of course if the custom ends up placing a heavy burden on a group of people or if it is not so easy to avoid…challenging it may make sense. This applies to the most brutally hurtful possible action as much as to something trivial. This is all simply a major strength and difficulty of forming deontological laws. I have found dealing with things this way extremely valuable while travelling and living in exotic countries and cultures (especially Iran and India). I cannot count the amount of very strange customs I had no problem avoiding, as weird and unreasonable as they seemed…because it cost me virtually nothing to avoid doing it and took only the slightest bit of my time to train myself to take care not to do it. One of the best ways of challenging these customs, without actually doing anything that could hurt someone…is through enquiry. Asking lots of “whys” until the person loses all patience (or the value of this enquiry seems to have ended). Asking why it bothers you that strangers had a picnic on a grave, and then asking more whys to the different parts of that answer and so on…is likely more valuable than simply doing the hurtful thing just because…well fuck them I’ll do what I want (when I gain nothing from doing it).

    • This reply was modified 4 weeks ago by  Davis.
    • This reply was modified 4 weeks ago by  Davis.
    • This reply was modified 4 weeks ago by  Davis.
    #37032

    Autumn
    Participant

    I think the possibility of hurting or upsetting other people is significant enough to make an easily avoidable pointless activity one I wouldn’t do. If there are 1,000,000 equally good places to picnic and I instead choose 1 location where my activity could potentially hurt/upset a person, with no added value to doing it there…I think it’s a fair application of the rule.

    I think you’ve now added enough new values to the scenario that this has substantially strayed from the original question.

    #37033

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    I think the possibility of hurting or upsetting other people is significant enough to make an easily avoidable pointless activity one I wouldn’t do.

    You’re talking about upsetting people (i.e., causing harm) for intangible rather than tangible reasons.  Sometimes this seems acceptable, sometimes it doesn’t.

    #37034

    _Robert_
    Participant

    I think the possibility of hurting or upsetting other people is significant enough to make an easily avoidable pointless activity one I wouldn’t do.

    You’re talking about upsetting people (i.e., causing harm) for intangible rather than tangible reasons. Sometimes this seems acceptable, sometimes it doesn’t.

    There are always those arguments raised by conservatives about how important rights must trump “feelings” and do we want our society to be a bunch of snowflakes incapable of dealing with disasters, the next Hitler, etc. These arguments are no reason to simply become an jerk as so many seem to do. LOL.

    #37035

    TheEncogitationer
    Participant

    Fellow Unbelievers,

    There is another consideration to account for here: Gravesites are real property mixed with human labor, enclosed, and claimed from the state of Nature.

    All real property is owned by someone, and ownership means the right of the owner to set the terms and conditions for the real property’s use and, above all, the right to exclude any and all others.

    Hence, having a picnic on a gravesite, regardless of or against the owner’s consent, is trespassing.

    I wouldn’t do it because I respect the owner’s private property rights and I self-interestedly value a world where my private  property rights are respected too.   (Offense and non-offense, by this standard, is tangential and irrelevant.)

    #37047

    Davis
    Moderator

    I think you’ve now added enough new values to the scenario that this has substantially strayed from the original question.

    No I don’t agree. How you approach any problem in deontological ethics is contingent on the laws you’ve formulated and how you apply them. I don’t see the value in formulating a law over “is it wrong to have a picnic on a stranger’s grave”. In some cases it may violate a law, in others it doesn’t. It depends on how you formulate the law. Picnicking on a strangers grave is not a general activity such as “lying” or “stealing”. You have to approach problems with broader laws…such as the one I formulated: to not do a pointless, easily avoidable activity with no ideological motivation when it can harm others.

    Within a deontological system there are certainly other ways to deal with the issue. A law respecting property rights? A law respecting local laws. Respecting majority opinion customs. But I think such laws are extremely problematic to say the very least.

    In any case a deontological approach is only one of many.

    I like Roberts broad vague approach:

    No reason to [pointlessly] be a jerk.

    All of these systems may allow for some very specific and convincing arguments over why it may be reasonable to picnic on a stranger’s grave (though not all of them will). For the most part…doing so would usually be at the very least dubious.

    • This reply was modified 3 weeks, 6 days ago by  Davis.
    #37050

    Ivy
    Participant

    @davis I just read the question… What would be wrong with having a picnic on somebody’s grave? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that

    #37051

    Davis
    Moderator

    Gravesites are real property

    Yes totally. For some moral systems, the fact that the grave is private property is enough of a reason to brand the activity immoral.

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